India To Use Torpedo Plant In Kyrgyzstan, But Where Are The Russians?
The Torpedo Testing Centre located at Issyk Kul lake in Karakul province, 250 km away from the capital Bishkek, is considered one of the best locations to launch and recover torpedoes fired during test trials.
“The facility was visited by Defence Minister A.K. Antony a few months ago. An Indian delegation would be visiting Kyrgyzstan soon to make an assessment of investment needed for the project and the terms and conditions for co-developing it,” DRDO Chief Controller William Selvamurthy told PTI.
To develop existing infrastructure at the centre, India has proposed to engage local companies with available know how in torpedo technology to co-develop the facility.
“India is willing to develop the Centre to test all kinds of torpedoes such as heavy weight torpedoes and those having thermal navigation system,” Mr. Selvamurthy said.
One thing that's not clear: What is the Russian role in this? At least until recently, Russia had still been using this Soviet-era facility, testing "highly sensitive prototype designs" there. It has had a murky recent history. From a post last summer:
Russia "seeks a controlling stake" in the most significant piece of Kyrgyzstan's defense industry, the Dastan torpedo plant, which produces the VA-111 Shkval, reports Bloomberg, citing Kommersant, citing a Russian foreign ministry source.
Russia has long had its eye on the Dastan plant, and agreed in 2008 to forgive Kyrgyzstan's debt in exchange for a controlling interest in the plant. But that deal apparently went bad, annoying Russia. And when the government of Kurmanbek Bakiyev was overthrown, the chairman of the plant went on the lam, prompting the authorities to offer a reward for his arrest.
So is Russia not using this any more? Will India be sharing it with Russia? It's curious that neither Russian nor Kyrgyzstani sources have appeared to say anything publicly about this deal.
UPDATE: I missed a report on AKIPress (in Russian) which discusses the deal, and says that Russia basically gave up on the facility. (Translation by BBC Monitoring):
Vladimir Stepanov [director-general of the joint-stock company Ulan, which operates the facility] explains that the joint-stock company Ulan was set up in 1992 from the torpedo testing site at [Lake] Issyk-Kul near the town of Karakol. It has maintained mutually-beneficial cooperation with the Indian Defence Ministry since the mid-1990s.
"But for orders placed by India we would not have preserved the company," Vladimir Stepanov said...
"We have repeatedly come up to Russia with an offer of possible cooperation for many years, but Russians have not shown interest," Stepanov said.
"They apparently have enough of existing joint ventures. There have never been any initiative from Russia to rent our facility.
"Carrying out tests on the Indian Navy's orders will give us an opportunity to buy new equipment and modernize our company's logistics base. We are counting on this very much," Stepanov said.
Joshua Kucera, a senior correspondent, is Eurasianet's former Turkey/Caucasus editor and has written for the site since 2007.