India became free in 1947, but the British who granted India independence by the "Indian Independence Act" of1946,  divided India on the basis of the 2 nation theory that Hindus and Muslims cannot live together. It was a master stroke leaving India with a perpetual problem with Pakistan. Poor leadership and lack of knowledge of strategic power games also resulted in India losing Tibet as a buffer state, as well as losing large tracts of land to China. Thus a permanent border problem was created with China along with a continuation of animosty from Pakistan.

In such a scenario the Indian Air force( Ishall only write about it and not army or navy) had a severe shortage of aircraft. The western powers were not ready to give the latest generation planes to the IAF and also were totally averse to transfer any technology about aircraft manufacture to india.

All credit to Krishna Meneon, the then Indian defence minister. He made a secret visit to Russia and was able to clinch a deal for the latest generation Russian fighter interceptor the MIG 21. The Russians also agreed to transfer technology and accordingly the GOI set up 2 plants at Nashik and Koraput to manufacture the plane in India. the western powers were shocked and castigated India. At that time the cold war was at its zenith and the west wrote off India as part of the Soviet bloc. This was not true ,but it's a pity they did not realize that their own actions had precipitated this step.

This was the beginning and a string of Russian transport planes led by the IL-14, Antanov 12, MI 15 and 17 ( helicopters) arrived to strengthen the IAF. The Indians also were given the SU-7 fighter bomber. The Air Force force levels grew and the Chief announced that India would have a 45 squadron air force.

The First MIG entered Indian service in 1961 and now the connection with Russia is over half a century old. Over the years the Russians gave india their best fighters and the later versions of the MIG 23, 27 and 29 entered service of the iAF.

In the eighties and nineties the IAF was augumented with the Sukhai 30 and the AN 32 as well as the gigantic Ilusian(IL ) 76. The last plane could carry 50 tonnes of freight including small tanks and was used in the Indian operations in the Maldives by Rajiv Gandhi in 1987.

The Russians also started joint research with India for the latest 5th generation stealth fighter interceptor. However after Man MOhan Singh became prime Minister there has been a thaw in relations as India has tried to move closer to USA. With the advent of Modi, the strategic relationship may be restored. but no one can forget that at a time when India was shunned by the Western world, it was Russia that stood by India. We should not allow this strategic relationship to be weakened.

 


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