Hmm… An interesting development. Indeed, I have already said about this possibility in my blog early. I think, the allegedly selling of an uprated RD-93 engine to China and the current Indian tops' activity around RD-33MK for India are two related events. Indeed, many years (more than 5) Russia repeatedly refused to sell the RD variant with increased thrust to China. One cause for this – is Indian pressure and the agreement between two nations for not allowing China have more advanced weapons than India. The second – Russia by self doesn't want China to be too assertive, so the weapons sold for China were always inferior in some degree relative to what Moscow sells to Delhi.
But the technological development is continuing. Sometimes you must run for keeping your place. Russia cannot refuse to sell 9 t RD-93 engine for China infinitely (till now it sold only 8.3 t thrust variant). It because the China copy WS-13 (with 7.8 t thrust) is gradually improved and becoming close in its characteristics to the regular RD-93. If Russia refuses now it will lose both the market and the leverage on China. So, the refusing loses its sense.
It's not a secret, that India wants its Tejas light fighter will be more advanced than the Chinese fighter FC-1 (JF-17) of the same weight class. This advantage has not only a military but political and psychology aspect too. One of the most important and persuasive characteristic of a fighter is its engine. According to its thrust, reliability, service life can be made the conclusions about capability of the aircraft to take weapons and fight.
Thus, the current Indian preoccupation in seeking a more powerful engine for its indigenous Tejas project is well understood against the background of aggressive Chinese FC-1 marketing to India's neighbors. A more powerful engine with longer life could help Tejas mk.2 to take-off the carrier deck, keep more payload and be more maneuverable in dogfight. Now installed GE F-404 engine isn't powerful enough, and the development of the indigenous Kaveri engine is too slow.
Till now two foreign engines were evaluated by India as candidates for Tejas mk.2: the European 90 kN EJ200 (EF-2000) and the American 98 kN GE F-414 (Super-Hornet). Only F-414 gives Tejas a decisive advantage over FC-1's RD-93 in thrust, although being slightly heavier. An airframe (inlets) rework is needed too. 90 kN EJ200 has no significant advantage over RD-93 especially if it is going to be uprated to 9 t = 88.2 kN. Furthermore, since the uprated variant of RD-93 is based on RD-33MK technologies, it must have service life close to 4.000 h. Whilst EJ200 according to some sources has only 2000 h life.
The Chinese were not allowed to produce RD-93, but they bought a repairing facility and technologies for repair. Thus they are unable to make a new RD-93 but theoretically still can try to 'overclock' RD-93 for even more thrust - 90-93 kN – however with expense of reducing life in some degree. In such a way they can have an engine with better than EJ200 tech characteristics for half a price. It can be the critical point for their FC-1 program export success. If they indeed, as was reported, are going to buy up to 500-1000 RD-93 engines with increased power, they are very serious in this aspect.
As a 'hermeneutic' analysis can say us, the Indians tops could be now with the dilemma (or trilemma):
1) Going for the American 98 kN F-414 . Proved risk to be sanctioned in most unpredictable and hard situation. A totally new engine in IAF and IN inventory. However, could have some sense if F/A-18 wins MMRCA tender. Growing friction with US on nuclear issue makes this choice too risky and so – improbable.
2) 90 kN EJ200 – doesn't give any tech advantage for Tejas against it's main competitor and rival. According to my estimation could be as twice more costly than RD-33MK-based engine if recount to lifespan. Theoretically can be sanctioned by each participant of this project (GB, Germany, Italy). Significantly reduces the export prospective of Tejas.
3) RD-33MK variant with the bottom gear placement and a thrust vectoring nozzle (RD-133). Can be uprated up to 10 t (98 kN) thrust in near future without changing the engine core. The Russian obligation to not sell TVN for China can be obtained, so the advantage of Tejas mk.2 engine (if chosen) can be visible and persuasive for public. The KLIVT all aspect TVN can be especially worth for the carrier based Tejas' variant now actively developed by HAL. The 8.3 t RD-33 ser.3 variant of the engine is already licensioned and ToTed in India, so only a minimal addition will be needed for RD-33MK production in India.
PS I'll put this evaluaton in my blog too…