Putin to focus on economic ties on trip to India

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 24, 2012 at 12:59 am •  Published: December 24, 2012
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NEW DELHI (AP) — India and Russia held talks Monday intended to help cement Russia's position in the growing Indian market and reinvigorate political ties.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh kicked off the talks at the end of which Moscow and New Delhi are expected to sign agreements on trade, science, education and law enforcement.

While the volume of Russian-Indian trade has risen sixfold since 2000 and is expected to reach $10 billion this year, the growth has slowed in recent years. And even though India remains the No. 1 customer for Russia's arms industries, Moscow has recently lost several multibillion-dollar contracts to Western weapons makers.

Russia and India have shared close ties since the Cold War, when Moscow was a key ally and the principal arms supplier to New Delhi.

The ties slackened after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but grew stronger again after Putin came to power in 2000, seeking to revive Moscow's global clout and restore ties with old allies.

Russia has maintained its strong positions in the Indian market with $30 billion worth of arms contracts with India signed in 2000-2010 that envisaged supplies of hundreds of fighter jets, missiles, tanks and other weapons, a large part of which were license-produced in India. The countries have cooperated on building an advanced fighter plane and a new transport aircraft and have jointly developed a supersonic cruise missile for the Indian Navy.

But the military cooperation has hit snags in recent years, as New Delhi shops increasingly for Western weapons. The Indians also haven't been always happy with the quality of Russian weapons and their rising prices.

In one notable example, in 2004 Russia signed a $1 billion contract to refurbish a Soviet-built aircraft carrier for the Indian Navy. While the deal called for the ship to be commissioned in 2008, it is still in a Russian shipyard and the contract price has reportedly soared to $2.3 billion. The target date for the carrier's completion was moved back again this year after it suffered major engine problems in sea trials. Russian officials now promise to hand it over to India in the end of 2013.

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