NEW DELHI (AFP) -India and Russia have agreed two arms deals meant to bring bilateral military ties into a new era, a day before Russian President Vladimir Putin’s arrival here for a two-day summit.
At a signing ceremony, members of a bilateral military-technical commission signed a contract for joint production of RD-33 jet engines and a protocol of intent on joint development and production of multi-purpose transport planes.
“Russian-Indian military-technical cooperation has a large-scale and dynamic character, and is a real manifestation of the strategic partnership of our countries,” Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov said at the ceremony.
The two sides also discussed further cooperation on development of the BRAHMOS cruise missile, joint development and production of fifth-generation fighter planes, and future supplies and licensed production of MIG35 jet engines, Ivanov said.
Although about 70 percent of India’s military hardware is of Soviet and Russian origin, the relationship has shifted as New Delhi has turned to other sellers and come to favour joint production to simple purchases.
“Our cooperation today is not just a simple buyer-seller relationship,” Indian Minister of Defence A.K. Antony said.
The deals came on the eve of a two-day summit between Putin and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that will culminate in Friday’s Republic Day parade, where the Russian leader will be guest of honour.
Ivanov was set to meet with Indian National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan, Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee, and Singh later Wednesday, when he said talks would turn to nuclear and space cooperation.
The packed agenda reflects the urgency of updating the countries’ traditional ties — which Ivanov called “one of Russia’s main foreign policy priorities” — for a new era.
Putin told news agency PTI that “somewhere by 2010, we can achieve the level of 10 billion dollars’ worth of (trade) turnover,” up from about 3.1 billion dollars currently.
One of the key issues on the summit agenda is energy cooperation, a priority for India, which imports about 70 percent of its fuel requirements.
“There is a clear compatibility between India’s demands and Russia’s resources,” Singh said in an interview published Wednesday in Russian daily newspaper Izvestia.
Indian Oil Minister Murli Deora said he would meet Putin separately on Thursday to press for a greater participation for Indian oil companies in Russia’s energy market.
Deora said New Delhi was looking for a stake in the Sakhalin-3 project and Vankor — two vast oil and gas fields in eastern Russia.
India’s state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corporation already owns a 20 percent stake in Russia’s Sakhalin-I field, which brings India 2.4 million tonnes of crude a year.
The sides have also said they expect to agree a preliminary deal on Russia’s building four additional nuclear reactors to supplement the two Russia is already building at the Kudankulam nuclear power station in India.