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India, Russia Sign Energy, Defense Deals Worth Billions of Dollars

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh following a joint statement to the press in New Delhi, 12 Mar 2010.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh following a joint statement to the press in New Delhi, 12 Mar 2010.

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A short visit to India by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has allowed New Delhi and Moscow to strengthen their strategic partnership, which has had its ups and downs since the end of the Cold War era.

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Indian and Russian officials say the two prime ministers held wide-ranging discussions.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says his talks with Mr. Putin went beyond the 22 agreements they signed. "There is much that India and Russia can do together to advance global peace and stability and the process of global economic revival. We've agreed to intensify our consultations on Afghanistan and the challenges posed by terrorism and extremism in our region," he said.

But most of the attention focused on the billions of dollars worth of deals they signed.

To help India meet a shortage of electricity for its booming economy, Russia is to build between 12 and 16 nuclear power plants here, six of them by 2017. Russia is already constructing two units in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

Earlier in the day, during a video conference with Indian business leaders gathered in several cities, Mr. Putin said Russia would also supply India with fuel for the reactors and cooperate on disposal of nuclear waste from the new plants. He called Russia's nuclear technology among the safest in the world.

One of the most significant agreements is intended to settle a protracted dispute over the sale and refurbishing of a Russian aircraft carrier that is to be delivered to India's Navy by the end of 2012. The two countries originally agreed on a price of about $950 million for the Admiral Gorshkov. Now it is believed to be $2.3 billion.

India has also agreed to buy 69 additional fighter jets from Russia.

The Russian prime minister also announced the two countries will work together to develop a fifth-generation combat aircraft. "Until now Russia has worked alone on the project," he said. "But significant progress has been made and the joint effort with India will yield considerable additional results."

Indian officials say the aircraft will be built within the next six years and based on the prototype of the Russian T-50 stealth fighter.

A Russian expert, Professor Anuradha Chenoy of Jawaharlal Nehru University, says India has good reason to continue looking to Russia for critical supplies and enhanced cooperation. "Repeatedly, Russians give India technology and assistance in defense, in space, in nuclear civilian use which you do not get from anywhere else," she said. "And this has been an old pattern and this has been proved once again."

India is one of the world's top weapons importers. And Russia is trying to maintain the dominant position it held since the Soviet era as the lead foreign supplier to India's military.

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