|Russia and India have been close economic and political partners since Soviet days [AFP]|
Russia and India have pledged to share intelligence and co-operate in fighting international terror at a ceremony in New Delhi where the two allies signed agreements aimed at reinvigorating their ties.
Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, held nearly two hours of talks with Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, hoping to boost trade and investment in both countries.
Medvedev, the latest in a string of world leaders to visit India in the past couple of months, also threw his weight behind India’s quest for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
Russia has been India’s close economic and political partner since Soviet days, and monopolised India’s defence market for decades.
But New Delhi wants to reduce its reliance on one country to reflect its growing clout on the world stage.
New Delhi had been expected to seek backing from Russia during Medvedev’s visit for its ambition to secure a permanent seat on an enlarged UN Security Council, following statements of support from Washington and Paris in recent months.
“The Russian Federation supports India as a deserving and strong candidate for a permanent seat in an expanded UN Security Council,” a joint Russian-Indian statement said.
Leaders from Britain, the United States, France and China – along with Russia, the permanent members of the UN Security Council – have all visited India in the past six months, securing contracts worth a total of around $50bn.
Russia and India signed on Tuesday a long-awaited contract to jointly develop fifth generation fighter aircraft, potentially worth tens of billions of dollars, and clinched a deal to expand capacity at a Russian-built nuclear power plant in south India.
The deals announced on Tuesday were largely already known, and no financial figures were given.
However, the agreements may go some way to satisfy those concerned about India too quickly cutting its defence cord with its Cold War-era ally.
Russia also sees India as a counterweight to China and a potential ally in Afghanistan.
Medvedev, accompanied by a large delegation of business leaders, also held talks with Sonia Gandhi, the ruling Congress party chief, before embarking on a visit the Taj Mahal in Agra, and is expected in India’s financial capital Mumbai on Wednesday.
“We can rightfully call it a privileged partnership,” Medvedev said of the visit in an interview with the Times of India newspaper published on Monday.
“It is well known that we want to diversify our basket of suppliers for our strategic areas. We will always have close ties with Russia, but they are no longer the only game in town,” said a top Indian government official, who declined to be identified.
A statement said the two countries would work on a design project for the stealth fighters and had agreed to discuss building the third and fourth reactors for a nuclear power plant in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu.