Russia and India confirm new military and nuclear agreements

 

RUSSIA AND India have confirmed their long-awaited contract to jointly develop a fifth-generation fighter aircraft in a deal estimated at about $35 billion (€26.7 billion). This is alongside an agreement to augment capacity at an Indian nuclear power complex under construction with Moscow’s help.

The military and nuclear pacts, signed yesterday during Russian president Dmitry Medvedev’s two- day visit to New Delhi, are aimed at bringing the two allies closer, while it is proposed to double bilateral trade by 2015 to $20 billion.

The Soviet Union – and later Russia – have been India’s steadfast and principal material suppliers since the mid-1960s, having provided it military goods worth nearly $40 billion.

Nearly 70 per cent of India’s military hardware has been sourced via Moscow and annually the two sides conduct defence business of about $1.5 billion. This will increase exponentially when India buys 250 to 300 fifth-generation fighters for $30 billion from 2017-2018 onwards.

The remaining $5 billion of the overall fighter deal is expected to contribute towards developing the advanced “swing role” combat aircraft with about 40 Indian military designers based in Russia and an equal number in India communicating with one another via a secure datalink.

Mr Medvedev also lobbied officials in New Delhi to select Russian-made MiG-35 fighters in support of the Indian air force’s requirement for 126 medium-range combat aircraft valued at more than $10 billion, which are under evaluation. The MiG-35 was competing against five other US and European models.

A joint statement issued after Mr Medvedev’s meeting with Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh declared that the two sides had also agreed a deal for Russia to supply the Indian army missiles.

Russia is also to pursue plans to build two additional nuclear power generating units in India’s southern Tamil Nadu state.

India is one of the world’s largest markets for civil nuclear technology and plans to generate 63,000 megawatts of power by 2032, up from its present output of a mere 4,560 MW, through new plants.

Mr Singh said the “special and privileged” bilateral strategic partnership between Moscow and New Delhi had remained resolute for India in its time of need.

In response, Mr Medvedev voiced Moscow’s support for India “as a deserving and strong candidate” for a permanent seat in an expanded UN Security Council, a sentiment that would be well received by his hosts. India has been similarly backed by the US and France.

The pair also discussed regional security matters, agreeing to expand co-operation in stabilising Afghanistan and countering terrorism. “Those who hide terrorists hide criminals. No modern civilised state can hide terrorists,” Mr Medvedev said. He made no direct mention of Pakistan though, which India accuses of sponsoring Islamist militant groups.