PM may ink key deals on visit to Russia, China

Nuke submarine, border issue to top agenda

PM may ink key deals  on visit to Russia, China

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday left for Russia and China amid speculation that India may take one more nuclear-powered submarine on lease from Russia and sign an agreement with China to maintain peace and tranquillity along the Sino-Indian border, which has witnessed hostility in the recent past.

While Singh did not make any reference to the submarine deal in his departure statement and Foreign Secretary Sujata Singh remained evasive, government officials informed a news agency on Sunday that a Rs 6,000-crore deal might be inked during the prime minister's Russia tour.

The Indian Navy is already operating a Russian nuclear-powered submarine—renamed as the INS Chakra—since April last year. The two nations were discussing the prospect of New Delhi financing an incomplete submarine named Irbis, lying in a Russian dockyard for more than a decade, because of the depleting number of assets in the Indian Navy's underwater arm.

Asked about the submarine deal with Russia, the foreign secretary stated on Friday: “Defence cooperation is an important pillar of our multifaceted, special and privileged strategic partnership based on long-standing and time-tested friendship over six decades. This cooperation is progressing ahead to mutual satisfaction, and we expect this to continue to be the case.”

In his statement, the prime minister said the annual summit with Russia, being held since 2000, is an important feature of New Delhi's special and privileged strategic partnership with Moscow.

Within weeks of the summit-level meeting, Moscow is slated to hand over the $2.3-billion aircraft carrier Vikramaditya to the Navy in the presence of Defence Minister A K Antony.
From Moscow, the prime minister will travel to Beijing, where India and China may sign the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) to reduce flare-ups between troops guarding the 3,588-km non-demarcated border in the mountains.

“India and China have historical issues and there are areas of concern. The two governments are addressing them with sincerity and maturity, without letting them affect the overall atmosphere of friendship and cooperation,” said Singh in his statement.

A direct communication link between top military officers and more border personnel meetings are also proposed to normalise the relations between the two armies, which fought a war in 1962.

The BDCA seeks to consolidate the arrangements New Delhi and Beijing agreed on in 1993 and 1996 deals as well as the steps both sides follow as per the 2005 protocol for confidence-building measures between the armies of the two countries along the line of actual control.

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