India, Russia agree missile sales, joint venture for helicopters
India and Russia on Saturday announced plans to set up a joint venture to build helicopters in India, which will also buy surface-to-air missile systems from its former Cold War ally, as the two tighten their military relationship.
The pacts were signed after summit talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India's western resort state of Goa, where leaders from the BRICS group of emerging nations are meeting.
Indian military officials have said the plan is for the joint venture to build at least 200 Kamov helicopters required by the country's defence forces, and is part of Modi's drive to build a defence industrial base in the south Asian nation.
The S-400 surface-to-air missiles are meant to strengthen India's defences along its borders with China and Pakistan, Indian military officials have said.
Other heads of the BRICS club of leading emerging nations -- Brazil, China and South Africa -- were also gathering for this weekend's summit that is expected to focus on trade and counter-terrorism.
Putin is seeking to seal deals with India in an attempt to help revive Russia's recession-hit economy, following sliding oil prices and Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.
Among the agreements expected are Moscow's delivery of its most advanced anti-aircraft defence system to India, a deal that has been in the pipeline for several years.
India, the world's top defence importer, is undergoing a $100-billion upgrade of its Soviet-era military hardware, as it looks to protect its borders from arch-rival Pakistan and an increasingly assertive China.
Modi and Putin will also focus on strengthening energy ties to meet India's growing thirst for fuel and electricity for its fast-growing economy.
Russia's biggest oil company Rosneft is expected to acquire India's Essar Oil in a multi-billion-dollar deal, according to local media reports, quoting officials involved in the agreement.
“The menu is vast,” India's ambassador to Russia, Pankaj Saran said at a briefing on the talks, without detailing the deals to be signed.
“It is more than a relationship, it is a partnership and very justifiably it has been described by the two leaders as both special and privileged, as well as of course strategic,” he said.
“It is very deep and very intense and it is poised to grow even further.”
Saran said he also expected them to discuss India's tensions with neighbour Pakistan, which spiked after last month's attack on the Uri army base that killed 19 soldiers.
Modi has sought to isolate Pakistan internationally since the attack that India blamed on Pakistan-based militants.
Subsequently, India claimed to have conducted "surgical strikes" against militants over the border in Pakistan. All such claims were rubbished by civil and military leadership in Pakistan.
“We have conveyed our views to the Russian side. We are confident that Russia will reflect upon our concerns,” Saran said.
But Putin is seen as unlikely to weigh into the dispute between the rivals, as Moscow also eyes closer defence ties with Islamabad. Russia and Pakistan carried out their first joint military exercise last month
China's Xi meets Modi.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed during talks late Saturday to work to resolve recent frustrations between the regional rivals, an official said.
Meeting on the eve of a BRICS summit of leading emerging nations, Modi and Xi agreed to further cooperate to combat “terrorism” and to work to reduce India's gaping trade deficit with China.
But Indian foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said there was no resolution on China's decision to block India's entry to a nuclear trade group.
India wants to become a member of the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to get better access to low-cost, clean energy which it says is important for its economic growth.
But China has so far declined to back India's request, saying it wants to wait until a consensus emerges at the group.
“Our broad concerns in the current state of the relationship were conveyed to the Chinese side,” Swarup said after the meeting -- their third this year -- in the Indian beach state of Goa.
“The intention was that both sides would narrow down the areas of difference since the commonalities far outweigh (the differences),” he said.
“Our expectation and hope is that China will see the logic of what we are saying.” There was no immediate comment from China's side.
New Delhi was also frustrated earlier this year when Beijing blocked its request to add a Pakistani militant group chief to a UN sanctions blacklist.
India accuses the Jaish-e-Mohammad rebel group of involvement in a deadly attack on an Indian airbase in January and more recently a raid on a army base that killed 19 soldiers.
Islamabad denies any involvement in either.
China enjoys close relations with India's archrival Pakistan and is pursuing a slew of infrastructure projects there.
Modi is keen to secure Chinese funding to fulfill his election pledge to overhaul India's crumbling railways and other infrastructure.
But the world's two most populous nations are jockeying for influence in Asia and their relationship is coloured by territorial disputes at both ends of the Himalayas.
They fought a border war in 1962 over the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, parts of which Beijing claims as South Tibet.
Modi will also host a dinner for the BRICS leaders, ahead of the summit talks starting on Sunday at a plush beachside resort.
BRICS was formed in 2011 with the aim of using its growing economic and political influence to challenge Western hegemony.