Over the past 12 months, Russian arms manufacturers have faced a string of setbacks in India. Last year, Russia’s MiG-35 fighter lost India’s Medium Multirole Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition to Dassault’s Rafale. The $15 billion program is replacing the aging Russian MiG-21 fighter jets currently used by the Indian air force.
Other losers in the competition were the Lockheed Martin F-16IN Super Viper and Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Saab JAS-39NG Gripen.
Defense Minister A.K. Antony said after the winner was declared that the country’s defense acquisition policy was guided by professional and not political considerations. “India’s defense purchases are not propelled by political considerations and all vendors will get a level playing field,” Antony said.
The Russian Mi-28N Night Hunter also lost a tender for 22 attack helicopters for the Indian military to Boeing’s AH-64D Apache.
Nonetheless, analysts say that given the two countries’ legacy of defense cooperation and ongoing projects, Russia will remain India’s major defense partner for the foreseeable future. However, in view of the increased competition for the Indian defense market, joint development and production of new weapon systems is likely to become a crucial factor in sustaining Indo-Russian cooperation in the coming years.