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India, Russia ink 28 agreements, decide to expand cooperation in defence, space oil

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 6

India and Russia on Monday signed 28 agreements and MoUs, including the pact to manufacture AK-203 rifles in the country, but were unable to finalise the military logistics sharing agreement, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said after several rounds of high-level meetings capped by a summit meeting between visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi receives Russian President Vladimir Putin in New Delhi on Monday. PTI

Nine of the agreements were government-to-government while the 19 others were commercial pacts in an array of sectors. Ahead of the summit, the two countries held inaugural ‘2+2’ dialogue, attended by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his Russian counterpart Gen Sergey Shoigu.

“Our agreements in various sectors will facilitate India-Russia cooperation further. Our defence cooperation is being further strengthened through co-development and co-production under the ‘Make in India’ programme,” noted PM Modi. Both sides had not only cooperated with each other without any hesitation, but had also taken special care of each other’s sensitivities, the PM said. Putin said Russia saw India as a great power and a time-tested friend.

India a time-tested friend

India is a great power, time-tested friend… The ties are growing and I’m looking into future. Vladimir Putin, Russia President

Friendship has been constant

A lot of geo-political equations emerged, but India-Russia friendship has been a constant. Narendra Modi, PM

Describing Putin’s visit as “short but substantive”, Shringla said PM Modi also discussed long-term sourcing of fertilisers and coking coal while flagging Indian interest in supply of skilled manpower and petroleum projects.

Russia showed interest in investing under the production-linked scheme in 13 sectors, including shipbuilding and organic fertilisers. Asked if India had informed Russia of its security-linked difficulties with China, the Foreign Secretary said all issues, including the Indo-Pacific and “security concerns”, were discussed. The two sides also discussed enhanced sourcing of Russian crude oil on long-term contracts, strengthening LNG imports to India and the possible utilisation of the Northern Sea Route for energy supplies. The joint statement welcomed the signing of a new long-term defence program for 2021-31 and spoke of the need to upgrade defence cooperation, which Shringla said reflected the Russian interest in meeting the Indian requirement of co-development and production of defence systems.

The Foreign Secretary confirmed that the S-400 missile defence systems from Russia had started arriving this month and “will continue to happen”. On balancing the import of Russian military hardware with the threat of US sanctions, he said, “There is a sense that it is a legacy contract, going back to 2018 and discussed before that”. But the issue did not come up at the summit meeting.

However, India’s Indo-Pacific strategy was one issue of discord that came up. “As far as the Indo-Pacific is concerned, there was a sense that we are cooperating extensively with Russia in areas that involve the region. The detailed project report of the Chennai-Vladivostok corridor is nearing completion. We also discussed extending our cooperation in the Indian Ocean region,” pointed out Shringla in a bid to counter Russian criticism that the concept is being pushed by a closed club of countries.

The two sides also discussed the evolving situation in Afghanistan and emphasised that its territory should not be used by terrorist groups. “There was the fullest sense that all those responsible for terrorism need to be taken into account by international community,” observed the Foreign Secretary. In Ukraine, Russia provided a briefing but there was no discussion beyond that.

Boosting ties

Defence: Pact to manufacture AK-203 rifles at a plant in Amethi (UP); long-term defence programme for 2021-31

Fertilisers: Long-term sourcing of organic fertilisers, coking coal; related projects in the Russian Far East

Oil: Enhanced sourcing of Russian crude oil on long-term contracts, strengthening LNG imports to India

Counter-terror: Both sides discuss evolving Af situation, emphasise its territory shouldn’t be used for terror

Cyber attacks: Pact between Reserve Bank of India and Bank of Russia in responding to cyber attacks

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