NEW DELHI -- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Thursday that Russia will remain India’s “most important defense partner.” Speaking at the end of a day-long summit between the two countries, which is being attended by President Vladimir Putin, Modi also said that India is considering setting up at least 10 new nuclear reactors with Russian help.
Modi effectively sought to put to rest speculation that relations between the two long-time partners have been strained because of Russia’s growing closeness to India’s arch-rival and neighbor Pakistan, while relations have improved between the U.S. and India.
“While India's options have increased, Russia will remain as our most important defense partner,” Modi said. Russia will manufacture “one of its most advanced helicopters” in India, with “the possibility of export” Modi added, without giving any more details.
One unit of a Russian-made nuclear reactor is already operational at Kudankulam in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu and two more are expected to be made operational soon. The new plants are also planned to be built with the help of components manufactured in India.
The two countries also agreed to set up manufacturing units for Russian military equipment in India. Most of India’s military hardware is of Russian origin and Russia wants to continue to sell more arms, notwithstanding the fact that, in 2012, along with the U.S., it was edged out of the race to win a potential $20 billion contract to acquire fighter jets for the Indian Air Force. That contract is now set to be awarded to French defense major Dassault Aviation.
According to this report, the two countries are also keen to strike a deal to jointly manufacture a fifth-generation fighter aircraft. If finalized, the partnership would be the biggest defense deal between the two countries.
Meanwhile, Sergey Aksyonov, the leader of Crimea, a Ukrainian territory recently annexed by Russia is also currently visiting India. Aksyonov met with a businessman to boost trade ties in the Black Sea region, Reuters reported.
As International Business Times reported, Putin’s brief visit assumes significance as it comes just a month before U.S. President Barack Obama’s scheduled trip to New Delhi in January. Moreover, Putin comes to India amid his country’s recent friendship with India’s arch-rival Pakistan, which has apparently not gone down well with New Delhi.
In November, it was reported that Russia would sell Mi-35 helicopters to Pakistan to “help combat terrorism.” The Diplomat had noted that Russia and Pakistan appear to have initiated a new era of cooperation “that is likely to be closely watched in New Delhi and Washington.”
Earlier this year, Moscow and Beijing signed a $400 billion gas deal and followed it up with another one in November, which reduces Russia's reliance on Europe and secures almost a fifth of China’s gas needs for the next decade, according to a Bloomberg report.