Top Russian official to visit India over possible arms deal with Pakistan

NEW DELHI/ISLAMABAD – Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin will visit India this week to discuss defence, trade, nuclear energy and space cooperation, local and foreign media reported on Sunday.

Rogozin’s visit is unscheduled and is an attempt to reassure the top Indian leadership that India remains Russia’s most important defence and strategic partner. Officially, the Indian government has not reacted to negotiations between Pakistan and Russia for the sale of Mi-35 helicopters.

Last week, Minister for Defence Khawaja Muhammad Asif confirmed that Pakistan was interested to buy Mi-35 helicopters from Russia. Pakistan will buy such important and useful helicopters besides some necessary military equipment, he said.

Earlier this week, Russian Ambassador Alexey Dedov had said that there was never any ban on the sale of Russian military equipment to Pakistan. “There is ongoing cooperation with Pakistan in the field of defence and counter-terrorism and security,” he said.

“The proposed deal on supply of MI-35 to Pakistan is still being negotiated between Russian and Pakistani defence officials, and hopefully would be finalised soon,” the ambassador said. Rogozin’s visit may soothe nerves among the Indian establishment which has faced over-reaction in Indian media over the possible arms deal between Pakistan and Russia.

Russia, which was displaced last year by the US as India's biggest arms supplier, is reportedly negotiating with Pakistan the sale of the heavily armed helicopters. The move has not gone down well with the Indian government. “There are red lines in all relationships. We have no problems if the Russians sell non-lethal equipment like Mi-17 helicopters to Pakistan. They can even sell counter-terrorism equipment but the Mi-35s are not non-lethal equipment,” the paper reported.

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