Defence, nuclear cooperation to top Putin's talks in India
Mar 12, 2010, 5:48 GMT
New Delhi - Defence deals and nuclear cooperation were to top the agenda of Russian President Vladimir Putin's discussions with Indian leaders Friday, an Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
Several agreements, including one on nuclear energy cooperation, were scheduled to be signed during the visit, which was described as 'significant' by the spokesman, Vishnu Prakash.
The total value of the deals was expected to exceed 10 billion dollars, Putin's spokesman told reporters in Moscow Thursday. India's IANS news agency put the figure of the defence deals at 4 billion dollars.
Putin arrived in New Delhi late Thursday, accompanied by a delegation of ministers and business leaders.
The Russian premier was scheduled to hold talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh late Friday.
Putin, who visited India four times previously when he was president, was also set to call on Indian President Pratibha Patil and meet with Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi.
'During the visit, both the sides will review the entire range of bilateral ties and exchange views on how to nurture and further expand our strategic partnership,' Prakash said at a briefing Thursday.
'We are aiming to take forward our bilateral cooperation in strategic sectors like hydrocarbons, civil nuclear energy, space and defence,' he said. 'The two leaders will also be holding discussions on energizing our trade and investment ties.'
A comprehensive civilian nuclear cooperation agreement, an accord freezing the price India is to pay for the refurbished aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov and a clutch of defence deals were expected to be signed during Putin's visit, the IANS news agency reported, citing diplomatic sources.
The civilian nuclear pact was initialled during Singh's trip to Moscow in December.
Admiral Gorshkov, to be rechristened Vikramaditya in India, has been a thorn in the side of relations between the two countries with disputes over pricing and delays of the delivery date.
The original contract to acquire the carrier was signed in 2004 and delivery scheduled for 2008 after refurbishing. The date has now been pushed back to 2012.
India's Cabinet Committee on Security approved a new price of 2.35 billion dollars for the aircraft carrier, including refurbishing to be carried out by Russia, on the eve of the visit.
Prakash said India and Russia were expected to sign several supplementary agreements to the basic contract signed in 2004 on the Gorshkov. 'These will cover a range of issues, including costing and technical details,' he said.
Russia supplies 60 to 70 per cent of India's defence equipment. But the relationship had evolved, Prakash said, to include several joint ventures in defence equipment design and production.
The two sides were also expected to discuss issues across South Asia, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan, during the Russian premier's visit, Prakash said.
Putin was scheduled to leave for Moscow late Friday after a crowded 24-hour schedule.