India pauses talks with Russia for naval early warning copters

iNDICA News Bureau-

India has paused negotiations with Russia to acquire 10 Kamov 31 airborne early warning helicopters for $520 million, according to a Yahoo! News report.

The report said India had suspended the negotiation with Rosoboronexport and the manufacturer of the Ka-31 helicopters following uncertainties in arms supplies amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

A defense ministry official told Yahoo! Defense News on condition of anonymity that the pause was due to concerns about Moscow’s ability to execute orders as well as issues related to payment transfers.

Indian Navy officers said the suspension is a setback for the service because the helicopters were needed for the country’s second aircraft carrier, the locally built INS Vikrant, which will be commissioned in July.

Amit Cowshish, a former financial advisor for acquisitions with the defense ministry, said the suspension could also be due to geopolitical pressure from the international community. Other factors, he added, could include budgetary constraints and India’s preference for locally developed helicopters.

A stalemate in negotiations over technical and financial issues could also have played a role, he said.

India had asked to buy the Ka-31 helicopters in May 2019, but the acquisition program faced inordinate delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the high price tag.

The talks resumed in Feb this year after negotiators settled on a price of $520 million for 10 Ka-31 copters, but the effort hit another snag when the officials couldn’t agree on a rupee-ruble currency mechanism.

The defense ministry official said the Reserve Bank of India, India’s central bank, had worked overtime since March 2022 to establish an alternative payment mechanism, but negotiators had been unable to come to an agreement.

Neither ministry nor Navy officials would discuss whether India is exploring alternatives to the early warning copters.

The Navy currently operates 14 Ka-31 helicopters, which were inducted over time— four in 2003, five in 2005 and five in 2013 — and are dependent on the original equipment manufacturer for spare parts, repairs and overhaul support.