India draws 'red line' on Russia-Pakistan deal as Deputy PM gets set to visit

When Russian Deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin visits next week, he will be informed that Russia would breach a red line in its relationship with India if it went through with the reported deal to sell Mi-35 attack helicopters to Pakistan

When Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin arrives in India next week, he will be informed that Russia's plans to sell lethal military equipment to Pakistan amounts to the crossing of a "red line" in relations between New Delhi and Moscow.

Russia, which was displaced last year by the US as India's biggest arms supplier, is reportedly negotiating with Pakistan the sale of the Mi-35 Hind gunship (heavily armed helicopters).

The move has not gone down well with the Indian government.

"There are red lines in all relationships. We have no problems if the Russians sell non-lethal equipment like Mi-17 helicopters to Pakistan. They can even sell counter-terrorism equipment but the Mi-35s are not non-lethal equipment," a source in the government told Mail  Today.

The sale of lethal gear like Mi-35 attack helicopters by Moscow to Islamabad will be tantamount to "crossing a red line" and this will be conveyed to Rogozin by his Indian interlocutors when he arrives in the Indian capital on June 18.

Indian officials believe the proposed deal for Mi-35 helicopters is unlikely to go through any time soon but India's views on it will nonetheless be conveyed to Rogozin.

The officials acknowledged Russia's decision to engage Pakistan ahead of the drawdown of foreign forces in Afghanistan but said this should not affect the strategic balance in the region.

Rogozin, who co-chairs the India-Russia Inter-governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation, will be the first Russian leader to visit Delhi since the new BJP government assumed office.

He is expected to discuss cooperation in defence, trade, nuclear energy and space exploration.

His unscheduled visit will also prepare the ground for the first summit meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Reports from Moscow said Rogozin would attempt to reassure the Indian leadership that India remains Russia's most important defence and strategic partner.

While the Indian government has not officially reacted to negotiations for the sale of Mi-35 helicopters, there have been misleading reports in the Indian media that an arms embargo on Islamabad was lifted by Moscow.

Alexander Kadakin, the Russian envoy to India, has said Moscow never imposed an arms embargo on Islamabad and that its military cooperation with Pakistan dated back to the 1960s. He also said Russia had not changed any policy.

Over the past few years, Pakistan has assiduously courted Russia to boost bilateral relations. Former Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani visited Russia in 2009 and 2012.

During the second visit, Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov postponed an annual meeting with his then Indian counterpart A.K. Antony in New Delhi so that he could meet Kayani.