Indian Missiles

Last Updated: May 2023 (Indian Missiles)

Indian Missiles

This article deals with the ‘Indian Missiles.’ This is part of our series on ‘Science and Technology’ which is an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.

Classification of Missiles

Missiles can be classified in a number of ways

1. Type 

  • Cruise Missile: It is an unmanned self-propelled (till the time of impact) guided vehicle and aerodynamic lift for most of its flight path. 
  • Ballistic Missile: It is propelled for the initial stage and later works under the influence of gravity.

2. Launch Mode

  • Surface-to-Surface Missile
  • Surface-to-Air Missile
  • Surface (Coast)-to-Sea Missile
  • Air-to-Air Missile
  • Air-to-Surface Missile
  • Sea-to-Sea Missile
  • Sea-to-Surface (Coast) Missile
  • Anti-Tank Missile

3. Range

  • Tactical Missiles: 150 to 300 Km
  • Short Range Missile: 300 to 1000 km 
  • Medium Range Missile: 1000-3500 km 
  • Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile: 3500-5500 km
  • Intercontinental Ballistic Missile  : >5500 km

4. Propulsion System

Missiles can have the following type of propulsion systems

  • Solid Propulsion: Uses solid fuel.
  • Liquid Propulsion: Uses liquid fuel.
  • Hybrid Propulsion: Uses a mixture of fuels.
  • Cryogenic: Uses gaseous fuels solidified at extremely low temperatures.

5. Warhead

5.1 Conventional Warhead

  • Conventional warheads are filled with chemical explosives. 
  • It relies on the detonation of the explosive and the resulting metal casing fragmentation as kill mechanisms.

5.2 Strategic Warhead

  • Radioactive materials are present, and when triggered, they exhibit tremendous radioactivity that can wipe out cities.
  • They are generally designed for mass annihilation.

6. Guidance Systems

Guided Missile

  • Guided missiles can manoeuvre within a flight. They are guided by the sensors fitted in them. E.g., infrared sensor. 
  • They are primarily designed to hit and destroy heavily-armoured tanks & other armoured fighting vehicles. 
  • They can be launched from aircraft, helicopters, tanks, and shoulder-mounted launchers.

Type of guidance systems

  1. Wire Guidance
  2. Command Guidance
  3. Terrain Comparison Guidance
  4. Terrestrial Guidance
  5. Inertial Guidance
  6. Beam Rider Guidance
  7. Laser Guidance
  8. RF and GPS Reference

Note: India’s Missile testing facility is situated at Chandipur (Wheeler Island/Abdul Kalam Island), Odisha (Bay of Bengal) 

On the basis of type

1. Cruise Missile

What are Cruise Missiles?

  • A cruise missile is
    1. self-propelled 
    2. unmanned
    3. guided vehicle
  • It sustains flight through aerodynamic lift for most of its flight path. 
  • Its primary mission is to place ordnance or special payload on a target.
  • Cruise missiles fly within the Earth’s atmosphere. 
  • It sustains the flight using Jet Engine Technology. 
  • Cruise Missile can have the varying speed or ability to penetrate the enemy’s defences.

Parts of Cruise Missiles

Cruise Missiles have the following components

  1. Guidance system: This guides the missile during its flight.
  2. Payload: Conventional or strategic warhead which missile intends to deliver. 
  3. Propulsion System: Engine (usually Jet Engine) which propels the missile.

Classification of Cruise Missiles

1. Subsonic Cruise Missile

  • Subsonic Cruise Missiles fly at a speed lesser than the speed of sound (around 0.8 Mach). 
  • E.g., Nirbhay of India, Harpoon & Tomahawk of USA and Exocet of France.

2. Supersonic Cruise Missile

  • Supersonic Cruise Missiles travel at a speed of around 2-3 Mach, i.e. it travels a kilometre approximately in a second. 
  • Its lethal capabilities are further improved due to the combined effect of supersonic speed and mass of warhead, which provides enormous kinetic energy.
  • BRAHMOS (a joint venture of India & Russia) is the only known versatile supersonic cruise missile system in service globally. 

3. Hypersonic Cruise Missile

  • Hypersonic Cruise Missiles travel at speeds higher than 5 Mach. 
  • Countries, including India, are working on manufacturing this class of missiles. Examples include Brahmos- II. In 2023, India tested its HYPERSONIC TECHNOLOGY DEMONSTRATOR VEHICLE (HSTDV), which uses Scramjet Engine to reach Hypersonic Speeds.
  • China has recently tested Hypersonic Cruise Missiles. 

