India, Russia sign deals to bolster defense ties

(Updates text to include outcome of talks)

New Delhi, Dec 6 (EFE).- Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed more than two-dozen agreements here Monday in a number of areas, including accords that deepen their countries’ bilateral defense ties.

Of the 28 pacts and memoranda of understanding, several were centered on military development and cooperation, including the transfer of defense technology, India’s foreign secretary, Harsh Vardhan Shringla, said at a press conference.

During Putin’s visit within the framework of the 21st India-Russia Annual Summit, Moscow and New Delhi signed a long-term military and technical cooperation agreement for the 2021-2031 period.

The two countries also inked a deal that will allow India to manufacture more than 500,000 Russian AK-203 assault rifles and thereby renovate a portion of the arsenal of one of the world’s largest armies.

Shringla also said the countries are moving forward with the sale to India of a Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system, a deal that was signed in 2018 despite the threat of sanctions from the United States.

“Supplies have begun this month and will continue to happen,” he said when asked by reporters about the sophisticated defense system.

The closer ties between Putin and Modi come amid growing tensions between the Kremlin and the US (also one of India’s key allies) over the massing of Russian troops on its border with Ukraine.

The countries said in a joint statement that the two sides also “discussed the evolving situation in Afghanistan” in the wake of the Taliban’s complete takeover of the country in August.

They especially highlighted “the security situation and its implications in the region, the current political situation, issues related to terrorism, radicalization and drug trafficking etc.”

Russia and India furthermore reiterated their “strong support for a peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan, while emphasizing the respect for sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity and non-interference in its internal affairs.”

In the area of trade, the two countries said the current level of bilateral trade does not reflect its potential nor the depth of the countries’ strategic partnership.

The leaders therefore stressed the need for greater efforts to achieve an ambitious trade target of $30 billion by 2025, or roughly triple the current level.

The two sides said they also appreciated the “resumption of a positive trajectory of bilateral trade, with trade registering an increase of about 38 percent in the first half of 2021, compared to the same period in 2020, despite the pandemic-related restrictions.”

Putin’s visit to India was significant because ties between the US and Russia have been on the downward slide for many years.

Washington has threatened sanctions on Moscow for its possible military offensive against Ukraine.

On the other hand, Russia-China ties have become stronger even as the relationship between Beijing and New Delhi has worsened after a series of border clashes over disputed territories.

In this complex myriad of regional diplomacy, the US has been courting India for an alliance to counter growing Chinese influence in Asia and beyond. EFE


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