NEW DELHI: Russia will remain India’s foremost defence partner, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday while announcing that Russia had accepted India’s offer to jointly manufacture light-utility helicopters.
India and Russia announced a $10-billion oil deal for Indian company Essar with Russian oil giant ROSNEFT to import about 10 million tonnes of crude oil over the next decade. The two sides also signed seven agreements on atomic energy, military training and health while Mr Modi and President Putin oversaw the signing of 13 commercial contracts.
Though no new defence deals were signed, Mr Modi said “Russia will remain our most important defence partner.” The comment came after months of speculation over a strain in India-Russia defence ties, heightened by Russia’s defence agreement with Pakistan and India diversifying its weapons and aircraft purchases, even though Russia still accounts for 70% of India’s defence inventory.
12 new reactors
The highlight of the meeting — part of an annual summit between the two countries — was the unveiling of a vision statement on atomic energy cooperation, where Russian nuclear agency ROSATOM and the Department of Atomic Energy and NPCIL have agreed to build at least 12 new reactors supplied by Russia over the next 20 years.
According to officials, 10 of the reactors will be built near the existing Kudankulam nuclear power project, while the Indian government is yet to notify the location for two others.
Mr. Modi said: “Russia is the world’s top source for hydrocarbon resources and India one of the world’s largest importers. Despite our close friendship, our collaboration in this sector has been disappointing.” Both sides agreed to “scout and explore” for hydrocarbons in the “arctic shelf,” which could raise eyebrows from other countries in the region as well as environmentalists.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin confirmed that Russia plans to assemble about 400 Kamov Ka-226 T twin-engined Russian helicopters in India. “I am pleased that Russia has offered to fully manufacture in India one of its most advanced helicopters. It includes the possibility of exports from India. It can be used for both military and civilian use,” Mr Modi said.
Russian Ambassador Alexander Kadakin told The Hindu that the meeting between Mr. Putin and Mr. Modi was “extremely productive.”