2. Ballistic Missiles

What are Ballistic Missiles?

  • Ballistic Missiles have ballistic trajectories, i.e. they are guided only during the relatively brief period of the initially powered phase of flight & the rest of the course is determined by the law of orbital mechanics & ballistics. 
Indian Missiles
  • They are categorized according to their range & carry a huge payload. 
  • They can be launched from various platforms such as ships and land-based facilities. 
  • For example, Prithvi I, Prithvi II, Agni I, Agni II and Dhanush ballistic missiles. 

Side Topic: Anti Ballistic Missiles

  • They are used to neutralise ballistic missiles. 
  • They are missiles for missile defence. 

Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP)

  • Dr A P J Abdul Kalam conceived IGMDP to enable India to attain self-sufficiency in missile technology. 
  • Keeping in mind the defence forces’ requirements, the team recommended developing five missile systems. 
  • IGMDP finally got approval from the Government of India in 1983

What was the need for IGMDP?

  • It has the advantage of delivering a higher payload beyond the range of the combat aircraft. 
  • These are one-way devices. Hence, there is no danger of loss as associated with loss of combat aircraft & their crew. 
  • These missiles travel at a very high speed that makes interception difficult.  
  • DRDO ended IGMDP on 8 January 2008 after making India self-reliant in Missile Technology. Presently, the Agni Missile Development Program to develop new versions of Agni is running as a separate program. 

The missiles developed under the program are

P Prithvi Short-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile
A Agni Intermediate-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile 
T Trishul Short-range low-level surface-to-air missile 
N Nag Third generation anti-tank missile 
A Akash  Medium-range surface-to-air missile

1. Prithvi 

  • It was the first missile developed under IGMP and was inducted into the Indian Army in 1994.
  • Prithvi is a surface to surface missile. 
  • It has a short range of 150-350 km. (Range increases as number increases: Prithvi I=150, II=250 and III=350kms.)
  • Its naval version is known as Dhanush. Dhanush can be launched from Navy ships.

1.1 Prithvi 1

Name SS150
Range 150km
Used by Army
Payload 1000kg

Update: Prithvi 1 will be replaced by Prahar Missile, developed by DRDO. It has a range of 150 Km. It is extremely precise and is fitted with modern navigation, guidance and actuation systems.  

1.2 Prithvi II

Name SS250
Range 250 Km
Used by Air Force
Payload 300 Kg

1.3 Prithvi III

Name SS 350
Range 350 Km
Used by Navy
Payload 1000  Kg

1.4 Sagarika/ K-15

Name K-15.
Speciality Nuclear capable submarine variant of  Prithvi missile.
Range 250-350 KM
Engine It has 2 stage engine, and both the engines are solid fuelled
1. First Stage: Underwater booster that powers the missile to 5 Km above the surface of the ocean. 
2. Second Stage: Propels the missile above the water.

1.5 Dhanush

Speciality Ship launched version of Prithvi.
Range Initially, 150 km but later increased to 350 km.
Payload 500-1000 kg

1.6 Pradyuman

  • Prithvi Air Defence Missile/Anti Ballistic Missile is named Pradyuman Ballistic Missile Interceptor. 
  • It can intercept the ballistic missiles of 300 to 2000 km class up to the altitude of 80 Km.
  • DRDO is working to enhance it to intercepts till 5000+ km range & engaging them at an altitude of 150 km.

2. Agni

  • It is the intermediate & long range Surface to Surface Ballistic Missile built by DRDO. 
  • These are capable of delivering nuclear warheads. 

2.1 Agni-1

  • Range: 700 -900 Kms
  • Max speed: Mach 12
  • It was the first missile in the family of Agni Missiles.
  • It bridges the gap between Prithvi & Agni 2. 

Agni Prime

  • It is the advanced version of Agni-1. 
  • It was test-fired successfully in June 2021.
  • Range: 1000 to 1500 Km 
  • Payload: 1,000 Kg
  • It has advanced features like
    1. High Agility
    2. Road Mobility
    3. Cannisterisation i.e. can be transported in canisters
    4. Lighter and sleeker than Agni-1

2.2 Agni-2

  • Range: 2000 km  
  • Max speed: Mach 13
  • It can carry a nuclear warhead.  
  • It is also provided with GPS to hit targets accurately. 

