Reliance Defence, a wholly owned subsidiary of Reliance Infrastructure Limited – India’s largest private sector enterprise power utility and construction company, recently signed an agreement with three Ukrainian state-run firms – Ukroboronprom, Spetstechno Exports and Antonov – to manufacture a range of military products, such as transport aircraft, armoured vehicles, maritime gas turbines and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

A senior Reliance official confirmed the news on Wednesday, saying that Chairman of the Mumbai-based Indian firm Anil Ambani held a meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev to discuss various issues of strategic interest between Defence and Aerospace industries of the two countries before signing the deal. Later, Reliance signed the Strategic Partnership Agreement with Ukroboronprom for producing military and commercial transport aircraft with the help of Antonov.

The manufacturer of largest transport aircraft in the world also agreed to allow Reliance to assemble, manufacture, maintain, repair and overhaul Antonov series of aircraft as per requirements of the Indian market (and other global markets). The two companies further decided to jointly bid for Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s (HAL) Medium Military Transport Aircraft programme. HAL, an Indian state-owned aerospace and defence company based in Bangalore currently looking at a market size of around 300 aircraft in the medium range, plans to collaborate with private sector companies as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative. If HAL accepts the joint bid, then it will be the largest collaborative effort involving the public sector and private sector as part of the ‘Make in India’ initiative.

As far as co-operation between Reliance Defence and Spetstechno Exports (a foreign trade enterprise of Ukraine) is concerned, they will upgrade the amphibious infantry fighting vehicle (BMP 2), armoured vehicles, UAVs and Marine Gas Turbines for the Indian Navy.

In April, Chief Adviser of Ukroboronprom Perto Fedoruk had said that they were ready to supply modern arms and ammunitions to the Indian forces. He blamed Russia for blocking Ukraine’s entry into the Indian market, saying: “For nearly a decade, Russia has forcefully blocked our entry. We have offered multiple solutions to give new life to Soviet-era weaponry (with Indian defence forces), as we are the original equipment manufacturer. We are now in India for the long term to manage Soviet-era headaches, which India cannot manage alone.”

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]