Russia has begun delivering the S-400 air defence system to India, Dmitry Shugaev, director of Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, said ahead of President Vladimir Putin’s visit to New Delhi for a planned annual summit.

The delivery of the S-400 systems to India is going as planned, Shugaev told the state-run news service, Sputnik. “The supplies of the S-400 air defence system to India have started and are proceeding on schedule,” Shugaev said, without giving further details.

There was no official word from the Indian side on the development.

Hindustan Times had reported last week that the delivery of the first batch of S-400 systems is expected to coincide with Putin’s visit to New Delhi in December for the annual summit, which will set the stage for the two countries renewing their military-technical cooperation for the next decade.

The two countries had signed a $5.4-billion contract for five S-400 systems during Putin’s last visit to India for the annual summit in October 2018. India has in recent months signalled its intention to go ahead with the deal despite the US warning that it could attract secondary sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

Several teams of Indian Air Force personnel have been trained in Russia to operate the air defence system that will be used to protect key cities, strategic installations, and sensitive stretches of the country’s borders. Russian officials have said deliveries of the systems are expected to be completed within five years of the signing of the contract.

The IAF is expected to induct the first unit of S-400 systems at a time India is locked in a border standoff with China, which has deployed two S-400 squadrons at Hotan airbase in Xinjiang and Nyingchi airbase in Tibet, across Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, respectively.

The S-400 is in service with the militaries of China and Turkey.

In August, the head of Russia’s state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, Alexander Mikheev, had said negotiations on supplying the S-400 were under way with seven countries in West Asia, the Asia-Pacific region, and Africa.

Putin is expected to be in New Delhi in the second week of December for the annual summit, with the two countries looking at 6 December (please clarify) as the most likely date for the meeting.

His visit will be preceded by the maiden 2+2 dialogue of the defence and foreign ministers of India and Russia in Moscow.

At the summit, the two sides are expected to renew their military-technical cooperation arrangement for 2021-31 and sign several agreements, including the Reciprocal Exchange of Logistics Agreement (RELOS) to allow access to logistics and support facilities at each other’s military bases and ports.

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