Russia and India concluded a contract for 310 T-90 battle tanks February 15 in New Delhi, finalizing an agreement initially set for signing last fall. Under the terms of the deal, India will receive 124 of Russia's top-of-the-line tanks directly from Moscow and assemble another 186 at a domestic plant. The final price tag, not publicly revealed, is estimated at between $600 million and $750 million.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was scheduled to sign the contract last October during his first visit to India, but last-minute haggling over the price and initial payment delayed the deal, which India claims will offset Pakistan's 1996 purchase of 320 T-80UD tanks from Ukraine. Russia lowered its price over the past few months, enabling Russian Deputy Premier Ilya Klebanov and Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes to sign the contract. The two officials reportedly discussed further arms deals, including the possible lease of four Tu-22M Backfire bombers to India.
Completion of the tank deal removed one more item from a list of pending arms buys left outstanding from last October. On December 28 last year, the two countries signed an estimated $3 billion agreement—preliminarily approved in October—for Indian manufacture of 140 Su-30MKI fighter aircraft under licensed production from Russia. Still awaiting final resolution is India's expected acquisition of the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov and possibly MiG-29K fighters to outfit it.Russia is also reportedly selling India, as well as North Korea, portable anti-aircraft missile systems. Russia and the 32 other countries of the Wassenaar Arrangement pledged last December to abide by strict, though not legally binding, guidelines for exporting such weapons. (See ACT, January/February 2001.) A U.S. government official said Washington is "engaging" Russia on the purported sales.