Russian President Vladimir Putin sealed a deal yesterday to construct more nuclear power plants in India, as Moscow moved closer to its long-term Asian partner through lucrative energy and arms agreements.
Putin met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday in an annual summit, and will be guest of honour at India's Republic Day celebrations on Friday, a reflection of the historically close ties between the two countries.
"Energy security is the most important of the emerging dimensions of our strategic partnership," Singh told a joint news conference.
The deal signalled Moscow would not be left behind in the race to win lucrative nuclear contracts with India, a month after US President George W. Bush signed laws effectively ending a ban on civilian nuclear trade with India.
Two Russian reactors are already under construction in India, where rapid economic growth is driving demand for additional supplies of energy.
Four more reactors will be built at the Kudankulam nuclear power station in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, according to a joint statement provided the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers' Group lifts its restrictions on India this year.
Russia and India also pledged to work together to build more Russian-designed nuclear plants at other sites in India.
The two sides are also working closely to develop other sources of energy. "We are ready to brave new horizons in fuel energy cooperation," Putin said. "Russian companies are ready to intensify and broaden co-operation in this area."
India's Oil and Natural Gas Corp Ltd (ONGC) and Russia's state-run Rosneft signed a comprehensive deal yesterday for a range of joint energy projects from drilling to retailing, an ONGC official said.
The two companies are already partners in the Sakhalin-1 oil field and are exploring a joint bid for the Sakhalin-3 field as and when it is auctioned.
Russia has also expressed an interest in helping build a pipeline to transport Iranian natural gas to India and Pakistan.
Defense ties are also close, and another area where Russia faces growing competition from the United States.
But for now India is the second-biggest buyer of Russian weapons after China. Up to 80 percent of weapons and hardware now in use by New Delhi have been supplied by Moscow, experts say.
Tanks and fighters
Earlier in the week, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov said Russia would pitch its MiG-35 combat jet in an Indian tender for 126 fighter aircraft.
Russia is also interested in working with India to develop a fifth-generation fighter, while the two sides signed a deal on Wednesday to jointly design and build a transport aircraft.
India's Defense Minister A. K. Antony said plans to buy at least 300 Russian T-90 tanks, as well as fighters and military helicopters, were also discussed.
Since the Cold War alliance between Moscow and New Delhi collapsed together with the Soviet Union, Russia has maintained a "strategic partnership" with India.
Old and new alliances
India's close ties with Moscow were cemented during the Cold War period, when the Soviet Union supplied it with military and financial support.
Russia is building two nuclear power plants in Kudankulam in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
Up to 80 percent of weapons and hardware now in use by New Delhi have been supplied by Moscow, say experts; and the two countries are discussing India's participation in the joint manufacture of a fifth generation fighter aircraft.
The Kremlin has promised to back India's ambitions to become a permanent UN Security Council member.
Bilateral trade dropped sharply after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the annual turnover stands at around $2 billion, which the two sides aim to boost to $10 billion by 2010.
Source: China Daily/Agencies