MOSCOW: Russia has agreed to hasten the co-production process of AK-203 assault rifles with India during Rajnath Singh`s maiden visit to the country as Defence Minister, officials said here on Wednesday.
India and Russia had entered into a deal in February this year to jointly manufacture 7.5 lakh AK-203 rifles, which are yet to be produced. Singh is on a three-day official visit to Russia where he met the country`s Defence Minister General Sergey Shoigu on Wednesday at the 19th India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military and Military Technical Cooperation meeting in Moscow.
"Our partnership with Russia will give a major boost to @makeinindia initiative. Received Strong support from Defense Minister Shoigu for @DefExpoIndia 2020. I also welcome the strong Russian support for early operationalisation of Kalashnikov Joint Venture," tweeted Singh.
India had entered into an Inter-Governmental Agreement with Russia in February 2019 to set up a joint venture for co-production of 7.5 lakh AK-203 assault rifles, which will primarily be handed over to Indian Army troops in the border and insurgency-hit areas to replace the unreliable home-made INSAS rifles.
The state-run Ordnance Factory Korwa in Amethi district of Uttar Pradesh has been selected as the joint venture partner with a 50.5 per cent equity stake for co-production of the AK-203 along with Russian firms.
Production of the rifles will take place in five phases with the indigenous content planned to be increased from 5 to 15 per cent in Phase I to 100 per cent in the fifth and final phase during which the bulk of the rifles will be produced.
"The Russian side affirmed its readiness to operationalise the joint venture Indo-Russia Rifles Private Limited for the manufacture of world class Kalashnikov AK 203 rifles in India at the earliest," said a statement released by the Defence Ministry.
During the meet, General Shoigu underlined Moscow`s commitment to extend all possible support to enhance India`s defence capabilities, including cooperation in advance and cutting-edge technology.
The Russian Defence Minister assured Rajnath Singh of robust participation of the country`s defence firms in DefExpo 2020 which is scheduled to be held in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh in February 2020.
"Shri Rajnath Singh emphasised that the special and privileged strategic partnership between the two countries was further strengthened following the Vladivostok Summit in September 2019. He highlighted the importance of the Inter-Governmental Agreement on manufacturing of spares, components and aggregates in India through joint ventures that would reduce cost, timelines of supply and result in progressive indigenisation," the statement further said.
As per officials, Singh held an in-depth discussion on a range of international issues of common concern with his Russian counterpart General Shoigu who also briefed about the Russian operations in Syria. The Russian side reaffirmed its strong support to India in the field of counter-terrorism and stated that it accords priority to New Delhi`s security interests in the region.
The two defence ministers reviewed progress of the two working groups on Military and Military Technical Cooperation. It was agreed that the forthcoming Tri-Service Indra Exercises will be a major milestone in military cooperation between the two countries. Russia affirmed that they would be deputing an officer for the prestigious National Defence College course in New Delhi from the academic year commencing in 2020.
India and Russia directed their respective teams to work closely for early conclusion of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Agreement on Reciprocal Logistics Support. Reciprocating an invitation, Rajnath Singh assured that an Indian military contingent will participate in the Army Parade of Russia on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the victory in World War II.
Singh will travel to St Petersburg on his third and final day in Russia on Thursday where he is likely to visit a few defence manufacturing facilities.