India, Russia strategic ties step up

New delhi, February 17: In a series of high level interactions, Russia and India on Tuesday decided to firm up two major pacts — on nuclear energy and a fifth generation fighter plane — in time for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s visit in March. They also resolved to step up trade ties and develop closer cooperation in the energy sector.

This emerged during meetings between visiting Russian Deputy Prime Minister and India pointman Sergei Sobyanin with Union Ministers S.M. Krishna, Anand Sharma, Murli Deora, A.K. Antony besides National Security Advisor Shiv Shanker Menon and Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister T.K.K. Nair on Monday and Tuesday.

Mr. Sobyanin also called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and gave an overview of Russia’s perspective of bilateral relations with India. The discussions with Dr. Singh and members of his Cabinet were aimed at preparing for Mr. Putin’s forthcoming mid-March official visit , said a Russian Embassy statement.

Both countries expect to reach an agreement on Indian participation in the development and manufacturing of the fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) with stealth characteristics, which made its maiden test flight last month. The two sides will first agree on the technical design which will be followed by discussions on monetary and Indian expertise contribution to by India in the project.

Analysts expect the FGFA to give the Indian Air Force an edge in the skies along with the Sukhoi-30 MKI and the soon-to-be-acquired 126 fighters of medium class.

Leading the defence talks, first deputy head of the Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation, Alexander Fomin, also touched on the other five Indo-Russian projects in this sector including more supplies of Sukhoi-30 MKI, T-90 tanks and Mig-29 fighters.

Heading the talks in the civil nuclear arena, chief of the Russian Federal Agency for Atomic Energy, Sergei Kirienko, discussed the prospects of further cooperation.

Both sides have agreed to set up more nuclear reactors in Kudankulam and discussions are continuing on sourcing more reactors for the existing site and the new site in West Bengal, offered by the Indian government.

The Indo-Russia umbrella nuclear agreement that covers much more ground as compared to pacts signed with other countries, was initialled during Dr. Singh’s visit to Moscow in December last year and the interlocutors are confident of signing it during Mr. Putin’s visit.


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