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India-Russia: Putin visits Modi, defense deals inked

December 6, 2021

India and Russia have signed several agreements to bolster military and trade ties as the countries' leaders met for the first in-person talks since 2019.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shake hands during their meeting on the sidelines of the 11th edition of the BRICS Summit
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time in two yearsImage: AFP/P. Golovkin

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi Monday for talks on political and defense issues.

"In the last few decades, the world witnessed many fundamental changes and different kinds of geopolitical equations emerged but the friendship of India and Russia remained constant,'' Modi said in introductory remarks before his meeting with Putin.

"We perceive India as a great power, a friendly nation and a time-tested friend," Putin said in the Indian capital alongside Modi.

India and Russia singed several trade and defense agreements, Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said. 

According to a joint statement published after the talks, India and Russia have "reiterated their intention to strengthen defense cooperation, including in the joint development of production of military equipment."

What deals did India and Russia sign?

Among Monday's deals was a 10-year military-technical agreement that could help in the transfer of new technologies to India. 

India also confirmed it had begun receiving shipments of Russian long-range S-400 ground-to-air missile defense systems, which New Delhi considers to be critical in countering China.

Turkey buys Russian S-400 missile system

The deal, worth $5 billion, was signed in 2018 and has been a major irritant in India-US ties.  

The US has threatened sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which is aimed at reining in Russia.

New Delhi has been hoping to get a waiver from the sanctions, but last week, the US state department said no decisions had been made on any waivers for India.

Russia and India finalized a deal for the manufacture of the Kalashnikov Concern's AK-203 assault rifles in India, which is keen to increase its domestic arms production.

India is among the world's largest arms importers, accounting for nearly 10% of the global defense trade, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Moscow has long been the largest arms supplier of India, which is looking to modernize its armed forces.

On trade and commerce, the two countries signed 28 investment pacts on Monday, including deals on steel, shipbuilding, coal and energy, Shringla said.

First 2+2 dialogue

India and Russia also held inaugural talks between its foreign and defense ministries dubbed a "2+2 dialogue." 

"India-Russia defense engagements have progressed in an unprecedented manner in recent times," Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh was quoted as saying by Indian news agency ANI. 

"We hope Russia will remain a major partner for India in these challenging circumstances."

Indian Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar said the meeting would address the "emergence of multipolarity and rebalancing."

"We look at the consequence of over-centralized globalization. Long-standing challenges of terrorism, violent extremism remain among newer challenges," he said.

The history of India-Russia relations

Russia has traditionally shared close ties with India, which in recent years has drawn closer to the United States.

India largely depended on the former Soviet Union for military imports during the Cold War.

The relationship between the two sides has endured, with New Delhi calling it a "special and privileged strategic partnership".

"The friendship between India and Russia has stood the test of time," Modi told Putin at a virtual summit in September. "You have always been a great friend of India."

adi,wmr/rt (AFP, AP)