2.3 Agni-3

  • Range: 3000 km
  • It is the most accurate missile in this class.

2.4 Agni-4

  • Twenty meters tall and has two stages solid-fuel engine.
  • It can carry nuclear weapons
  • Range: 4000 km
  • It has heat shields. Hence, the missile can withstand above 4000°C temperature when it re-enters the earth’s atmosphere.

2.5 Agni-5

  • Agni-5 was inducted into the elite Strategic Forces Command in 2018.  
  • It has a design similar to that of Agni-3 with an extra stage.    
  • Range: Above 5000 (but Chinese experts say that Agni’s range is 8000 km and India is misguiding the world).
  • Max speed: Mach 24
  • It has MIRV capability (MIRV = Multiple Independently targetable Re-entry Vehicle . MIRV means one missile can carry several warheads, each for different targets).
  • Newspapers say it to be Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile(ICBM) (but according to definition, ICBM has a range greater than 5500 Km). 
  • It can be launched from canister & is road-mobile. Cannisterization makes this missile very agile and increases the shelf life of the missile by protecting it from the harsh climate.

Strategic Importance of Agni-5

  • It has brought areas as far as Beijing within the striking capability of New Delhi. Hence, it will act as a deterrent
  • Possibility as Anti-Satellite Missile: It can be converted to Anti Satellite Missile with certain modifications. 

2.6 Agni VI

  • It is an ICBM. But it is speculated to be in very rudimentary stages of development, albeit never formally acknowledged by DRDO.
  • It can be launched from submarine and land.
  • It has a range of (approx.) 6,000 Km along with MIRV capabilities. 
  • There are some speculations that this missile has already been christened as Surya. 

Side Topic – ICBM

  • ICBMs have a range of more than 5500 km. 
  • It can carry both conventional & nuclear warheads. 
  • Russia has the largest number of ICBMs (only five countries have them, i.e. 5 Permanent members of the Security Council). 

3. Trishul

  • It is a ‘Short-range Surface to Air Missile’ (SAM).
  • It has a range of 9 Km.
  • It can be fitted with a 5.5 Kg warhead. 
  • Trishul is Radar guided missile.
  • It is developed for two purposes.
    1. To defend naval vessels against missiles.
    2. As a short-range surface to air missile.
  • But Trishul missiles have faced persistent problems. Hence, the Trishul missile is planned to be replaced by the Maitri Missile, a blend of French Mica Missile and DRDO’s Trishul.

4. Nag

  • It is a ‘Third generation Anti Tank missile’. 
  • Range = 3 to 7 km
  • Payload = 42 kg 
  • It is an all-weather, top attack missile with fire and forgets capability.  

It has various versions such as helicopter or rooftop or tank mounted.

HeliNa Helicopter Version of Nag.
SANT SANT = Standoff Anti-Tank Missile
It is a ‘fourth generation’ upgraded version of the HeliNa missile with an advanced node-mounted seeker.
NAMICA Nag Missile Carrier or NAMICA is an amphibious and armoured le carrier designed for Nag Missile.

5. Akash

  • It is a ‘Surface to Air Missile‘ (SAM).
  • It can target aircraft up to 25 km away (Medium Range), at altitudes up to 18Km.
  • Its launch weight is 720 kg.  
  • It can achieve a speed of 2.5 Mach.
  • It has an integrated ramjet propulsion system.
  • A self-destruction device is also integrated into it.  
  • It uses RAM jet propulsion while the booster stage is solid fuelled. 
  • Akash flies at supersonic speed, reaching around Mach 2.5.
  • It can destroy many targets at once, using the Rajendra radar system. Since Rajendra Radar completely guides it without any active guidance system, it allows greater capability against jamming as aircraft self-protection jammer has to work against high power radar.
  • It can be launched from static platforms and mobile platforms such as tanks and armoured missile carriers.
  • It was inducted into Indian Armed Forces in 2014. 
  • In 2020, the Indian Government decided that Akash Missile could be exported to friendly foreign countries.  
Akash Missile

Side Topic: Akash-NG

  • Akash-NG = Akash New Generation
  • It is a new generation of Surface to Air missiles.
  • It is meant for use by the Indian Air Force to intercept high manoeuvring low RCS (Radar Cross Section) aerial threats.

