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Russian, Indian Leaders Voice Commitment to Fight Terrorism - 2003-11-12

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee are calling for a rapid return of Iraq's sovereignty, as well as continued efforts in the fight against global terrorism. The statements are in a joint declaration the two leaders issued after meeting in Moscow.

The joint declaration outlines the importance of the strategic partnership between Russia and India as they work together to combat international terrorism, which the two leaders say is a common enemy.

President Putin said terrorism is the most dangerous threat to the world today, along with the international drug trade. Mr. Putin said the world community is establishing what he called the international law base to pursue the fight on terrorism.

Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee noted that Afghanistan is of particular concern, and he says Russia and India should undertake new efforts to ensure that the Taleban does not return to power.

At the same time, in an apparent criticism of the United States, the two leaders said no country should take upon itself, what they called, the right to control the fate of world through humanitarian or other interventions.

President Putin and Prime Minister Vajpayee also called for the speedy return of sovereignty to Iraq.

They also expressed support for efforts to increase the number of countries in the U.N. Security Council. There has been talk of expanding the Council to include new permanent members, including India, but possibly without the veto power that Russia and the other current permanent members have.

Aside from global strategic interests, President Putin and Mr. Vajpayee signed an agreement designed to boost their countries' trade, estimated at $1.5 billion. Given the size of the two nations' economies, officials in both countries would like to see trade figures rise to closer to $5 billion annually by 2005.

The Russian and Indian leaders also agreed that their armed forces will hold regular combat training exercises, as part of a plan to increase military cooperation.

The two nations held large-scale naval exercises earlier this year, and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov is due to travel to India later this month.

Several other bi-lateral agreements were finalized during the Kremlin talks, on issues ranging from space technology, to nuclear energy, to banking.

The two leaders also discussed joint efforts to promote economic development in Central Asia. Prime Minister Vajpayee departs Moscow Thursday for Tajikistan, where he is scheduled to hold talks with President Emomali Rakhmanov.