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Putin’s turn to further bilateral ties

Defence and nuclear energy cooperation are likely to dominate the talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Thursday. Putin will be here on a two-day visit.

delhi Updated: Mar 11, 2010 00:30 IST
Jayanth Jacob & Rahul Singh

Defence and nuclear energy cooperation are likely to dominate the talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Thursday. Putin will be here on a two-day visit.

The two sides are likely to conclude the agreement on aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov.

New Delhi will also aim to expand the scope of economic ties with Moscow and take it to the next level, covering areas ranging from hydrocarbons to private investments.

India is sparing no efforts to convey the message that its traditional partner is valued as ever, and any perceived shifts in its foreign policy priority is not at the expense of “cherished” relationship, a government source said.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony last month said the strategic embrace with the US would not weaken the historic friendship with Russia.

The nuclear framework agreement, already finalised between the two countries, is up for signing during the visit.

A source said the two sides were also expected to sign a contract for the $8 billion (Rs 36,000 crore) fifth generation fighter aircraft project in which work is to be shared between Bangalore-based Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation.

The Indian and Russian air force are likely to order 250 fighters each.

India has also agreed to shell out $ 2.34 billion (Rs 10,500 crore) for Gorshkov.

The carrier, now renamed INS Vikramaditya, will be inducted in 2013, though it was to enter the Navy’s fleet in 2008-end. New Delhi is also likely to flag concerns over delays in military supplies.

Putin’s visit will provide fresh momentum to the air force’s modernisation drive.

These are over and above the 230 Su-30 fighters already contracted. A Sukhoi costs more than Rs 200 crore.

The defence ministry has plenty of moolah to spend from last year’s budget. More than 50 per cent of last year’s defence budget for modernisation of the armed forces will be used up in March, a worrying indicator of stretched out procurement procedures..

Antony told Lok Sabha on Monday that the ministry had spent Rs 24,122 crore up to February on buying military hardware from indigenous and foreign vendors.

The ministry will be spending Rs 23,702 crore in March — a chunk of it would go into the Russian kitty as payments for new and continuing military acquisitions.

Putin may also pitch for the Russian MiG-35 fighter, one of the six contenders for the IAF’s largest-ever fighter acquisition programme worth over $ 10 billion (Rs 45,000 crore).