Modi, Putin sign de­fense deals ahead of BRICS

Rein­vig­o­rat­ing ties be­tween tra­di­tional allies

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin signed multi-bil­lion dol­lar en­ergy and de­fense pacts yes­ter­day fol­low­ing talks aimed at rein­vig­o­rat­ing ties be­tween the tra­di­tional allies. Modi hailed Putin as an “old friend” af­ter their meet­ing in the In­dian state of Goa, where lead­ers of the other BRICS emerg­ing na­tions were also gath­er­ing for a sum­mit.

“Your lead­er­ship has pro­vided sta­bil­ity and sub­stance to our strate­gic part­ner­ship,” Modi said along­side Putin at a beach­side re­sort, af­ter of­fi­cials signed up to 20 agree­ments be­tween the two na­tions. Modi said the pacts on jointly pro­duc­ing light mil­i­tary he­li­copters, build­ing frigates and other ar­eas of co­op­er­a­tion “lay the foun­da­tions for deeper de­fense and eco­nomic ties for years ahead”.

They also signed an ini­tial agree­ment on In­dia’s pur­chase of Rus­sia’s state of the art de­fense sys­tem, ca­pa­ble of shoot­ing down mul­ti­ple in­com­ing mis­siles, al­though there were no de­tails on a time­frame for de­liv­ery. In­dia, the world’s top de­fense im­porter, is un­der­go­ing a $100-bil­lion up­grade of its Soviet-era mil­i­tary, as it looks to pro­tect its borders from arch-ri­val Pak­istan and an in­creas­ingly as­sertive China. But In­dia has in­creas­ingly turned to the United States, and more re­cently France, rather than Rus­sia, for its hard­ware, as Modi cul­ti­vates closer ties with Wash­ing­ton.

Putin has been seek­ing to seal deals with In­dia to help re­vive Rus­sia’s re­ces­sion-hit econ­omy, fol­low­ing slid­ing oil prices and Western sanctions over the Ukraine cri­sis. “I would like to stress that we in­tend to ex­pand our bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion not only in en­ergy but also across a wide range of ar­eas,” Putin said. The an­nounced en­ergy deals in­clude Rus­sian oil gi­ant Ros­neft’s de­ci­sion to buy al­most the en­tire stake in In­dia’s Es­sar Oil for al­most $13 bil­lion.

Es­sar said the deal in­volv­ing a group led by Ros­neft was the largest sin­gle for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment in In­dia. The lead­ers also signed an agree­ment to sup­ply more units to a nu­clear plant in Ku­danku­lam in south­ern In­dia to meet the fast-grow­ing econ­omy’s thirst for elec­tric­ity and to re­duce its reliance on dirty coal. They dis­cussed the threats posed by re­gional and “global ter­ror­ism” al­though it was not clear if this in­cluded In­dia’s hiked ten­sions with archri­val Pak­istan. Putin was seen as un­likely to weigh into the dis­pute be­tween the ri­val neigh­bors, as Moscow also eyes closer de­fense ties with Islamabad. Rus­sia and Pak­istan car­ried out their first joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cise last month.

Re­plac­ing aging fleet

The deal for Rus­sia’s most mod­ern air de­fense sys­tem has been in the pipe­line for a few years, along with the he­li­copters, and the build­ing of four frigates in In­dia. In­dia will pur­chase about 200 of the chop­pers to re­place its age­ing fleet un­der a joint ven­ture over sev­eral years, with some man­u­fac­tured in In­dia, as it re­duces its reliance on mil­i­tary im­ports. “In the next few months, a place will be al­lo­cated (for man­u­fac­ture) and there will be in­vest­ments,” Rus­sian Trade and In­dus­try Min­is­ter De­nis Man­turov told AFP.

In­dia and Rus­sia have tra­di­tion­ally held strong ties dat­ing back to the 1950s af­ter the death of Stalin. But trade has slipped be­neath $10 bil­lion since 2014, as Modi cul­ti­vates closer diplo­matic and eco­nomic ties with Wash­ing­ton, while Rus­sia eyes Pak­istan and also China. Modi will hold talks with China’s Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping late yes­ter­day, also in the hope of boost­ing in­vest­ment and trade. Re­la­tions how­ever have been frus­trated by Beijing’s de­ci­sion so far to block New Delhi’s en­try to a nu­clear trade group, among other is­sues.

China and In­dia, the world’s two most pop­u­lous na­tions, are jock­ey­ing for re­gional in­flu­ence in Asia. Modi will host a din­ner for the lead­ers of the BRICS club - which also in­cludes South Africa and Brazil-ahead of talks to­day. BRICS was formed in 2011 with the aim of us­ing its grow­ing eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence to chal­lenge Western hege­mony.

— AP

GOA: In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, right, talks with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, dur­ing ex­change of agree­ments be­tween the two coun­tries in the beach re­sort state.

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