Tuesday February 19, 2019
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Russia-Reliance group pact, 197 defense choppers for army and IAF

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Reliance_Infra-640x434New Delhi: There is a possibility of a Rs. 6,000 crore ($925 million) project between the defence arm of the Anil Ambani led Reliance Group and the Russian government, to make 197 helicopters for the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force, sources said on Friday.

Proclaimed as one of the largest deals under the “Make in India” programme, it calls for making 197 Kamov 226T choppers to retire the Chetak-Cheetah fleet that has been the key inventory in frontline operations for over 30 years, notably in difficult terrain like Siachen, the sources added.

“We are committed to actively participating in Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Make in India’ and ‘Skill India’ program,” the spokesperson for Reliance Defence said when asked for the company’s comment on the deal, which involves manufacture of these light utility helicopters in the country.

“The manufacture of both military and civil helicopters to meet the needs of the country are a significant part of this commitment,” the spokesperson added.

It is reliably learnt that the project is to be executed under a new joint venture, for which the chosen Indian partner is a newly set-up chopper arm of Reliance Defence — which, in turn, is a subsidiary of Reliance Infrastructure. The process is on to acquire an industrial licence.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin had pushed for the Ka-226T during the summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi here last December. Upon agreeing to be make these choppers in India, Russia was offered an initial deal for 200 of these helicopters with the potential for another 400.

In May, the Defence Acquisition Council chaired by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar cleared the proposal. Now, after extensive talks, the Russian government has communicated to New Delhi that it will be implementing the project in a joint venture with an Indian company — and that the partner so chosen is Reliance Helicopters. It also involves transfer of technology, sources said.

Earlier this month, Pipavav Defence, a part of the Reliance Group, was selected by Zvyozdochka Shipyard of Russia for the refit of 24 EKM 877 submarines in India, a deal potentially worth Rs.30,000 crore.

The company, the controlling stake of which was acquired by the Reliance Group earlier this year, was also selected by United Shipbuilding Company of Russia for the manufacture of four Talwar-class frigates, according to sources.

The company is also said to be a strong contender to build six advanced submarines for the navy, along with five other firms, for which the Indian government is expected to float a request for proposal soon. This deal is potentially worth Rs.60,000 crore.

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Pence Criticizes Europe For Iran, Venezuela, Russia Links

The atmosphere this year is one of apprehension, according to analyst Florence Gaub of the European Union Institute for Security Studies.

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United States Vice President Mike Pence briefs the media during the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019. VOA

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence strongly criticized European allies Saturday for their stance on Iran and Venezuela, in a speech at the Munich Security Conference in Germany.

“The time has come for our European partners to stop undermining U.S. sanctions against this murderous, revolutionary regime. The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal,” Pence told delegates.

He also called on allies to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as the legitimate president of Venezuela. More than 20 European states have done so, but the European Union has stopped short of fully recognizing Guaido as president. Disputed president Nicholas Maduro is widely accused of vote-rigging to win last years’ election, while the country is mired in poverty and hyperinflation.

“Once more the Old World can take a strong stand in support of freedom in the New World. Today we call on the European Union to step forward for freedom and recognize Juan Guaido as the only legitimate president of Venezuela,” Pence said.

China repeatedly was singled out by the vice president as a threat to the United States and its allies.

“The United States has also been very clear with our security partners on the threat posed by Huawei and other Chinese telecom companies, as Chinese law requires them to provide Beijing’s vast security apparatus with access to any data that touches their network or equipment.”

Pence repeated Washington’s calls for European NATO allies to do more to meet their military spending targets — and cautioned against developing economic links with Moscow, such as the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline currently under construction between Russia and Germany.

United States Vice President Mike Pence delivers his speech during the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019.
United States Vice President Mike Pence delivers his speech during the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019. VOA

“We cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East,” Pence said.

Moscow’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov took the stage later Saturday, and said Europe was losing out because of its stance on Russia.

“At a time when the Europeans allowed to draw themselves into a senseless standoff with Russia and incurred multi-billion-dollar losses from the sanctions pushed for from overseas, the world is rapidly changing. Actually, the EU has lost its monopoly on the regional integration agenda,” Lavrov said.

China’s senior delegate did not respond directly to the accusations made by Vice President Pence, but instead he offered a defense of multilateralism.

“Our world stands at a crossroads and faces a consequential choice between unilateralism and multilateralism, conflict and dialogue, isolation and openness,” Yang Jiechi, a senior member of the politburo and a former Chinese ambassador to the U.S., told delegates.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, welcomes United States Vice President Mike Pence, left, for a bilateral meeting during the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, welcomes United States Vice President Mike Pence, left, for a bilateral meeting during the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019. VOA

Those sentiments were earlier echoed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who strongly criticized U.S. President Donald Trump’s claims that Europe was taking advantage of America on trade.

The Munich Security Conference is seen as a key annual forum for world leaders to discuss global security concerns and conflicts — both in public and in private — in dozens of closed-door meetings taking place inside the venue.

The atmosphere this year is one of apprehension, according to analyst Florence Gaub of the European Union Institute for Security Studies.

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“There is still a lot of grief over the old order being gone where everything was much more predictable, or at least appeared to be more predictable. So that’s slowly setting in,” said Gaub.

The tone of the conference speeches suggests that even among allies, tensions over a changing world order are no closer to being solved. (VOA)