Guided Missiles outside IGMDP & in news

1. K Series

  • K series is explicitly developed for submarines. 
  • These missiles are dedicated to Abdul Kalam (K stands for Kalam).

Missiles of the K series include 


  • It is also known as Sagarika.
  • It is a submarine variant of the Prithvi Missile.  


  • K-4 is a Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM).
  • It will arm the Arihant-class submarines. 
  • Range: 3,500 Km
  • Note: K-4 was developed to overcome the difficulty of fitting AGNI-III in equipping INS Arihant.


  • K-5 is equivalent to Agni-5 for Submarines. 
  • It is in developing stages. 
K Series Submarine Launched Missiles

2. Barak -8 / LRSAM

  • It is a Surface to Air Missile. It is also known as LRSAM (Long Range Surface to Air Missile). 
  • It is a Joint Venture of DRDO & Israel Aerospace Industries.
  • Speed: 2 Mach 
  • Range: 90 KM (80-100 Km) 
  • Flight Ceiling (max height achieved) = 16 Km
  • It will also be installed on INS Vikramaditya.
Long Range Surface to Air 
Missile (LRSAM) 
Joint Venture of DRDO & 
Israel Aerospace Industries 
= 90 KM (80-100 KM) 
= 2 Mach 


  • MRSAM = Medium-Range Surface-to-Air Missile
  • DRDO and Israel Aerospace Industries have developed it. 
  • It has naval and army versions. 
  • It has a range of more than 50 km.
  • It can reach up to the speed of 2 Mach.
  • It can target multiple targets simultaneously. 


  • QRSAM = Quick Reaction Surface-to-Air missiles 
  • It is being developed to replace Akash Missiles. 
  • Range: 25-30 Km
  • It has the ability to strike low flying targets.
  • It can hit multiple targets. 


  • VL-SRSM = Vertical Launch Short Range Surface to Air Missile 
  • It is designed specifically for Indian Naval warships.
  • It has been developed jointly by DRDO.
  • Range: 40 Km
  • It can hit multiple targets.

6. Astra

  • Astra is an ‘Air to Air missile’ to destroy enemy aircraft.
  • It is developed by DRDO
  • It can be integrated into Su-30 MKI, Mirage 2000, LCA, MIG 29 etc. 
  • It has Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air to air capability with a 25 to 40 km strike range.  
  • Speed = up to 4 Mach. 
Astra Missile

7. Naval Anti-Ship Missile (Short Range) or NASM-SR

  • Manufactured by DRDO.
  • It has range of 55 km and can go up to the altitude of 3 km.
  • It can carry 100 kg and can travel at speed of 0.8 Mach.

8. Python-5

  • Python-5 is an Air-to-Air Missile of Israeli origin.
  • It has a range of 20 to 50 km and Beyond Visual Range (BVR) capabilities.
  • It has been integrated into Tejas fighter aircraft.

9. Popeye

  • Popeye is an Air-to-Surface missile and can be easily integrated into fighter aircraft. 
  • Range: 80 km
  • India has procured it from Israel.
  • It can carry nuclear warheads.

10. Rudram

  • Rudram is an Anti-Radiation Missile indigenously developed by DRDO. 
  • It will be installed on Sukhoi aircraft and used to destroy enemy radars by detecting the radio signals coming from those radars.
  • With this, IAF can perform SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defence) operations deep into enemy territory to destroy enemy air defence setup.

11. Shaurya

  • Shaurya is a hypersonic missile with nuclear capabilities. 
  • Range: 1,000 Km
  • Shaurya has a canister based system, giving it extra mobility. 
  • Shaurya is a land-based parallel of the submarine-launched K-15 missile.

12. Pralay

  • Pralay is a Surface to Surface missile indigenously developed by DRDO.
  • It is India’s first quasi-ballistic missile.
  • Range: 150-500 km.
  • It can carry a warhead weighing between 350-700 kg.
  • It is equipped with state-of-the-art navigation mechanisms. 

13. Spike Missiles

  • Spike Missiles are Anti-Tank Missiles from Israel. 
  • It is made in India in plant setup in Hyderabad with Kalyani Group holding 51% and Rafael Aerospace (of Israel) holding 49% stake.

14. Amogha -I

  • It is an indigenously developed ‘second generation‘ ‘anti-tank’ guided missile. 
  • Range: 2.8 km  
  • It is developed by Bharat Heavy Dynamics Limited (BDL).

