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India, Russia Sign Defense and Other Deals

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, left, and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh shake hands before talks in New Delhi, 21 Dec 2010
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, left, and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh shake hands before talks in New Delhi, 21 Dec 2010

India and Russia have signed defense and civil nuclear deals worth billions of dollars during a visit by the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to New Delhi. The two countries reaffirmed their long-standing friendship during the visit.

The most sought-after accord sealed between India and Russia Tuesday is for the joint development of fifth-generation fighter aircraft.

India wants to purchase about 300 of these planes for its air force. The agreement is estimated to be worth about $30 billion, over the next ten years.

The two countries will also pursue a deal for Russia to build two additional generating units at a nuclear power plant in the southern state, Tamil Nadu, where it is already building two reactors.

Securing defense and civil nuclear deals was on top of the agenda of the Russian president's visit. As India's relations have warmed with the United States and other Western countries, New Delhi has stepped up defense purchases from the United States, Europe and Israel in recent years. This has prompted Russia to lobby hard to retain its position as New Delhi's traditional defense supplier.

At a news conference with the Russian leader, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reaffirmed New Delhi's close ties with its old ally.

"Russia is a time-tested friend of India that has stood by us in our times of need in the past," Singh said. "Ours is a very special and privileged, strategic partnership. It is a partnership that has and will continue to develop independent of our relations with other countries."

The two countries set a target of enhancing trade to $20 billion, by 2015. They also signed several agreements to deepen cooperation in a host of areas, including nuclear energy, pharmaceutical and the information technology sectors.

The Russian president was the last of a series of world leaders to come to India in recent months, largely with an eye to boosting trade ties with one of the world's fastest-growing economies.

For New Delhi, a top concern has been securing support from these high-profile leaders for its ambitions to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

Speaking through an interpreter, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev reiterated that support.

"I would like to emphasize that Russia considers India to be a strong and deserving candidate to have a permanent seat in the Security Council, if a decision to expand this organ is taken," said President Medvedev.

The strategic friendship between India and Russia developed and deepened during the Cold War years.