India, Russia evoke ‘strategic partnership’

December 07, 2005

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MOSCOW, Dec 6: Russia and India intensified cooperation on defence and energy as Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian President Vladimir Putin met at the Kremlin on Tuesday and evoked a ‘strategic Partnership’. “We have a very special relationship when it comes to matters related to defence,” Manmohan Singh said at the start of the meeting, referring to a ‘strategic partnership’ between the two countries.

A key agreement was signed in the presence of the two leaders regulating intellectual property rights for Russian technology.

Russian officials had pushed for the deal as the two countries build on Soviet-era military ties and India starts to build arms using Russian technology.

India and Russia have increasingly been developing joint defence projects, with some production already carried out in India under licence, including building of Su-30 MKI fighter jets and T-90 tanks.

The two countries are jointly building BrahMos anti-ship missiles, while their militaries held joint exercises in Rajasthan in October.

“Our aim is to be moved towards collaborating on projects involving the design, development and production of the next generation of military products,” Mr Singh said.

The two leaders also emphasized their hopes of increasing cooperation in energy, already given a boost by the purchase in 2001 by India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) of a 20 percent-stake in the Sakhalin-1 oil and gas project off Russia’s Pacific coast.

“India’s need for commercial energy is increasing very rapidly. We are a net importer of commercial energy and this dependence on the outside world is going to increase,” Mr Singh said.

“We are aware of the interest of our Indian partners in increasing oil and gas supplies and... we are working on different ways for assisting our partners,” Mr Putin said.

He also signalled Russia’s hopes of increasing involvement in India’s nuclear energy sector.

“We hope Russia will take part in rather large and grand projects in the sphere of peaceful nuclear energy” in India, Mr Putin said, although he did not go into specifics.

Indian officials said before the Moscow talks that India hoped to invest in Russian energy majors, to invest in oil exploration blocks in Siberia and to play a role in another huge project, Sakhalin III.

Two other agreements signed on Tuesday will allow India’s use of a Russian navigation system made up of 14 satellites known as Glonass, and Indian involvement in a Russian solar research project.

Official figures estimated Indian-Russian annual trade turnover at $1.8 billion .—AFP