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Putin, Modi inking deals at BRICS summit

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin have met on the sidelines of an economic summit to boost business and defense ties. The two leaders are meeting as part of the wider BRICS summit.

The first announcement Saturday was a joint venture to build Russian Kamov helicopters in India following talks between Putin and Modi in the Indian resort city of Goa. 

Moscow and New Delhi have matching viewpoints on many international issues, according to the Russian president.

"One of our priorities is fighting terrorism together," Putin said on Saturday.

Indian military officials have described the plan as scheme to domestically manufacture at least 200 Russian-designed helicopters. India is one of the world's biggest arms importers, with an economic boom that has enabled it to modernize its military's aircraft and naval fleet.

The first 60 aircraft are set to be made in Russia, with India manufacturing the rest in the course of the next nine years, Russian helicopter-making company "Vertolety Rosii" said in a statement.

"We hope that the Indian-assembled Ka-226T helicopters would see a more peaceful future," they added.

The two countries also signed a deal on jointly manufacturing four battle frigates for the Indian Navy.

"Two of them would be made on Russian territory, and the other two in India," Russia's Deputy Minister Dmitry Rogozin told reporters.

New Delhi and Moscow are also expected to sign a multibillion euro deal for the delivery of a Russian-made S-400 air defense system that can track around 300 targets and shoot down up to three dozen incoming missiles simultaneously from hundreds of kilometers away. 

Moscow sees the military deals as crucial to revive Russia's recession-hit economy, following sliding oil prices and foreign sanctions over the Ukraine conflict.

Symbolbild Russland S-400 Raketenabwehr an Grenze zur Türkei (picture alliance/dpa/A.Vilf)

India hopes the Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missile system will give it a tactical edge over neighboring Pakistan.

Trade and energy deals

Energy sector cooperation is also on the table. Russia's biggest oil company, Rosneft, signed a deal on buying 49 percent of India's Essar Oil company. In order to complete the procedure, however, the move first needs to be approved by international anti-monopoly watchdogs, according to the Russian firm.

Essar is the second-largest oil company in India, capable of processing 20 million tons (147 million barrels) per year.

The leaders are also expected to sign a framework agreement to supply additional reactors to a nuclear plant in Kudankulam in southern India.

President Putin announced that the Eurasian Union is considering creating a free trade zone with India. The union currently incorporates Russia, Belarus, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. A joint investment fund, created by Russia and India, is also set to finance 20 big investment projects in both countries.

BRICS 'gives emerging economies a platform'

After weather-related problems that delayed his plane from landing, Putin was greeted with a military band and traditional dancers upon arriving in the Indian tourism state of Goa. Modi will also host a dinner for the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit of emerging economic powers on Sunday. BRICS was formed in 2011 with the aim of using its growing economic and political influence to challenge Western hegemony.

For decades, India and Russia have shared a close relationship that dates back to the days of the Cold War, when the US tilted toward India's regional rival, Pakistan. But the Indian premier has in recent years increased military and economic cooperation with the US. Aides say the two leaders plan to use the BRICS summit to overcome differences that have cropped up between them in the past few years and broaden economic and military cooperation.

dj, jar/rs (AFP, Reuters, AP, Interfax)