15. Dhruvastra

  • Dhruvastra is an Anti-Tank Guided Missile indigenously developed by DRDO.
  • It comes in two variants i.e.
    1. Helicopter launched: It will be integrated into helicopters.
    2. Tank launched: It will be integrated into Arjun Tanks.

16. Man Portable Anti-Tank Guided Missile (MPATGM) 

  • Developed indigenously by DRDO.
  • MPATGM is a low-weight anti-tank missile with fire & forget capability which can be launched from a man-portable launcher integrated with thermal sight.

16. SANT (Stand-Off Anti-Tank) Missile

  • Helicopter launched Anti-Tank Missile indigenously developed by DRDO. 
  • Range: 10 km

Cruise Missiles of India

1. Brahmos

  • It is a joint venture of DRDO & Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyenia  – BrahMos Aerospace Private Ltd.
  • It is named after two rivers, i.e. Brahmaputra of India and the Moskva of Russia.
  • Brahmos is essentially an anti-ship missile. 
  • Brahmos is unique because it is the only Supersonic cruise missile worldwide (with a speed close to 3 Mach).
  • It has a range of 290 km. 
  • It can carry a payload of 300kg.
  • Advanced avionics with ‘fire and forget’ capability.
  • Other specifications include internal guidance, high speed, stealth properties, advanced jamming protection.  
  • It can be installed on ships, submarines, aircraft and ground vehicles. 
  • BrahMos Aerospace Private Limited (BAPL) is making BrahMos II with hypersonic capabilities speed up to Mach 8.
  • In 2022, the Philippines bought BrahMos missiles from India.

In 2016, India became a Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) member. Subsequently, India and Russia planned to jointly develop a new generation of Brahmos missiles with a 600 km-plus range. Earlier, its range was restricted to sub-300 km. (note: MTCR applies on missiles with a range of more than 300 km).


2. Nirbhay

  • It is a ‘Surface to Surface cruise missile’. 
  • Speed: 0.7 Mach. 
  • Range = 800 km. 
  • Nirbhay is India’s first long-range subsonic cruise missile.
  • It is almost similar to the American Tomahawk missile. 
  • DRDO designed Nirbhaya from a pilotless Lakshya drone (0.68 Mach speed).  
  • It is a loitering missile as Nirbhay can circle over an area for many minutes and pick out the target.
  • It can avoid detection by flying at a very low altitude.  
  • 80% of Nirbhay parts are built in India.

India-Russia Relations

India-Russia Relations

India-Russia Relations

This article deals with ‘India-Russia Relations.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’ which is an important pillar of the GS-2 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.

History of Relations

Timeline of India-Russia Relations

Pre-Independence Relations

  • In the early 19th century, the Russian Tsar expanded to Central Asia. Britishers perceived this as a threat to British Indian Empire. To stop Russian advancement, they started Anglo-Afghan wars, aiming to make Afghanistan a buffer between the Russian and British Empire. This whole episode culminated with the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907, under which Russians accepted the British as the paramount power in Afghanistan. 

Initial years after Indian Independence

  • India adopted the policy of non-alignment. 
  • Till 1953, when Stalin was alive, he wasn’t very keen on India. Stalin did not appreciate the non-aligned posturing of India.
  • After the death of Stalin, Indians and Soviet interests started to converge on the following issues 
    • Indian protest at the UN about extending the Korean War north of the 38th parallel.
    • Indian support for the People’s Republic of China to enter the UN. 
    • Finally, the formation of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) in 1954 and the Baghdad Pact in 1955 under the leadership of the USA was perceived by India as an attempt by the US to encircle India. India also condemned American support to Pakistan with arms. These events brought India closer to USSR. These events brought India closer to USSR.

Relations during 1962 War

  • Nikita Khrushchev favoured the improvement of ties with the US, while Mao tried to criticize it and promote his image as the sole representative of revolutionary movements. This difference between the Soviets and China led to the Soviets favouring India during the 1962 Chinese aggression. 

Relations during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965

  • After 1962, India adopted the path of defence modernization. The Soviets decided to use it as an opportunity to build ties with India before any western country could fill this strategic space and emerged as the topmost defence supplier for India by the late 1960s. 
  • In the 1965 Indo-Pak war, India appreciated the role of the Soviets during mediation through the Tashkent Declaration. 

