India, Russia sign arms deals, to fast-track pact on KNPP-III, IV (Roundup)

Last Updated: Mon, Dec 24, 2012 15:20 hrs

New Delhi, Dec 24 (IANS) Reinvigorating their multi-faceted ties, India and Russia Monday signed 10 agreements in diverse areas, including multi-billion dollar weapons deals, and resolved to fast-track negotiations to conclude pact on units III and IV of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant.

In the context of the 2014 withdrawal of international combat troops from Afghanistan, India and Russia also agreed to cooperate closely to combat extremism and drug-trafficking in that country.

In a boost to India's quest for ridding the region of the curse of cross-border terrorism, Russia joined hands with India to thwart safe sanctuaries of terror and strongly condemned the states that aid or sponsor them - a veiled allusion to Pakistan.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who wrapped up his day-long visit, held wide-ranging discussions, including civil nuclear cooperation, the intensification of economic ties, defence cooperation and closer cultural and tourism exchanges.

The leaders of the two emerging economies also decided to step up collaboration in a host of multilateral fora, including the UN, BRICS and the East Asia summit and agreed to join hands for speedier global economic recovery.

After the talks, the two sides signed a slew of agreements in diverse areas, including foreign office consultations; cultural exchanges; science, technology and innovation; telecommunications; financing of projects and promoting investments.

Issues relating to the Russian telecom giant Sistema's $3.1 billion investment also figured in the discussions, with India assuring that an amicable solution will be found soon.

In an important step forward, the two sides "agreed to conclude expeditiously the negotiations on the techno-commercial offer for the construction of Units 3 & 4", said the joint statement.

They also underscored their commitment to implementing the roadmap for cooperation in the nuclear energy sector that was signed during Putin's visit in 2010 as the then prime minister of Russia.

Against the backdrop of differences over the application of civil nuclear liability law to units III and IV of KNPP, Manmohan Singh said at a joint press appearance with Putin that: "Negotiations for the construction of Units 3 and 4 at Kudankulam have made good progress."

Russia has contended that the civil nuclear liability law should not apply to these units as the agreement on them predates the 2010 civil liability law, and could be seen as "grandfathered" by the original 1988 agreement.

India has indicated that it is ready for price escalation, but has made it clear that will not compromise its civil nuclear liability regime. The price negotiations for units III and IV are to be decided by a techno-commercial panel.

The defence ties, the bedrock of the India-Russia relations, are poised for a boost with the signing of a military-technical contract for delivery of 42 technological kits for SU-30MKI aircraft to the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to assemble them here. The deal is estimated to be around $2.2 billion.

Another pact for the delivery of 71 Mi-17V-5 helicopters was signed.

Out of this, 59 of the machines would be given to the Indian Air Force while the remaining 12 would be used by paramilitary forces for anti-Maoist operations.

On the strategic plane, India's concerns over terrorism in the region found full support from Russia and led to a joint resolve to combat extremist ideologies and drug trafficking in Afghanistan.

The two sides "strongly condemned those who provide safe havens and sanctuaries for terrorism and reiterated that States that aid, abet or shelter terrorists are as guilty of acts of terrorism as their actual perpetrators," said the statement.

With economic ties not keeping pace with strategic ties, the two sides signed a pact to promote direct investment which envisages investments up to $2 billion in important bilateral projects or companies, privatisation and other opportunities.

They reiterated their resolve to scale up bilateral trade to $20 billion by 2015.

In a boost to India's quest for joining multilateral nuclear regimes like the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Russia agreed to act as a facilitator.

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