US seeks to wean India off Russian weapons with arms assistance program | India News

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is preparing a military aid package for India to strengthen security ties and reduce the country’s dependence on Russian weapons, people familiar with the matter said.
The package being considered would include foreign military funding of up to $500 million, according to one person, which would make India one of the biggest recipients of such aid behind Israel and Egypt. It’s unclear when the deal would be announced, or what weapons would be included.
The effort is part of a much larger move by President Joe Biden’s administration to woo India as a long-term security partner, despite its reluctance to criticize Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. according to a senior US official who asked not to be named.

Washington wants to be seen as a reliable partner for India at all levels, the official added, and the administration is working with other countries, including France, to ensure that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has the equipment he needs. While India is already diversifying its military platforms away from Russia, the United States wants to help accelerate this, the official said.
The main challenge remains how to provide India with major platforms such as fighter jets, warships and battle tanks, the official said, adding that the administration was looking for a breakthrough in the one of these areas. The financial package being discussed would do little to make these types of systems – which can cost billions or tens of billions of dollars – more affordable, but it would be an important symbolic sign of support.
The Foreign Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. State Department and U.S. Embassy New Delhi officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
India is the world’s largest buyer of Russian arms, although it has recently downgraded that relationship. Over the past decade, India has purchased more than $4 billion worth of military equipment from the United States and more than $25 billion from Russia, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. , which collects data on arms transfers.

India’s reliance on Russia for arms against neighbors China and Pakistan is a key reason Modi’s government has avoided criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin over the war in Ukraine. While the United States, Europe, Australia and Japan piled economic sanctions on Russia, India suspended and instead continued imports of cut-price Russian oil.
Dependence on Russia

While the United States and its allies were initially frustrated with India, they sought to woo Modi’s government as a key security partner, including against China in the Indo-Pacific region. Modi is expected to join a summit with Biden next week in South Korea. The meeting will include leaders from the Quad, a partnership between the United States, India, Japan and Australia that has drawn criticism from China. Modi has also received an invitation to join the Group of Seven leaders in Germany next month.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin provided an update on China at a press conference in April with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.
“We are doing all of this because the United States supports India as a defense industry leader in the Indo-Pacific and a net security provider in the region,” Austin said. “And we all understand the challenges we face there. The People’s Republic of China seeks to reshape the region and the international system more broadly in ways that serve its interests.
Ties between the United States and India have steadily deepened over the past two decades, with both sides entering into agreements that allow for greater interoperability between their military platforms.

Support for India is a rare point of bipartisan unity in Washington, and the Biden administration has signaled that it is not interested in sanctioning New Delhi for its recent decision to buy the S-missile defense system. 400 to Russia. Turkey’s purchase of the same system has deeply damaged US relations with the NATO ally.
Still, it remains to be seen how far India will go in accepting US military aid. Russia has historically supplied the majority of India’s military hardware, including fighter jets and missiles, as well as nearly all of its tanks and helicopters. Modi’s government has told the US that alternatives to completely abandoning Russian arms imports are too costly, according to people familiar with the situation, who asked not to be identified as they are not allowed to talk to the media.