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Opinion
Mihir Sharma

There’s One Way to Wean India Off Russian Weapons

Switching to Western platforms is too expensive. Instead the country needs to do the hard work of developing a viable domestic defense industry. 

India’s air force doesn’t love the Tejas fighter.

India’s air force doesn’t love the Tejas fighter.

Photographer: Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images

The Indian government’s unwillingness to condemn Russia forcefully for its invasion of Ukraine seems to have woken up leaders in Washington to a long-simmering problem: how to wean the Indian military off its dependence on Russian arms. According to Bloomberg News, the U.S. government is considering a $500 million defense package for India, to finance the purchase of US weapons systems.

While half a billion dollars may seem like a lot of money, it really isn’t when compared to the scale of the problem. Until recently, India bought almost all its frontline weaponry from Russia. Researchers at the Stimson Center calculate that, thanks to decades of collaboration, India’s major weapons are overwhelmingly — about 85% — of Russian origin. Moreover, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute says that “new orders [from India] for a variety of Russian arms in 2019–20 … will probably lead to an increase in Russian arms exports in the coming five years.”