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Russia looms large as Obama watches India Republic Day Parade
January 26, 2015, 7:52 am

US President Barack Obama watches a rainy Republic Day parade in New Delhi, India on 26 January 2015

US President Barack Obama watches a rainy Republic Day parade in New Delhi, India on 26 January 2015

US President Barack Obama as chief guest of the Republic Day parade at Rajpath (King’s Avenue) in the Indian capital on Monday witnessed the Russian dominion of the Indian army’s arsenal from close quarters, with weapons produced under license from Russia some of the major highlights of the glitzy event.

India showcased before the chief guest, the US President Barack Obama and the world its military might with a splendid display of land and naval weaponry, fighter and reconnaissance aircraft.

However, it must have amused Obama that almost all the Indian might on display had a “MADE IN RUSSIA” tag.

Here’s how the commentary on Indian national broadcaster Doordarshan ran:

The Russian T-90s rumbled past during the Republic Day parade. Trailing them were a ‘Poseidon’ formation comprising one P-8I aircraft flanked by two MiG-29Ks (Russian) and the ‘Globe’ formation comprising one C-17 Globemaster flanked by two Su-30s (Russian).

Next five Jaguars flew in Arrowhead formation and the five MiG-29 fighters (Russian) flew in ‘Fulcrum’ style.

Three Sukhoi (Russian) fighter jets will then make the “Trishul” formation by flying over the Rajpath, and once in front of the saluting dais, the three aircraft would split upwards, making a ‘Trishul’ in the sky.

The flypast will conclude with another Su-30 MkI (Russian) carrying out a “Vertical Charlie” manoeuvre over the saluting dais.”

The Indian Army’s Russian-made tanks—the latest laser-guided missile capability T-90 “Bheeshma” tank, infantry combat vehicle BMP II (Sarath) and the T-72 tank with a trawl—were part of Monday’s parade.

Getting a fabulous spread was the Mobile Autonomous Launcher for the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile system, an Indo-Russian joint effort.

The Indian’s military’s recent America acquisitions were also on display on Monday. Flying in formation with the two latest Russian built MiG-29Ks of the Indian Air Force were the C-130 Hercules tactical transport, C-17 heavy transport and the Naval P-8I maritime patrol aircraft.

The 2015 R-Day parade of India also featured the indigenously developed surface-to-air Akash medium-range missile and Weapon Locating Radar, both developed by the Indian defense agency, DRDO, as well as a model of INS Kolkata, the latest warship in the Indian Navy’s arsenal. This was in line with the new Indian government’s emphasis on the high-pitch campaign of “Make in India”.

Almost ninety per cent of India’s military arsenal, however, is Russian equipment. In the past couple of years, the US is playing catch up trying to displace Russia from the top spot.

India, the world’s largest weapons importer, has begun an ambitious defense upgrade plan with an estimated budget of $100 billion.

New Delhi has also recently increased foreign direct investment (FDI) in defence to 49 per cent. India accounted for nearly 10 per cent of the $63 billion international defense market in 2013.

To illustrate that India still has a vote of confidence in its old defence partner, India and Russia last week agreed to jumpstart work on a fifth-generation military aircraft. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had told visiting President Putin in December that Russia will remain India’s “most important defense partner.”

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu held talks with his Indian counterpart last week to fast-track progress on producing a stealth jet for both their militaries, as well as third countries.

Russia and India have agreed on the construction of at least 12 new nuclear energy blocks within the next 20 years.

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee at India's Republic Day celebrations on 26 January 2015. US President Barack Obama in the background [TV grab]

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee at India’s Republic Day celebrations on 26 January 2015. US President Barack Obama in the background [TV grab]

New Delhi has supported Moscow over the Ukraine crisis, with Modi saying that dialogue has to replace the current blame-game.

“There is a saying in India that the person who should throw a stone first is the person who has not committed any sins. In the world right now, a lot of people want to give advice. But look within them, and they too have sinned in some way. Ultimately, India’s view point is that efforts need to be made to sit together and talk, and to resolve problems in an ongoing process,” Modi told a US broadcaster in September.

To add insult to injury on Monday, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, wore an oversized grey fur hat, very akin to the ones worn by Russians.


Pooja Bhansali in New Delhi, India for The BRICS Post.

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