Relations post 1965 and leading up to War of 1971

  • In the 1970s, the US explored options of undertaking rapprochements with China and India began to fear a Beijing-Washington-Islamabad axis. 
  • India acted hastily. Since 1969, India and the USSR negotiated a diplomatic and strategic engagement. India speeded up the negotiations and, in 1971, concluded a twenty-year ‘India-Soviet Treaty of Peace and Friendship‘ with the clause of Collective Security  (i.e. if India is attacked, Soviet Union will come to help & vice versa). Shipments of arms began to arrive from Russia to India. 2021 marks the 50 years of the signing of the Indonesia-Soviet Treaty.
  • USSR has sided with India on the Kashmir issue and vetoed all resolutions against India in UNSC. 

Initial hiccups in the post-fall of the USSR

After the Cold War ended, the initial years of Boris Yeltsin’s rule were not smooth. Due to the fall of the USSR, both India and Russia were attracted towards the west without any convergence. During this period 

  • Rupees-Rouble Trade suffered as the value of Rouble declined steeply. In response, Russia asked India to pay in Dollars. 
  • Russia denied the cryogenic engine under USA pressure due to MTCR. 
  • Militancy in Chechnya and Kashmir presented a problem to both nations. 

End of the 1990s

  • Nuclear Tests of 1998 brought India Russia closer.
  • At that time, the world was divided into two groups. 
    1. USA, Japan and EU: placed sanctions on India. 
    2. Russia: Supported India arguing that India is surrounded by China & Pakistan & had the right to protect using Nuclear deterrence.

Putin’s Visit in 2010

  • During this visit, India and Russia signed a “Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership” (SPSP). 
  • One of the critical drivers for this move was India’s assertion for a multipolar world. The resurgence of Russia in the world to project itself as an independent pole in the international system suits India as it will prevent any form of unipolar assertion by either the US or China.

Crimea Issue

  • Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, where the Russian Black Sea Fleet is placed permanently and has been an outlet of Russia to the Mediterranean Sea. Although Western countries placed sanctions on Russia due to Russian expansionist policy, India supported the Russian decision.

Present Collaborations

India and Russia are presently collaborating on the following projects

  1. International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC)
  2. BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
  3. S-400 Triumf Air Defence Systems
  4. Joint development of Kamov-226 helicopters
  5. Development of Far East Russia
  6. Sputnik – V vaccine against Corona developed by Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology was used by India.

Convergence of Interests

Russia needs India

  • To bypass western sanctions, Indian help is required.  
  • Act as a hedge against forthcoming Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)  driven by the US & EU.
  • India is the market for the Defence Industry of Russia. 
  • India is a significant market for oil.

India needs Russia 

  • To secure energy supply at a cost-effective price.  
  • To get cutting edge defence technology (no country provide its new technology). 
  • Russia is a good market for Indian pharmaceuticals, manufactured goods, dairy products etc.  
  • Russian Veto at UN matters for India. 

India-Russia Economic Cooperation

India-Russia Economic Cooperation
  • Indo-Russian trade flourished during the Cold War based on the Rupee-Rouble agreement. However, the foundation of this agreement was dismantled in 1992, which led to a decline in trade.
  • Annual Indo-Russian trade is $8.1 billion (2021).  The target is to increase it to $30 Billion in a decade. 
  • ONGC Videsh has invested $5 billion in Sakhalin I project in Siberia and Imperial Energy Ltd. 
  • Russia has developed Kudankulam nuclear energy project (1000 MW).
  • India and Russia are also in the advanced stages of talks of signing a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Indian and Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).

Problems in trade with Russia

  • There are no direct overland trade routes possible today, though the International North-South Transit Corridor (INSTC) will try to establish that connectivity.
  • Supreme Court in 2012 declared 2G licenses as null and void after Russian AFK Sistema had teamed up with Shyam Telecom. It sent negative sentiments in Russian business houses.
  • Custom clearances and inspections are complex & time-consuming.
  • Russian importer needs to get a license to import. Russian businessmen demand Indian exporters to pay for these charges.
  • Product-specific approvals are required. 
  • Banking & finance issues due to strict norms in Current Account & Capital Account convertibility. 

