For a country so used to bloody versions of war, it is time for one of a different sort -where stakes are really high, and more than an enemy to face off.
The Russian are making intense preparations to secure India's proposal to buy 125 fighters for its air force. All-out preparations are underway in the city as India and Russia steady their relations back on a long-term track. As India gets ready to issue RFPs (Request for Proposals) for one of the biggest defence contracts anywhere in the world in recent times, Russia is trying its utmost to ensure that the grand lady of Russian military aviation, MiG, lands the contract.
The Indian Air Force's decision to buy 125 multi-role fighters couldn't have come at a better time for MiG. For MiG Russian Aircraft Corporation, the contract is a question of life and death. With each of the fighters costing anywhere between Rs 150 to Rs 200 crore, the entire contract would be worth over Rs 25,000 crore. And it could provide the MiG corporation a fresh lease of life, and the energy to emerge out of the insipid days it has fallen into after the Communist collapse.
When Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his delegation reached the MiG headquarters on Wednesday the Russian determination to garner the contract was visible. Receiving them at MIG was its new Director General, Alexei Fedorov. His team is very clear about what they are offering the IAF: A fighter unlike any other, what they claim is much more advanced than its competitors. They call it the MiG-35, an advanced version of MiG-29s. For the IAF contract, American biggies Lockheed Martin and Boeing are vying with their F-16s and F-18 Super Hornets, while the French are offering Mirage-200-5s. Swedish fighter Gripen too is in the fray.
It is no more the Cold War era, when India had to depend on Russia for most of its military acquisitions. It is a new marketplace, and India has enough financial clout to bargain for the best. Whatever the reasons, the contract would decide the future of MIG and influence the Russian military aviation sector.