India , Russia set to strengthen their relations

India and Russia are slated to ink nine agreements across several strategic fields including trade and commerce, military and energy during the visit of the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Moscow next week. Both sides are well on course as regards finalisation of a pact for building the third and fourth unit of the Kudankulam nuclear plant at Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu.

Singh would leave for Moscow on 15 December on a three-day visit and on the next day he would address the annual India-Russia summit

It may be recalled that the Russian ambassador to India, Alexander Kadakin, recently spoke of the prospects of India and Russia signing no less than seven agreements during Singh’s visit. He has also informed that the Russian navy would soon hand over New Delhi the Akhula-II class nuclear submarine, K-152 Nerpa, rechristened as INS Chakra. Russia is keen to expand its nuclear cooperation with India, he said, adding that Moscow, in fact, is looking for an agreement not just for the third and fourth units but also for the fifth, sixth and even seventh or eighth unit, or beyond.

India, however, has been badly hit by the delay in receiving spares and defence equipment from Russia. It prompted defence minister AK Antony to take up the issue during his last visit to Moscow and informed that delays in the export clearance for crucial repair equipment has had affected the supply of spares. In the recent past, India have had floated several tenders for supplying spares for the fleet of fighter aircrafts that are of the erstwhile Soviet Union make, including missiles and radars, besides the MiG series. Moscow has assured New Delhi that the issue had attracted much attention at the topmost levels of the governments and efforts of will be made for institutionalising measures so as to avoid such delays. Moreover, after signing a protocol, the two sides have noted with contentment that during the last year, steps have been taken to “deepen interaction in the development of defence technologies, modernization of military equipment and joint manufacture of military-purpose products.”

As regards the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) which is being co-developed by Russia and India, both sides have noted that though the first stage of the preliminary design contract is yet to be completed, the next stage must be finalised by September, 2012. The two sides have also agreed on continuing discussions to finalize the research and development contract signed in accordance with the timeline of the general contract inked in December, 2008.

Overall, it could be concluded that New Delhi-Moscow defence ties have growth both in scope and content over the years. India values its multifaceted, strong and time tested relationship with Russia. Over the last six decades the two sides had treaded all avenues of bilateral cooperation with aplomb. Former Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi had championed the cause of better ties with the then USSR. Ten years into the new millennium, that relation is set for more heady days.

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