Defence Relation

  • Defence Cooperation is more important than economic cooperation. India is going for massive weaponization, and Russia is the most crucial ally in this regard as 2/3rd of Indian military hardware comes from Russia. 
  • Following weapons of India are of Russian origin
Defence Cooperation in India-Russia Relations

1 . IAF

  • 32 out of 41 fighter Indian Air Force squadrons are Russian. These include
    1. MIG 21,23,27 and 29
    2. Sukhoi 30- MKI
  • New Deals have been signed for the following systems
    1. Joint Production of Kamov -226 Helicopter
    2. India has started receiving deliveries of S-400 Air Defence Systems

2. Army

  • T-72 & T-90 constitute 60% of 4168 battle tanks .
  • Indian army personnel will use AK-203, and a joint production facility to manufacture more than 600,000 Kalashnikov rifles will be set up in Korwa. 

3. Navy

  • INS  Vikramaditya (Gorshkov:) Aircraft Carrier 
  • Akula II class (INS Chakra): Nuclear Submarine
  • India and Russia conduct Joint Armed exercises known as  INDRA. 
  • Even after increased bonhomie with the US, the Indian government has already declared that Russia is India’s primary defence supplier.

Defence relations are changing

  • India is trying to diversify its arsenal because dependence on one nation in defence is a strategic liability. MMRCA (Rafale) Deal with France vouches for that.  
  • Russia is also trying to diversify its relations in response to the Indian position & is engaging with Pakistan to sell weapons. 

Issues in Indo-Russian Defence Relations

  • CAATSA, i.e., Countering American Adversaries through Sanctions Act of US, has the provision of Sanctions against American adversaries if they are doing trade with them. These adversaries include Russia, Iran and North Korea. It is presenting difficulty in payments. 

Space Cooperation

Space Cooperation in India-Russia Relations
  • Space cooperation between two countries goes back four decades. 2015 marked the 40th anniversary of India’s first satellite “Aryabhatta” on a Russian ( USSR) launch vehicle ‘Soyuz.’ 
  • In 1984, Indian astronaut Rakesh Sharma visited space in the Soyuz T-10, an issue of great political prestige for India. 
  • After the fall of the USSR, relations deteriorated for some time. In 1992, Russia denied providing cryogenic rocket engines to India as a non-signatory to MTCR. The sudden suspension of the deal came as a severe setback to the Indian space program. But relations have been stabilized again. Various MOUs have been signed between ROSCOSMOS and ISRO since then.
  • Earlier, India was using GLONASS as an alternate to US-controlled GPS. 

Energy Cooperation

  • Russia is an energy supplier, while India has a huge energy demand. As India is a net importer of energy, Russia is in a strategic position to cooperate.
  • The former Soviet Union played a significant role in building India’s energy sector in the following way
    1. Developing tens of hydropower stations
    2. Developing India’s coal industry
    3. Finding oil in Indian soil 
    4. Helping in setting up India’s energy major ONGC.  
  • India has invested 
    1. $5 billion in the Sakhalin-1 project, controlling 20 per cent stakes in the venture. 
    1. Purchased Imperial Energy, a London-listed oil major in the Tomsk region. 
    2. India is also interested in the Timon Pechora basin and Vankor in East Siberia. 
  • Both India and Russia are extending civil nuclear cooperation to 3rd countries, e.g. Bangladesh.

Indo-Russian Cooperation to develop Russia’s the Far East

  • India participated in the 5th Eastern Economic Forum (2020), which aims to support the economic development of Russia’s resource-rich the Far East. 
  • India has unveiled the “Act Far East” policy to boost India’s engagement with Russia’s Far East region. 
  • India has extended a $1 billion line of credit for the development of this region. 
  • India has proposed developing a maritime route between Chennai and Vladivostok to bypass Europe to reach Russia. This will reduce the time for cargo to reach Russia to 24 days from the current 40 days.
  • Several Indian companies have been successfully set up in the Russian Far East region, such as KGK in Vladivostok in the field of diamond cutting and Tata Power in Kamchatka in coal mining. 
Far East Russia and India

Multilateral Engagements

  • Russia has supported India’s bid for a permanent seat in UNSC. 
  • Russia has been favouring Indian entry to the Nuclear Supplier Group. 
  • Both countries are on the same page regarding the reform of multilateral institutions like IMF and the World Bank.  
  • Both countries are a member of important international organizations like
    1. BRICS
    2. Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) 
    3. G-20  

People to People Cooperation

  • Programs like ‘Namaste Russia’ have been run in Russia.
  • Institutes like Jawaharlal Nehru Cultural Centre, both the countries have had good cultural links. 

