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India Agrees To Multibillion-Dollar Russian Jet Deal Amid Standoff With China

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) hugs Russian President Vladimir Putin before their meeting in New Delhi in October 2018.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) hugs Russian President Vladimir Putin before their meeting in New Delhi in October 2018.

India has green-lighted the purchase of 33 Russian fighter jets and upgrades to 59 others worth $2.4 billion at a time of rising border tensions with China.

The Defense Ministry on July 2 announced the purchase from Russia of 21 MiG-29s as well as upgrades to 59 existing MiG-29 aircraft.

The government also approved the procurement of 12 Russian Su-30 MKI aircraft to be built under license by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.

The purchase, along with indigenously produced missile systems in line with the government’s "Make in India" initiative, were made "to strengthen the armed forces for the defense of our borders," the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The announcement followed a telephone conversation between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Among other things, Modi congratulated Putin for the "successful completion" of a national vote on constitutional amendments that could allow the Russian leader to rule until 2036.

The two leaders also discussed plans for a bilateral summit later this year in India.

New Delhi and Moscow were partners during the Cold War and much of India's military hardware is of Russian origin.

In 2019, India was the third-largest military spender in the world at $71.1 billion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Modi has sought to boost the domestic defense industry by focusing on indigenous design, production, and development, as well as technology transfer agreements with other countries.

Most of India's arms imports still come from Russia. The United States and Israel are also major providers of high-tech military hardware.

India’s military buildup comes as its relationship with China has worsened in recent weeks following a clash on June 15 along a disputed stretch of border in the Himalayas in which India lost 20 soldiers.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters
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