India and Russia are likely to clear roadblocks in some key defense deals including that of S-400 air defense systems and the local production of AK-203 rifles next week.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is arriving in India next week. The two sides are also expected to discuss various geopolitical issues, according to The Financial Express.
Lavrov’s visit comes close on the heels of the visits of US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook.
The Russian minister’s visit would enable New Delhi to clear roadblocks on several important deals including the AK-203 rifle’s local production in Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi and the S-400 Triumf air defense systems.
The acquisition and indigenous production of about 200 Kamov Ka-226T utility helicopters and the long-pending P-75i submarine project will also be discussed.
Indian Army Chief, Gen. MM Naravane, had on January 14, 2021, told The Economic Times that the issues had been sorted and the final contract for the AK-203 rifles was expected soon.
“Negotiations are at an advanced stage. There were some last-minute hitches and hiccups and those have been ironed out now. I hope the final contract will be signed soon,” Naravane had said.
The AK-203 rifles, along with the recently-acquired Sig 716 rifles, will be the mainstay of the Indian Army for years to come as they would replace the Indian Small Arms System (INSAS) rifles currently in service.
The AK-203 is the adaptation of the AK-103 rifle with Picatinny rails on the cover and handguard. It fires the traditional and renowned 7.62x39mm ammunition, compared to the 5.56x45mm cartridge for the INSAS, hinting at a shift to .30 caliber-based ammunition as a standard issue.
The rifles would be manufactured under a joint venture, Indo-Russia Rifles Private Limited (IRRPL), established by Ordnance Factories Board, Kalashnikov Concern, and Rosoboronexport in India. The OFB will be holding 50.5 percent in IRRPL while the Russian company and the state-owned Rosoboronexport would have 42 percent and 7.5 percent stakes respectively.
As per the contract, the first 100,000 rifles will be imported and the rest will be manufactured locally at Korwa Ordnance Factory, Amethi district, UP.
It is learned that the Indian position in the Afghan peace talks and the forthcoming BRICS summit will also figure in the discussions during Lavrov’s visit.
Interestingly, the Russian foreign minister’s next destination is Pakistan with Dawn reporting that Lavrov will be landing in Islamabad on April 6. He will be accompanied by Russia’s special envoy on Afghanistan Zamir Kaboluv.