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India, Russia to Strengthen Partnership with Putin Visit

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives in India for a three-day visit Friday to consolidate a historically strong friendship. The two countries announced plans to jointly develop high-technology military hardware.

When Russian leader Vladimir Putin meets with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, it will be the fifth summit between the two countries since 2000, when they agreed on an annual high-level dialogue.

This visit is expected to produce about 10 agreements, covering everything from pledges to combat terrorism to strengthening energy cooperation.

New Delhi's friendship with Moscow dates to the Cold War days, and has remained strong, despite India's blossoming relationship with the United States.

Bharat Karnad, a foreign-affairs analyst at New Delhi's Center for Policy Research, says India still considers Russia its most reliable ally.

"Russia has always provided the counterpoise to America in our relations, and that is going to continue," said Bharat Karnad. "Besides, the fact is that Russia is still the major supplier of hardware for our military."

Until recently, Russia supplied more than two-thirds of India's defense equipment, ranging from T-90 battle tanks to Sukhoi fighter jets.

But Moscow has been losing market share in recent years, as India branched out to shop for military hardware in Israel and South Africa, among other countries.

In two days of discussions before Mr. Putin's visit, the Indian and Russian defense ministers reaffirmed their commitment to boosting defense ties.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said the two countries will jointly develop high-technology military hardware, including a fifth-generation fighter aircraft.

"The existence in the Russian cooperation in military hardware and equipment has been gradually transcended from a buyer to seller relationship to the joint development of new military technologies," he said.

Another emerging area of cooperation is the energy sector. India wants to make large investments in Russia's oil and gas fields, and several agreements will be signed.

The two sides also will discuss an Indian proposal to buy nuclear reactors from Russia. The deal has been held up because of New Delhi's refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.