Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s plate will be full when she arrives in Moscow on her maiden visit to Russia in the first week of April. Her priorities will include speeding up the process to ink the S-400 air defence system, exploring the possibility of buying another nuclear powered submarine and ironing out problems of delay in the supply of critical spares by Russian manufacturers to the Indian Armed forces thereby hampering operational preparedness.

India and Russia in principle had agreed to ink the deal worth over four billion dollars for five S-400 systems in 2016. However, talks between the two Defence Ministries have not yielded desired results and Sitharaman is expected to urge her Russian counterparts to resolve the outstanding issues.

Incidentally, China had signed a similar deal with Russia for S-400s three years back for ten systems and has already started getting the first batch.

The S-400 system can track an incoming missile or aircraft from a distance of more than 350 km and then knock down the incoming aerial platform with a plethora of missiles and rockets. The IAF urgently needs this state-of-the-art system as its current air defence systems are outdated.

Besides this deal, the Defence Minister will also explore the possibility of procuring another nuclear powered submarine from Russia for the Indian Navy. It is already using one such submarine INS Chakra on a lease for ten years and needs another such submarine for operational purposes, sources said here on Sunday.

The current Russian submarine was acquired four years ago to enable the Indian Navy to train its personnel for operating the indigeneously built nuclear powered submarine INS Arihant.

Four more submarines of Arihant class are now in various stages of construction and induction of second Russian nuclear powered submarine will help the navy to hasten the process of training, sources added.

Apart from these two big ticket items, Sitharaman will discuss the issue of shortage of critical spare parts for Russian made weapons and equipment used by the Indian Armed forces. Shortage and delays in supply of spares hamper the operational preparedness and this issue had time and again cropped up during talks between officials of two countries besides the political leadership.

For long Russia has remained India’s most trusted and time tested strategic ally. More than 70 per cent of weapons inventory in India is of Russia and erstwhile Soviet Union origin. However, of late the USA has emerged as the biggest defence supplier to India in the last one decade.

Russia is keen to regain the top spot and will offer more state of art tanks and infantry weapons to India during Sitharaman’s visit, officials said.

The Indian Army urgently needs armoured personnel carriers for its infantry besides modern rifles and close quarter battle weapons. Russia will offer its vast inventory to India, sources said.

The two sides will also discuss to further enhance military to military co-operation between the two countries. For the first time last year, two countries held a joint exercise of three services. Earlier, this annual drill used to be held separately for all the three services namely Army, Air Force and Navy.