The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Russia secrecy clause hits wall

New Delhi, May 16: Talks between India and Russia for an omnibus secrecy agreement to govern military supplies and procurement are stalled over differences on co-production and third-party arrangements.

Russia is India’s largest supplier of military hardware, with more than 60 per cent of equipment for the armed forces being sourced from that country. Between January and May, Moscow and New Delhi have twice done a back-and-forth on drafts of an Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) agreement.

At the core of the agreement that Moscow is insistent upon is a secrecy clause that must be signed before the military relations can graduate to higher levels involving co-production of equipment on the model of the collaboration for the Brahmos missile.

The Brahmos (a conjunction of the words Brahmaputra and Moskva, names of rivers) missile is being developed and produced as a joint venture between India and Russia and has been earmarked for export to “friendly” countries.

A highly placed defence source said here today that a draft given by India after the Russians circulated one in January is now with Moscow. It was presented during a visit of the defence secretary, Ajai Vikram Singh, to the Russian capital last month.

The Russians are insisting on stringent secrecy provisions at two levels. First, at the level of co-production arrangements for equipment in Indian ordnance factories.

The ordnance factories often source components from ancillaries in the private or public sector. Moscow is insisting that such arrangements need an explicit okay from Russian companies that are original equipment manufacturers.

Second, Moscow is also wary of India passing on information on original Russian weapons platforms in upgrading them with Israeli technology or technology sourced from former Soviet Bloc countries such as Uzbekistan.

India has little qualms in signing an agreement that will ensure that no tactical information on Russian weapons platforms are passed on to third countries but it fears that the pact could be used to prevent upgrading by such nations.

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