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Russia, India Wrap Up Defense Cooperation Talks

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov has wrapped up three days of talks with Indian leaders that focused on stepping up defense cooperation.

Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes said India has completed technical discussions with the visiting Russian official on the acquisition of an refurbished aircraft carrier, and two long range, TU-22 bombers, but the price negotiations are not yet completed.

Mr. Klebanov said the deal is likely to be concluded within this year. The announcement came after hours of intense negotiations between the two sides. The deal will cost India billions of dollars, and was expected to be finalized during the Russian official's visit.

Russia has also agreed to consider supplying tanks to the Indian army in the next two months. And, Mr. Fernandes said the two countries will launch joint research projects for the development of high-technology defense equipment, including a fifth generation joint strike fighter. "It has been agreed to continue cooperation in the development of technologies in the very high-tech areas," he said. Russia supplies more than two-thirds of India's arms, including tanks and fighter aircraft.

The Russian official's visit was not restricted to defense cooperation. India won diplomatic support from the visiting Russian official in its current dispute with Pakistan. Mr. Klebonov called on Pakistan to do more to curb Islamic militant groups waging a separatist insurgency in Indian Kashmir, but advised both sides to avoid a war.

India and Russia also discussed ways to broaden their trade relationship. Both countries have decided to design and produce 100 specialized civilian aircraft. India has also promised to improve the flow of goods and services between the two countries.

Russia has been a longtime ally of India. Mr. Klebonov is the second senior Russian official to visit India recently. Earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov met senior Indian leaders.