Vladimir Putin warms up to India

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New Delhi | Published: December 12, 2014 1:06:38 AM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged on...

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left), Prime Minister Narendra Modi (middle) & Bollywood actor Sonam Kapoor light a lamp during the World Diamond Conference in New Delhi on Thursday. APRussian President Vladimir Putin (left), Prime Minister Narendra Modi (middle) & Bollywood actor Sonam Kapoor light a lamp during the World Diamond Conference in New Delhi on Thursday. AP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged on Thursday to take the “incomparable strategic partnership” of their countries forward and inked 16 pacts in the defence, oil, gas and diamond sectors, in an indication that India’s close relations with the US are unlikely to undermine older ties with Russia.

Amid strains with the West over annexation of Crimea and constraints of declining oil prices, Russia has turned to India with a host of agreements: state-owned Rosatom will build 12 nuclear reactors in India; energy major Rosneft got into a 10-year contract to supply crude to Essar Oil; Russia will build advanced helicopters in India; and state-owned Alrosa will supply rough diamonds worth $700 million annually to a dozen Indian companies over three years.

Russia’s VTB Bank Management Board also signed a memorandum of understanding with Shashi Ruia’s Essar Group to provide a facility of up to $1 billion, aimed at financing the continued consolidation of certain assets in Essar’s investment portfolio and the strengthening of their capital structure.

Moreover, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and India’s IDFC also agreed to invest up to $500 million each in Indian infrastructure projects including in ports, toll roads and hydropower, RDIF said in a statement.

Addressing media after his summit talks with Putin, Modi said Russia will remain India’s most important defence partner and the armed forces of the two countries have been holding joint exercises. The two leaders discussed the $3-billion helicopter deal. Russia will fully manufacture one of its most advanced helicopters in India, Modi said. This includes the possibility of exports from India.

He urged Russia to locate defence manufacturing facilities in India.Modi said Russia has been a pillar of strength for India’s security. “The strategic partnership is incomparable in content,” he said, adding that Russia had given its steadfast support to India “in difficult times”. “Even if India’s options have increased, Russia remains our most important defence partner.” Separately, at the World Diamond Conference here, the Prime Minister said if the two countries unite, “not just diamond itself, but the whole world will dazzle with this relationship”.

“A diamond may have the Russian foot-print, but it will also have an Indian finger-print on it,” Modi said, referring to the fact that Russia accounts for roughly 30% of global rough diamond output, while 90% of the world’s rough diamonds are polished in India.Putin said bilateral trade between the two countries was $10 billion in 2013, which “is not enough”. Russia was keen to deepen the political dialogue between the two countries to strengthen cooperation in various areas.

The visiting leader noted that the two countries have a special privileged partnership. “It continues to develop dynamically.”

Referring to the Kudankulum nuclear project, he said more Russian-made reactors would be set up in India. He also referred to the need to boost collaboration between the two countries in hydrocarbons.The two sides will also seek to move ahead with long-delayed projects to develop a joint fifth-generation fighter jet and a multi-role transport aircraft.

Putin said,” We are content with how this visit is being conducted and also with the outcome of the visit.” Describing the talks as constructive, he added, “India and Russia encourage use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. “We are working on 20 nuclear power plant units for India. We had constructive talks on a whole gamut of issues,” he said.

“We are interested in the Indian initiative to build a Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor that envisages the creation of an up-to-date infrastructure and innovative facilities. A bulldozer equipment assembly line will soon reach design capacity. In 2016, with the assistance of the Russian company Sibur Holding, we will complete the construction of one of the world’s largest butyl rubber producing plants in Mr Modi’s home state of Gujarat,” he said.

The Russian leader also offered to support Indian civil aviation industry, specifically Sukhoi Superjet-100 and MC-21 airplanes.

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