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Asia

India and Russia sign new defense deals

Seeking to scale up strategic and economic ties, Russia and India signed new weapons deals as President Vladimir Putin sought to further boost ties with a trusted and old ally.

In an effort to further boost their military relationship, India and Russia inked defense deals worth 3 billion US dollars to procure 42 new Sukhoi SU-30MKI fighter combat aircraft and 71 Mi-17V5 medium-lift helicopters.

Old, dependable defence ally

The contracts for acquiring these weapon systems were signed during the 13th India-Russia Annual Summit after talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The choppers will give a much-needed cutting edge to the Indian Air Force and the paramilitary forces in their anti-Maoist operations while the multi-role frontline aircraft will be equipped with Indo-Russian joint venture BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles.

"Russia is a key partner in our efforts to modernize our armed forces and enhance our defense preparedness. A number of joint design, development and production projects are underway in high technology areas," said Prime Minister Singh in a statement.

BRICS' heads of state, from left, Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, China's President Hu Jintao and South Africa's President Jacob Zuma pose for a group photo at the G-20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, Monday, June 18, 2012 (Photo: Andres Leighton/AP/dapd)

India and Russia are also part of BRICS - an association of emerging national economies

Putin stressed that "deepening friendship and cooperation with India" were among the top priorities of Russian foreign policy.

"And now we have every reason to say that they have really unique special and privileged character. India and Russia show an example of responsible leadership and collective actions in the international arena," he said.

Defense ties have been the bedrock of Indo-Russian relations and Russian-made military equipment accounts for nearly 70 percent of Indian arms supplies.

Cooperation in nuclear energy

Putin's one-day trip, his first to India since he started a new six-year term in the Kremlin in May, was literally a touch-and-go visit where he interacted with the Indian leadership for just a few hours because of a bad back that imposed health restrictions on his routine.

"Even now there is a great residual empathy and support for Russia within the bureaucracy and the Indian armed forces. Despite the new fervor in Indo-US relations, Russia continues to be a valuable and all-weather friend," Amitabh Matttoo, a leading expert on international relations told DW.

Indian and Russian officials sign a deal in New Delhi December 24, 2012 (Photo: REUTERS/Grigory Dukor)

India is one of the biggest importers of weapons in the world

Both leaders also had an extensive review of bilateral cooperation, especially in the field of nuclear energy as Russia is a valuable partner in India's national civilian nuclear energy program.

"The development of our nuclear energy program has been a key pillar of our strategic partnership," the Prime Minister said, while noting that construction of Unit 1 of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project was now complete, and that power generation would commence shortly.

He also said India looked forward to the completion of Unit 2 next year.

Sergei Kiriyenko, chief of Russia's atomic energy giant Rosatom, told journalists that all of the post-Fukushima safety recommendations had been implemented in the construction of the nuclear power plant in southern India.

In the context of the planned 2014 withdrawal of Western troops from Afghanistan, India and Russia also agreed to cooperate closely to combat extremism and drug-trafficking in Afghanistan.

Russia and India celebrate the 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year. Trade is expected to reach a record high of 10 billion US dollars by the end of this year.

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