India Today publishes misleading report about the S-400 missile deal inked between India and Russia

During Russian President Vladamir Putin’s visit to India, India signed a deal with Russia to purchase 5 squadrons of S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile. During the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India, the deal was signed to purchase the missile system for $5.20 billion (₹40,000 crore). It is one of the biggest defence deals that India has ever made.

The missile system is set to be a big boost for India’s defence, as both Pakistan and China have acquired significant air power. Pakistan has F-16 jets from the USA and JF-17 Thunder from China. China has a huge collection of advanced military aircraft, which includes Chinese made planes and planes imported from Russia. China has also ordered for six S-400 missile systems from Russia.

News portal India Today, however, published a story today that spoke about how in 2015, Anil Ambani’s Reliance was chosen to be the offset partner for this Russian deal.

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The article said:

In 2015, ahead of Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Moscow, Anil Ambani‘s Reliance Defence had signed a manufacturing and maintenance deal potentially worth USD 6 billion with Russia’s Almaz-Antey, the subsidiary of Rosoboronexport and key manufacturer of the S-400 air defence system.

On December 24, 2015, Reliance Infrastructure Limited, in a press release captioned ‘DAC approval for acquisition of S-400 air defence missile systems creates business opportunity of about $6 billion (rs.40,000 crore)’ said, “India’s Reliance Defence Limited and Russia’s Leading Developer and Manufacturer of Air Defence Missile Systems ‘AlmazAntey’, have decided to work jointly on the entire range of AD Missile and Radar Systems that are required for Indian Defence Forces.”

After detailing what the Reliance press note said back in 2015, the article goes on to detail the agreements inked and pacts signed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladamir Putin in this trip.

To an average reader, it may seem like the offset agreement is still in force when the deal between Russia and India were signed.

However, this is far from the truth.

In July itself there was news that the Indian government might forego the offset clause in the agreement with Russia to speed up deliveries. A Russian official had told Manu Pubby from Economic Times, “As far as I have heard, there is no offset package for the programme. It is a strategic project and is very important for the two countries,” said Viktor N Kladov, director of international cooperation at Rostec, the Russian state-owned company that controls sales of the S 400 system. “It should not be played around with some offset packages.”

The journalist who reported the India Today story about the offset agreement with Reliance tweeted later clarifying that this was only a 2015 agreement, however, no offset agreement exists today.

This begs the question as to why the India Today article itself did not mention that the offset agreement that was announced by Reliance in 2015 no longer exists as, the journalist herself admits, the offset clause was struck off by the Indian government.

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