Downturn in Relations

  • During the Cold War, defence ties were the most important elements of our relationship. In the post-Cold War era, the US, France and Israel have emerged as direct competitors to Russia in providing defence supplies to India. Russian share in India’s defence imports has decreased from 79% (2008) to 62% (2017).
Defence Relations between India and Russia
  • India’s growing proximity to the United States: Rapidly expanding ties and growing defence relationship between India and the US corroborated by the fact like joining Quad led by the USA, signing of logistic agreements like BECA, LEMOA, COMCASA etc. with the US has impacted the India-Russia Relations. 
  • One dimensional trade: Trade has been one-dimensional, i.e. defence based. The trade between India and Russia in 2017-18 was $11 billion, which is far below potential.  
  • Russian leaning towards China: Russia has sold advanced military technology to Beijing and endorsed China’s One Belt One Road. There has also been concern about Moscow leaning toward Beijing in forums like the BRICS. Also, China and Russia inaugurated the first cross-border pipeline to China from Russia’s far-east regions. Russia accounted for 77% of Chinese arms imports in 2016-2020.
  • Increasing bonhomie between Russia and Pakistan: In 2014, Russia lifted the arms embargo on Pakistan and is the second-largest weapons supplier to Pakistan, accounting for 6.6% of its arms imports.  
  • Issues wrt Taliban: Russia showing an inclination towards Taliban in Afghanistan while India continues to have concerns about the group. Hence, India and Russia have divergent interests in Afghanistan.
  • Issues with Quad: Russia is critical towards the concept of Quadrilateral Security Dialogue and has termed it as Asian NATO designed to contain China and Russia.

Steps taken to address this

  • Despite the threat of US sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), India has remained firm on buying the S-400 Triumf air defence missiles system. 
  • Reinforcement of Defence Ties: India has finalized the following defence deals with Russia in recent times 
    1. Joint production of Kamov-226 helicopters.
    2. S-400 Air Defence System
    3. Nuclear-powered submarine (Chakra III)
    4. AK-203 Guns
  • INDRA upgraded to Tri-Services Joint Exercises.
  • Improving trade relations: In 2017, trade between countries increased by 20%. Two countries decided to reach the $30 billion investment goal by 2025.
  • Indian Prime Minister participated in the Eastern Economic Forum of 2020 and announced to make substantial investments in Far East Russia.
  • Indian Defence Minister undertook a trip to Russia for its ‘Victory Day’ parade even during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • India and Russia are developing the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) to address connectivity issues. 

Is Russia still important?

  • Russia is a time-tested friend who has helped India on numerous occasions earlier. Increasing Russo-Pak Ties is just a symbolic gesture by Russia to tell India that they can find friends. 
  • Russian Defence partnership is important because they give Transfer of Technology in cutting edge technology which other countries including the US willn’t offer. In the US, all the defence system manufacturing is under private companies, while in Russia, they are state-controlled. Hence, the way in which Russia can help by supplying arms to set diplomatic relations on the right track can be done by the US (INS Vikramaditya, Nuclear Subs, Sukhoi, etc. ) 
  • Along with that, joint production deals in high-end products like Kamov Helicopters, Brahmos Missiles etc., matter to India if it wants to develop the domestic defence industry. US and western powers never agree to such agreements.
  • In Civil Nuclear Aspects, only Russia has given the best deals, like in Kundankulam. Other nations care too much about financial aspects and want to increase profits. 
  • If India wants to book its seat in UNSC, Russian support is critical. 
  • On various multilateral forums, Russia and India share space. BRICS & SCO are the most important.   
  • Russia has significant energy resources, and India needs Russia to satisfy its hunger for energy. 
  • Overall, as mentioned by PM Modi, Russia remains our principal Defence Partner. About 70 per cent of our weapons and equipment are of Russian or Soviet origin. 
  • Military Exercise with Pakistan should not be seen from a narrow perspective. In the age of Realpolitik, every nation wants to have maximum manoeuver spaceIndia conducts military exercises with China too.

=> Overall, it can be concluded that, as Modi said in his joint statement (2016 meet) Old friend is better than two new friends, India shouldn’t abandon Russia because of what Russia can provide, no other nation in the world can do that. India should diversify its defence partnership, but Russia should remain India’s topmost priority, who was always there when India needed.