In October 2018, India had signed a USD 5 billion deal with Russia to buy five units of the S-400 air defense missile systems, despite a warning from the Trump administration that going ahead with the contract may invite US sanctions. India paid its first installment of payment of around USD 800 million to Russia for the missile systems in 2019. It was also reported that Indian Military personnel will soon leave for Russia to assess the operational workings of S-400.
India’s decision to acquire the S-400, instead of other air defense systems offered by the West, was based on a thorough evaluation and national security requirements, including already delayed plans to create a ballistic missile defense shield over key cities, people familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity. The ongoing standoff with China in Ladakh has prompted India to deploy a raft of weapons and systems in the sector, including hardware bought from the US, Russia, and France, to strengthen its military deployments.
"India’s strategic interests are supreme and it is for us to decide what weapons we buy and from whom to pursue those interests. If the US has concerns about procurements from Russia, the latter is also upset over military equipment we are importing from the US,” a senior government official said on condition of anonymity. He also added, "We buy platforms factoring in the security threats we face, US and Russia understand India’s complex security challenges".
A second official, who too refused to be named stated, "India is walking a fine line in defense cooperation with Russia and the US, which are both strategic partners. But the more important point is the country’s independent foreign policy and strategic autonomy to decide defense purchases in line with national security interests"
For the information of the readers, we would like to state that although we have been acquiring state of the art western weaponry such as Rafales, Apaches, P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft and the US made assault rifles, still more than 60% of Indian military equipment is of USSR/Russian origin. This has its own complexities as Data linking between these weapons becomes very difficult, moreover, India is lagging behind other major powers in adopting the Network Centric warfare approach due to the diversity of its weapons.
In the end, we would like to conclude that these western and Russian weapons have boosted our firepower and strengthened our defenses, but in order to become a regional superpower, to follow an independent defense policy, and counter China, we must develop indigenous technologies and promote Public-Private partnerships. Recently some positive steps have been made in this regard such as the deal of 83 LCA tejas, LCH, DRDO's Astra Missile, Akash SAM systems, and many more.