Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Reciprocal Exchange of Logistics (RELOS) Agreement with Russia

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various logistics agreement mentioned

Mains level : India-Russia Defense Cooperation

India and Russia are set to ink the RELOS logistics exchange pact during the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin for the Indo-Russia summit.

What are Logistics Agreements, in general?

  • Logistical exchange agreements are designed so that partner countries can enjoy ease of access to use each other’s military facilities like ports, bases, and military installations.
  • Such agreements save enormous time and also frees up the need for constant paperwork when one military obtains assistance on matters like refuelling, berthing, use of aviation infrastructure, etc.

RELOS Agreement with Russia

  • RELOS agreement with Russia would grant “access to Russian naval port facilities in the Arctic”, thus enhancing “Indian Navy’s reach and operational experience in Polar waters”.

Need for RELOS

  • Despite growing engagement with the US on military hardware and tech, Russia remains a partner with whom India has shared traditionally deep defence ties.
  • Russia’s growing proximity to China and Pakistan has of late been seen as casting a shadow on the Moscow-New Delhi engagement.
  • To that extent, RELOS will be an important step forward in the military sphere as it aims at fostering interoperability and sharing of logistics.
  • The “long overdue” agreement was to have come up for signing in 2019 but that was put off pending finalisation of its terms.

Strategic significance of RELOS Agreement

  • Naval Cooperation: It is usually the Indian Navy, the most outgoing force of the three services, that stands to benefit the most from a logistical exchange agreement.
  • Interoperability: These impart enhanced operational turnaround and strengthened interoperability on the high seas.
  • Military enhancements: Given the percentage of Russian military hardware in the Indian armed forces, the two sides can take advantage, through RELOS, of increased interoperability “in any hostile situation in the future”.
  • Future defence purchases: India has acquired advanced defence systems from Russia, including fighter jets, and is looking to again obtain a nuclear-powered attack submarine on a long-term lease from Moscow.

Fulfilling Arctic aspirations of India

  • Navigation: From a geostrategic point of view, it would give Indian Navy better access to northern sea routes and Russian ports in the Arctic, where India is looking to set up an Arctic station.
  • Energy cooperation: Russia and India are also exploring enhanced energy cooperation in the Arctic region.
  • Competing China: India’s presence in Arctic will act as a strategic counterweight to China’s strategic posturing with Beijing and Moscow sharing “synergy” in the Arctic.

Does India have similar arrangements with other Countries?

  • India has logistical exchange agreements with six other countries, including Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, partners US (LEMOA), Japan and Australia.
  • Singapore, France and South Korea are the other countries with which similar arrangements have been effected.
  • India has become more comfortable in concluding such arrangements with other countries and is currently pursuing one with the UK while exploring arrangement with other partners like Vietnam.

Other defence trade between the two countries

  • Russia continues to be among India’s biggest defence suppliers.
  • The two sides are now looking to move from licence manufacture to joint research and co-development of defence equipment.
  • Both nations have agreed for the manufacture of over six lakh AK-203 assault rifles by a Joint Venture, Indo-Russian Rifles Private Ltd, at Korwa, Amethi, in UP.
  • Russia has started deliveries of the S-400 Triumf long-range air defence systems to India. The first division will be delivered by the end of 2021.
  • There are several other big such as procurement of 21 Mig-29s and 12 Su-30MKI fighters, Igla-S short-range air defence systems and the manufacture of 200 K-226T utility helicopters.

Future trajectory of the defence cooperation

  • Timely supply of spares and support to the large inventory of Russian hardware in service with Indian military has been a major issue from India.
  • To address this, Russia has made legislative changes allowing its companies to set up joint ventures in India to address it following an Inter-Governmental Agreement signed in 2019.
  • This is in the process of being implemented.
  • With increased competition from the U.S., France, Israel and others who have bagged major deals in recent years, Russia is also focusing on timely deliveries and lifetime support.

Conclusion

  • Russia will remain a key defence partner for India for decades to come.
  • In line with India’s quest for self-sufficiency, such partnerships help curb the reliance of India over other countries.
  • This will thereby curb India’s dependency in near future.

 

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