Thursday August 11, 2022

Russia, India strike trade, arms deals during Putin’s visit

By News Desk & Saleh Zaafir
December 07, 2021

NEW DELHI: Russia and India signed a flurry of trade and arms deals during President Vladimir Putin's visit to New Delhi for talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, including one that will see India produce more than 600,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles, a British wire service reported.

Putin travelled to India with Russia's defence and foreign ministers in a visit that saw the two countries reinforce their ties with a military and technical cooperation pact until 2031 and a pledge to boost annual trade to $30 billion (PKR 5.286 trillion) by 2025.

The Russian president is visited India amid increasingly strained relations between Russia and the United States, also a key Indian ally, which has expressed reservations about the growing military cooperation between Moscow and New Delhi.

A joint statement published after the talks said Russia and India had "reiterated their intention to strengthen defence cooperation, including in the joint development of production of military equipment."

In addition to the deal for India to produce AK-203 assault rifles, Russia said it was interested in continuing to provide S-400 air defence missile systems.

India's Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said the two countries had signed 28 investment pacts, including deals on steel, shipbuilding, coal and energy. He added that a 2018 contract for the S-400 missile systems was currently being implemented. "Supplies have begun this month, and will continue to happen," he said referring to the S-400.

The deal with Moscow puts India at risk of sanctions from the United States under a 2017 US law aimed at deterring countries from buying Russian military hardware. Russian oil company Rosneft said it signed a contract with Indian Oil to supply up to 2 million tonnes of oil to India by the end of 2022.

The countries also signed a memorandum of understanding for Russia to send an uninterrupted supply of coal to India to support its steel production, among other deals. Muhammad Saleh Zaafir adds: President Vladimir Putin stayed in the Indian capital for five hours.

India underlined its goal of becoming Russia’s defence development and production partner from just a buyer, and it raised clash with China in Ladakh, telling Moscow that “India seeks partners who are sensitive and responsive to its expectations and requirements”. Referring to the Russian president as a “friend”, PM Modi said “our meeting today will strengthen our Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership. The joint statement issued after the meeting said military and military-technical cooperation has traditionally been the pillar of the “Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership between Russia and India”.

“Responding to India’s quest for self-sufficiency, the partnership is reorienting to joint research and development, co-development and joint production of advanced defence technology and systems,” the statement read.

The much-touted Reciprocal Exchange of Logistics (RELOS) agreement was not signed as some issues still need to be discussed. On the situation in Afghanistan, both sides discussed the mechanism to send and distribute humanitarian aid and assistance, but there was no discussion on legitimising the Taliban regime there.