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March 10, 2010 11:14 pm
Vladimir Putin, Russia’s prime minister, is embarking on a bold initiative to resuscitate his country’s flagging relationship with India by offering an expansion of nuclear power, military technology transfer and partnership in Russia’s global positioning system.
On the eve of Mr Putin’s arrival in New Delhi on Thursday, Russian officials said Moscow wanted to re-energise deep ties forged in the decades after India’s independence that would serve India better than warming relationships with western powers, such as the US.
Mr Putin is expected to sign as many as 15 agreements worth about $10bn (€7.36bn, £6.67bn) during his fifth visit to India in a decade.
One top official said that while Russia had come to India’s rescue at the end of British rule, “other influential powers” had taken 50 years “to realise that India is a superpower in the making”. He also said that Russia was ready to provide India with military technology that Europe and the US would not.
Russia is offering to accelerate its nuclear plant building programme in India, build a fifth-generation jet fighter and military transport aircraft with India and partner with it in the production of satellite navigation equipment for Russia’s Glonass, a rival to the GPS system of the US.
Russia’s commercial relationship with India is grounded in military supplies, including jet fighters and submarines, and energy. Bilateral trade is worth about $8bn a year. Russia is the main supplier of weaponry to India’s security forces and has built two nuclear reactors in Tamil Nadu and has plans to build four more. Moscow also hopes to diversify commercial ties with investments in telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and information technology.
Alexander Kadakin, Moscow’s ambassador to New Delhi, said Russia had given India’s military the technological edge to defend itself from terror attacks and hostile neighbours, such as nuclear-armed Pakistan.
“No country in the world has offered India the technological deals as my country has done. We have shared the most sensitive and newest [technological] developments,” he said.
However, Russia’s arms supply has run into difficulties over the price of an aircraft carrier, the Admiral Gorshkov. Mr Kadakin said a lesson from the dispute was that New Delhi would have to be prepared to pay the price for advanced weapons systems and closer technological partnership.
“The days when you could get weapons for grain, rice and Ludhiana hosiery are gone forever,” he said.
Indian diplomats say that Russia’s relationship with India lost its way in the 1980s and 1990s and both sides must now make effort.
“With the break-up of the Soviet Union, the whole edifice of relations . . . came crashing down,” said Rajiv Sikri, a former secretary in India’s foreign ministry.
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