India and Russia on Friday invigorated their time-tested ties by signing a slew of pacts, including two nuclear accords, and sealed the price of refitted Soviet-era aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, ending a minor irritant in their bilateral ties.
Ending years of stagnation in their economic ties, the two sides decided to take their ties beyond defence purchases by signing pacts on oil exploration, trade in diamonds and import of fertilizers.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held talks for around two hours with Russian Premier Vladimir Putin, who is on a 22-hour visit to India, to accelerate their cooperation across a range of areas spanning civil nuclear energy, space, high-technology to defence, hydrocarbons, trade and telecommunications.
"I convey to Prime Minister Putin that relations with Russia are a key pillar of our foreign policy and we regard Russia as a trusted and reliable strategic partner," Manmohan Singh said at a joint press conference with Putin.
Besides reviewing bilateral ties, the two sides also discussed a cluster of regional and global issues, including counter-terrorism, the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the upcoming Nuclear Summit in Washington, and the international financial crisis.
The two sides inked five agreements in the presence of the two leaders. Several other agreements were inked on the sidelines of the talks.
The signing of the umbrella nuclear pact, initialled during Manmohan Singh's trip to Moscow in December last year, and another one laying out a roadmap for the serial construction of Russian design reactors are set to open more avenues of nuclear cooperation between the two countries.
A separate commercial contract between India's public sector nuclear monopoly NPCIL and Russia's Atomstroy Export was also signed for building two more civil nuclear reactors of 1,000 MW each at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu.
Russia is already building two reactors at this site. India has allocated another site for Russian nuclear reactors at Haripur in West Bengal. "This is one of our major, far-reaching, promising areas of interaction," Putin said while talking with Indian businessman in Mumbai, Bangalore and New Delhi through video-conferencing.
Cooperation with India in nuclear energy will include not only building reactors and supply of the fuel, but also waste disposal, he said.
Marking a new high in their high-tech cooperation, the Indian Space Research Organisation and the Russian space agency inked a pact on civilian application of the Russia Glonass (the Global Navigation Satellite System), the Russian equivalent of the US Global Positioning System.
The sealing of the long-delayed renegotiated deal for Admiral Gorshkov, renamed by India as INS Vikramaditya, fixing the price at $2.35 billion has removed an irritant in bilateral ties that had tended to cloud the decades-long defence ties between the two countries. Fourteen supplementary agreements were signed for finalisation of cost and other technical aspects of the carrier.
Despite new players like France, Israel and the US supplying military hardware, Russia continues to account for 60 to 70 percent of total Indian defence purchase, making it the largest supplier of military hardware to India.
The two sides also inked a deal for development of multi-role transport aircraft.
The big breakthrough, however, came in a slew of steps aimed at scaling up their current $7.5 billion bilateral trade to $20 billion by 2015. The economic ties have not matched the level of political trust and strategic partnership the two countries have enjoyed since the Soviet era due to a host of issues.
The two sides have identified IT and telecommunications as focus areas fOr future economic cooperation, Manmohan Singh said.
Besides two pacts on import of potash and mineral fertilizers, Russian state diamond monopoly AlRosa and Diamond India Ltd signed three more pacts. Two more pacts were signed between private diamond trading companies.
Russian state monopoly Gazprom also inked a pact with India's ONGC on oil exploration in Russia.
"There is the political will on both sides, but we need support from the captains of industry," Putin said. "We should think about the future," Putin said, adding that commercial ties must expand into areas such as energy, banking and IT.