The foreign policy of India has moved to realism where all that it seeks is self interest without aligning itself with any block or country. It has been just two weeks since India signed Comcasa (Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement) which will allow procure transfer specialized equipment for encrypted communications for US origin military platforms like the C-17, C-130 and P-8Is during 2+2 meeting. Now, India has cleared 2.2 billion dollar worth of frigates deal with Russia. Under this deal, India will purchase 4 warships to commission in Indian Navy for which agreement will be signed by PM Modi and President Putin in scheduled October, 5 meeting this year in New Delhi.
The deal is to procure Project 11356 or four advanced Talwar-class frigates, two of which will be imported from Russia and rest of the two will be manufactured in state owned Goa shipyard. The work for first two ships which are to be imported from Russia has already begun and they could be delivered within two years. For the rest of the two, Russia will transfer technology to India and they will be built in India. The ships built in India will cost 30 to 35 percent more due to required infrastructure creation for technology transfer. The government agreed to pay 30 to 35 percent because it wants to give boost to ‘Make in India’ and technical knowhow.
India got significant discounts in import of these frigates. Russia started building these frigates for use of their own Navy in 2013 but the operations were halted due to Ukraine’s sanctions on Russia. “The primary reason for Russia’s decision to export the three ships (…) is the lack of a propulsion system due to Ukraine’s decision to ban military exports to Russia in 2014. The ships of the Admiral Grigorovich-class are powered by M90FR gas turbines designed and built by Zorya-Mashproekt in Ukraine, Russia’s principal surface ship-builder since Soviet days,” wrote Franz-stefan Gady of The Diplomat. However, India could import Ukrainian made gas turbines because there is no ban on India from Ukrainian side. So, Russia decided to sell these frigates to India. Both countries signed an intergovernmental agreement on the deal in October 2016 but the process got significantly delayed due to price negotiations, finalization of Indian shipyard partner.
India already has six Talwar class frigates but the Indian Navy needs more of it due to rise in activities of China in Indian Ocean and South China Sea. Indian Ocean gives significant strategic advantage over China in case of any war like situation. Most of the trade of East Asian and South Asian countries with Europe and Africa takes place through Indian Ocean. Therefore, Indian hegemony over Indian Ocean is huge strategic advantage for Indians. However, Chinese navy is trying to expand its base in Indian Ocean as per its string of pearls theory. It has taken Hambantota airport of Sri Lanka on lease for 99 years. China has also signed agreements with Bangladesh, Maldives to develop ports and infrastructural facilities. With Pakistan, the work for China Pakistan Economic Corridor is in Progress. So, China is trying to encircle Indian coastline through its own ports. This worries India and therefore the government has started the work on enhancing Indian Naval capabilities. The government embracing both Russia and United States for country’s interest shows that we are moving towards realist foreign policy.