The joint India-Russian Brahmos missile project is in jeopardy, as the two countries have locked horns over the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) pact. Touted as superior to conventional cruise missile, like the Tomahawk, the BrahMos (a conjunction of the words Brahmaputra and Moskva, names of rivers) with a range of 280 kms travels at supersonic speed. At the core of the dispute is the Russian demand that India will not pass on any tactical information on the Russian weapon platforms to the third countries.
India is not ready to accept the condition as it would prevent up gradation from other countries and bind it to buy, irrespective of whatever be the cost, from Russia only. The Brahmos is actually based on the Yokhant missile of Russia and India provides its inertial navigation system. It has been earmarked for export to "friendly" countries. Between January and May, Moscow and New Delhi have twice done a back-and-forth on drafts of an Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) agreement. 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.
But India's recent attempts to look for supplies from Israel and other countries have made the Russians suspicious of Delhi's intent. Russians are insisting on signing up of a stringent secrecy clause before the military relations can be graduated to higher levels involving co-production of equipment on the model of the collaboration for the Brahmos missile, the sources said. They want these provisions at two levels. First, at the level of co-production arrangements for equipment in Indian ordnance factories.
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. The ordnance factories often source components from ancillaries in the private or public sector. Moscow is insisting that such arrangements need an explicit permission from Russian companies that are original equipment manufacturers. "We want more flexibility in the agreement," Defence Secretary Ajay Vikram Singh said here recently. He was in Moscow recently and presented an alternate draft to the Russians. He said that India wanted flexibility to make changes in the equipment to suit its climate and needs.
Russians are not even allowing modifications like airconditioning of T-90 tanks, necessary to operate them in Rajasthan and Kutch deserts. Besides, Brahmos, Russia's insistence of involvement in all upgrades of their equipment has hit India's plans to purchase three airborne early warning and control systems (AWACS) from Israel, the upgradation of 125 MiG-21 and 27 fighters and Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft.
India wanted to mount an Israeli-made Phalcon AWACS on a Russian Il-76 aircraft. As it involved change in the design of Il-76, Russians want they be made party to the deal. India was also planning to induct French and Israeli avionics and weapon system while upgrading 125 MiG-21 Bis fighters. They even want to get involved in the MiG-27 upgradation, which is totally being done by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, a public sector company.