Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has begun a visit to India. In the past six months, all the leaders of the permanent member states of the UN Security Council have come to New Delhi to secure major business deals.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi
President Medvedev arrived in the Indian capital on Tuesday (21.12.2010) on a mission to fend off growing international competition for lucrative business deals.
The Russian president, who is accompanied by a large business delegation, held talks soon after landing with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, the head of the ruling Congress Party.
Russian-Indian relations go back to the Soviet days
Russia and India also signed a joint development pact for fifth-generation fighter aircraft worth between 30 and 35 billion US dollars on Tuesday. The two countries hope to boost annual bilateral trade to 20 billion US dollars within five years.
World leaders wooing India
Medvedev is the fifth leader of a permanent member of the UN Security Council to visit the Subcontinent within the past six months.
US President Barack Obama, his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao have all made their trips in the past six weeks, while British Prime Minister David Cameron was there in July. Altogether, they secured business contracts worth around 50 billion US dollars.
Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also paid a visit to India in October.
Many world leaders have been trying to woo India's prime minister this year, including British PM David Cameron
Waning Russian influence
Russia and India have been close economic and political partners ever since Soviet times.
For decades, Moscow dominated India’s supply of technology and military hardware.
However, New Delhi has signaled that it wants to reduce its reliance on one country to reflect its growing clout on the world stage.
A senior Indian government official recently told Reuters that it was "well known that we want to diversify our basket of suppliers for our strategic areas. We will always have close ties to Russia but they are no longer the only game in town."
India’s growing ties with the US, underscored by a landmark civil nuclear deal in 2008, have made Russia ill at ease.
India plans to upgrade its nuclear power capacity
Developing nuclear capacity
India and Russia also signed a nuclear cooperation agreement on Tuesday and held discussions about building a further Russian-built nuclear power plant in southern India.
Russia is keen to continue supplying technology to energy-hungry India, which plans to upgrade its nuclear power capacity to 63,000 megawatts from the current level of 4,560 megawatts by 2032.
In a joint statement, Russia and India also called on Iran to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The two countries agree that the Iranian nuclear issue should be resolved through talks, but say that Iran also has the right to research, produce and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
The importance of India as a counterweight to China in the region has increased in recent years, with many countries seeing Delhi as an ally in the fight against terrorism.
Lately, Paris, Washington and Moscow have indicated their support for India’s ambition to occupy a permanent seat in a future enlarged UN Security Council.
Author: Chi Viet Giang (dpa, Reuters, AFP)
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein