WIth the Modi government under severe pressure from a hostile China and having to prepare for a border war, speculations are rife that it is gravitating towards trusted old friend Russia.
As it ratcheted up its military machine this week to face the Dragon, India realised it needed some immediate booster supply of combat aircraft from friendly nations on a temporary basis.
Discreet feelers to US and France for a ‘temporary loan’ of some fighter squadrons did not elicit the desired response , top government sources said, without spelling out details.
India wants to replace its fighter squadrons but also needs to keep many ageing aircrafts ready for combat with spares .As against the required 42 squadrons for a two-front war , the IAF is left with just 31 squadrons of warplanes which may further plummet with the phaseout of the old MIGs.
With the first of the 36 French Rafale multirole combat aircraft just beginning to arrive , the IAF is in urgent need of both new aircrafts and spare parts to service a large part of its ageing combat fleet, said a highly-placed official source.
Some 61 Jaguars are to be upgraded by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the Indian navy and the air force, IAF sources said. Similarly for the three squadrons of Mirage-2000 fighter jets, genuine spare parts are not available.
The French retired their Jaguars in 2005 and replaced them with Dassault Rafael multirole fighters. The UK, Ecuador, Nigeria and Oman have also discontinued Jaguars.
Defence ministry sources told Easternlink that France has agreed to supply spare parts from its retired fleet of Jaguar fighter jets. India only has to pay freight charges, official sources said.
Easternlink has fact-checked abd found incorrect rumours about India getting Jaguar fighter jets from France but it will only their spare parts to keep our own Jaguars up in the air. Moreover, the freebie has nothing to do with the Rafale deal.
While the French are not able to expedite the delivery schedule for the 36 Rafales and the US unhappy with India’s unwillingness to consider F-21 fighters ( a slightly reworked version of F-16s) for its mega import deal of 114 combat aircrafts , India had no choice but to fall back on trusted friend Russia.
A deal for immediate induction of 12 Sukhoi MKI and 29 MIG-29 has been fast-tracked ahead of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s Moscow visit next week.
This is a smart signal to both US, Russia and China — (a) the signal to Moscow by fast-tracking of the 41 Sukhoi-MIG29s , which will partly boosts the IAF combat inventory in ‘most trying times’ , is that if Russia helps to pressurise China to back off from unleashing a border war, India may be favourably disposed to consider the SU-57 or a still more advanced Sukhoi variant for the 114 mega deal (b) the signal to US is if India can’t get strong enough military support especially in the shape of a few US fighter squadrons on loan to meet the Chinese threat, as Nehru had asked for in 1962 , Trump can forget about ‘friend Modi’ considering an US aircraft for the 114 aircraft mega deal and India will not care anymore for US sanction threats on Indian purchase of Russian military hardware (b) the signal to China is India not only has strategic ally US but also trusted old friend Russia on its side.
” Much credit for this brilliant behind-the-curtain diplomatic signalling goes to foreign minister Jaishanker and his handpicked MEA team,” said a top source.Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is to visit Moscow next week on a three day visit to participate in a ceremony to mark the 75th World War II Victory Day parade on 24 June, a statement from the defence ministry said on Saturday.
Singh was scheduled to leave on 22 June but he will now leave a day earlier, an official familiar with the minister’s programme said.
It comes in the middle of rising tensions with China, a country Russia has grown close to since 2014 after Moscow was sanctioned by Western countries for the annexation of Crimea.
Last week, 20 Indian soldiers were killed in border flare up with China in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley.
In 2018, prime minister Narendra Modi held an informal summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi to bring bilateral ties back on a sound footing against the backdrop of visits by key Pakistani leaders to Russia and Russian and Pakistani troops holding their first ever military exercises.
Pakistan has bern seen as close to the US and India seen as closer to the erstwhile Soviet Union during the Cold War years.
There seems to be much truth in the old adage that occasional up and downs in bilateral relations does not change some ‘basic constants” in diplomacy.