Between 2011 and 2014, the United States overtook Russia as India’s largest supplier of weapons systems. Due for the most part to its poor defence manufacturing base, India has become the world’s largest importer of defence products, importing an estimated 65 per cent of its military hardware from Russia, the US, France and Israel. While Russia supplied India with an estimated US$40 billion ($56 billion) worth of military materiel between the 1960s and 2011, the US sold arms and equipment to New Delhi estimated at approximately US$4.75 billion ($6.7 billion) between 2011 and 2014. Russia was its second-largest supplier with US$3.7 billion ($5.2 billion), followed by France with US$1.75 billion ($2.4 billion) and Israel with approximately US$500 million ($700 million) (all US dollar figures at current conversion rates; note that no attempt has been made to correlate, for example, the 1960s dollar values with their equivalent current values).
Any attempt to view the relationship between India and Russia purely in terms of the defence materiel bought and sold will prove short-sighted, however, since the relationship extends well past a mere buyer-seller arrangement. As this paper will demonstrate, India requires Russia’s military and political support as a counter to the perceived threat that China poses.