India may become Russia’s most important partner in relation to GLONASS. Source: Sergei Pyatakov / RIA Novosti
Russia is seriously considering building a broad international consortium for the development and implementation of the Russian GLONASS satellite navigation system on a global scale. The government is also seriously considering the possibility of selling a stake in the development of the system to foreign countries, among which India would be given a priority.
“We have prioritized the countries -firstly the states where GLONASS may be required for geopolitical reasons,” says Navigation Information Systems (NIS, formerly NIS GLONASS) Chief Executive Alexander Gurko says. “We could invite India, Kazakhstan, Brazil, South Korea and several other countries into the consortium.”
These countries have traditionally been considered as the priority markets for the GLONASS technology, except perhaps South Korea. The idea of bringing India as a strategic partner for the development of GLONASS was discussed several times at the highest level. In 2007, then-Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov said that India was ready to participate in the development of GLONASS, providing rockets for launching satellites and helping to develop new spacecraft for the navigation system.
“In the early 2000’s both the framework agreement on the use of GLONASS and specific contracts that were unattainable were signed with India,” says an informed source at the Russian Space Agency. “It was an agreement where they would help us to develop the ‘GLONASS-K;’ the group would have been half-Indian, half-Russian. Under those conditions, such agreements were offered out of desperation; I had to save the system. Then came the idea of FTP GLONASS and the ideas of co-creation of the navigation system were left behind.”
According Gurko in the early 2000s, India itself actively offered investments in GLONASS to the Russian government. “I met with the director of the Indian Space Agency at that time. He expressed bewilderment why Russia refused the idea of investment then, because it was obvious that this investment would offer many opportunities of opening a new and huge GLONASS market, and to build an appropriate technical regulation in the Indian market.”
NIS, which has not met as much success as it would have liked in the Indian market, warned that hopes to capture the markets of other countries with the same methods as they conquered the Russian market cannot be justified. The company’s representatives said that if in Russia, there are orders to use whatever equipment the government gives, this is not practiced in India, and the introduction of navigation systems are in the hands of private companies.
“Availability of different consortia, joint ventures in itself does not guarantee the promotion of Russian interests in foreign markets,” says Tatiana Kuleshova, Director of the press department at NIS. “The ability to promote Russian companies in India will depend on how the consortium is organized.”
Equipment manufacturers perceive the idea of forming an international consortium with cautious optimism. “If the authorities agree on the introduction of GLONASS technologies in India and Brazil, we will be staked out by these markets, we, of course, will go there,” says Anatoly Korkush, Chief Executive of Geostar navigation, which produces navigation receivers. “Americans were coming towards the domination of GPS for many years, popularizing their system. We now have a temporary advantage over Beidou and Galileo, which have not been launched yet. So today any GLONASS popularization is positive – because the wider the Russian system is used, the greater is the potential market for us, its commercial producers. All major Western vendors have already released the GLONASS chips, so we can assume that our technology is recognized worldwide. We need to expand its influence outside of the Customs Union.”
Member of advisory board of the Open Government Sergey Nedoroslev believes that successful implementation of the idea of the consortium will reduce the dependence of the GLONASS system budget by possible contributions from the parties. “Engaging countries other than Kazakhstan in the consortium alone would be a great success, and concluding such a technological alliance with India and Brazil is just a triumph. Then GLONASS will be able to consolidate itself as a global technology platform for a long time. Of course, much will depend on the position of the Ministry of Defence, which was supposed to possess GLONASS. However we already know of examples where in the framework of military and technical cooperation with other countries, as well as India, partners were guaranteed a military GLONASS signal level that is accurate and reliable in any situation.”
India should be Russia’s most important partner in relation to GLONASS, says Leonid Ivashov, the former head of the Main Department of International Cooperation Ministry of Defence.
Roscosmos must submit their proposals for the formation of a consortium to the government by the end of February 2014.
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