Defence Minister Sitharaman may seal a Rs 4,000 crore missile system deal with Russia next week. S-400 is an air-aircraft system which uses 4 missiles. S-400 is Russia's most advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defence system

by Sudhi Ranjan Sen

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will eye sealing a nearly Rs 4,000 crore deal for the S-400 Triumf air defence missile system with India's oldest and once-closest ally Russia when she lands in Moscow a week from now.

In her maiden foreign visit as defence minister, Sitharaman will try to ensure that a deal for the S-400 is sealed and the deadlock over acquiring another nuclear submarine from Russia ends. The negotiations over buying the S-400 system have been going on for one-and-a-half years. India and Russia have to sort out differences over pricing of the S-400, an anti-aircraft system which uses four missiles.

The S-400, an upgraded version of the S-300, is known as Russia's most advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defence system and has been in service in since 2007.

India is keen to acquire the missile system as a deterrent to China, which was the first foreign buyer of S-400. According to sources, Russia has already started delivering S-400s to China.

The equation between Russia and India has changed with Washington and New Delhi coming close and new ties between Moscow and Islamabad. India is no longer keen to buy fight-generation fighters jets from Russia which the two countries were to develop and manufacture together.

Former Indian ambassador P Stobdan told India Today that if not mistrust, differences have certainly come up between Russia and India.

"Differences between the two countries mainly over regional issues have cropped up. Russia is engaging Pakistan and even arming the Taliban. But at the political level, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Modi share a great relationship. Let us hope that things improve," he said.

When Modi visited Russia last year, the two countries agreed to set up two more nuclear power plants, give a new direction to defence cooperation and tried to revitalise the relationship. However, gaps are visible on the ground.