India will urge Russia to hasten the delayed delivery of an anti-missile system during Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh’s three-day visit to Russia this week, the Economic Times of India reported on Monday.
The request for expedited defense support comes amid heightened tensions between India and China along their Himalayan border.
Russia reportedly postponed its scheduled delivery of the $5.4-billion S-400 Triumf anti-missile system to December 2021 citing constraints caused by the coronavirus pandemic. India “completed large payments” for the system last year, according to the report.
Observers note that India’s reported urgency in rushing the order is likely due to its current border rival, China, having already acquired the same S-400 system from Russia, with India presumably aiming to even out the defense imbalance. Both China and India have strong, established histories of defense ties with Russia.
On June 15, an ongoing border dispute between India and China along their shared boundary in the western Himalayas escalated overnight when a violent skirmish broke out in the Galwan Valley of India’s northeastern Ladakh state. About 20 Indian soldiers and an estimated 40 Chinese troops were killed in the fighting.
Prior to his departure for Moscow on Sunday, Defense Minister Singh told top Indian military officials during a meeting on the border crisis that the Indian Army has the government’s permission to “give a befitting reply” if China further escalates tensions, Indian government sources reportedly told the Indian Express.
“India does not want escalation, but if there is any action from China, the forces have been given the freedom to give a befitting reply,” the sources said of the discussions during the meeting.
According to the Economic Times, Singh is expected to attend Moscow’s Victory Day parade on Wednesday during his three-day stay in Russia starting Monday, which was the stated premise for his visit. The event was originally scheduled for May 9, but was postponed due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. The celebration marks the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany and will include a Russian military procession through Moscow’s historic Red Square. Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe is also expected to attend the Victory Day parade, according to the report.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is expected to hold a separate, bilateral meeting with Singh during his visit, the Hindustan Times reports. Singh is also set to meet with Russia’s deputy prime minister, Yury Borisov, who handles Russian military and aerospace affairs.