NEW DELHI — India has halted negotiations with Russia for the former to acquire 10 Kamov Ka-31 airborne early warning helicopters for $520 million, following uncertainties in arms supplies amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Indian government indefinitely suspended the negotiations with Rosoboronexport and original equipment manufacturer Russian Helicopters, an Indian Defence Ministry official told Defense New on condition of anonymity. The official, who was not authorized to speak to the press, said the government-to-government deal added that the suspension is due to concerns over Moscow’s ability to execute orders as well as issues related to payment transfers.
Indian Navy officials have said the suspension represents a setback for the service because the Ka-31 helicopters are needed for the country’s second aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, which was locally built and will be commissioned in July.
Amit Cowshish, a former financial adviser for acquisitions with the ministry, said the suspension could also be due to geopolitical pressure as the international community condems Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which began Feb. 24. Other factors, he added, could include budgetary constraints and India’s preference to acquire locally developed helicopters.
And a stalemate in negotiations over technical and financial issues could have also played a role, he noted.
India asked to buy Ka-31 helicopters from Russia in May 2019, but the acquisition program faced inordinate delays due to the coronavirus pandemic and the platform’s high price tag.
Acquisition talks resumed in February 2022 after negotiators settled on a price of $520 million for 10 Ka-31 helicopters, but the effort hit another snag when officials couldn’t agree on a rupee-ruble currency mechanism.
The MoD official said India’s central bank, Reserve Bank of India, has worked overtime since March 2022 to establish an alternative payment mechanism, but negotiators have been unable to come to an agreement.
Neither ministry nor Navy officials would discuss whether India is exploring alternatives to the airborne early warning craft.
The Navy currently operates 14 Ka-31 helicopters, which were inducted progressively — four in 2003, five in 2005 and five in 2013 — and are dependent on the original equipment manufacturer for spare parts, repairs and overhaul support.
Vivek Raghuvanshi is the India correspondent for Defense News.