India’s Ministry of Defence on Thursday signed off on the purchase of 33 Russian fighter jets and upgrades to 59 others worth $2.4bn, amid rising tensions with nuclear-armed neighbour China.

The purchase of 21 MiG-29 and 12 Su-30 MKI, as well as upgrades to 59 existing MiG-29s, was to “augment” the Indian Air Force’s combat squadrons, the MoD said.

The ministry also said it has approved local development of missile systems for all three branches of the military, and ammunition and upgraded infantry combat vehicles for the army.

The beefing up of India’s defence capabilities was taken up due to “the need to strengthen the armed forces to protect our borders and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for ‘self-reliant India'”, the ministry added in a statement.

The announcement followed Modi’s phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he “warmly congratulated” after a nationwide vote on constitutional reforms that could allow him to extend his rule until 2026.

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