Friday, December 25, 2015

Russia and India cement ties with energy and defence deals

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Russia and India signed agreements on Thursday boosting cooperation in energy and defence, New Delhi aiming to modernise its armed forces and build a nuclear industry and sanctions-hit Moscow seeking investment and new markets.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told a joint briefing with visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that Moscow supported New Delhi's "strengthening role in resolving global and regional problems".

Putin said Moscow believed India was "among the most honourable candidates" for permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council.

But it was energy and defence that topped the agenda.

Russia is keen to develop and deepen its Soviet-era economic ties with India and sell new technologies to one of the world's fastest-growing economies at a time its own economy is stagnant, hit by Western sanctions and a plunge in global oil prices.

"We have agreed to increase mutual investment flows thanks to deeper industrial cooperation and implementation of large-scale infrastructure and energy projects," Putin said.

Russia launched the first nuclear unit at India's Kudankulam power station in June last year and would complete building another one in "a matter of a few weeks", Putin said. He said Russia would build six nuclear blocks in India in 20 years.

Modi said the number of Russian-built reactors in Kudankulam and at another site would eventually rise to 12, but gave no timeframe.

Russia and India will together build multi-task Kamov-226 helicopters, Modi said. It will be the first large-scale project of the government's "Make in India" initiative to encourage local and foreign companies to manufacture in India.

A source close to Rosoboronexport, Russia's state-owned arms exporter, had said earlier India would produce 140 of the choppers and Russia the remaining 60.

Putin said India and Russia were already successfully producing supersonic, ship-based Brahmos missiles which would be soon delivered to the Indian navy.

He said India and Russia planned joint work on a multi-role fighter jet and a transport aircraft, but gave no details.

India's ONGC is in talks to increase its stake in the Vankor oilfield in Siberia owned by Russia's top oil producer Rosneft, in line with one of the documents signed in the presence of Putin and Modi.

The documents call for cooperation between Russian and Indian companies in offshore and onshore exploration and production of hydrocarbons in Russia.

Separately, Indian Oil Corporation Limited and Oil India Limited said they had signed a memorandum with Rosneft, which paves the way for acquisition of a stake in Taas-Yuriakh oil assets in East Siberia.

Russia's gas export monopoly Gazprom made five large-scale shipments of liquefied natural gas to India this year, Putin said.

Putin said Russia's state-controlled diamond corportation Alrosa, which produces 27 percent of all diamonds in the world, would team with India which makes 65 percent of the world's cut diamonds.

(Additional reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow and Nidhi Verma in New Delhi; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Andrew Roche)


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