India, Russia sign 20 pacts after Modi-Putin meet

Trade may touch $30 billion by 2025

India, Russia sign 20 pacts after Modi-Putin meet

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday engaged Russian President Vladimir Putin in a serious dialogue for pushing his economic agenda, which should see the trade between the two countries treble to $30 billion by 2025.

Modi disregarded strong hints from the US not to expand ties with sanction-hit Russia. His first bilateral meeting with Putin was followed by signing of 20 agreements, including one for supply of crude oil from Russia to India for the next 10 years. New Delhi and Moscow also outlined an ambitious agenda for cooperation in nuclear energy sector.

Russia will build at least 12 more reactors — including the two new units in Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu — in India over the next 20 years, with scope for transfer of technology and local manufacturing of spares and components. Russia also offered to manufacture advanced military helicopters in India with provisions of exports.The two countries signed an agreement for training the Indian armed forces in Russia.

Just six weeks before US President Barack Obama is expected to visit New Delhi to attend the Republic Day ceremony, Modi on Thursday joined Putin to oppose all unilateral sanctions, which are not approved by the United Nations Security Council.

The US and the European Union had imposed sanctions on Russia early this year to protest Moscow’s role in secession of Crimea from Ukraine. Ahead of Putin’s visit to India, Washington sought to subtly dissuade New Delhi from expanding its ties with Moscow, with a spokesperson of the US State Department stating that it was not the appropriate time to do business with Russia.

Modi, however, described India-Russia relations as “friendship of unmatched mutual confidence, trust and goodwill”. “We have a Strategic Partnership that is incomparable in content,” he said.

He was addressing mediapersons jointly with Putin after the two leaders met for the 15th India-Russia summit in New Delhi.

Modi and Putin met at a time when sanctions by US and EU prompted Russia to encourage its public and private sector companies to divert their investments from western nations to countries like China and India.It also offered an opportunity for New Delhi to seek more investments from Russia to boost the Make-in-India campaign recently launched by the Prime Minister to spur growth in manufacturing sector.

“The steadfast support of the people of Russia for India has been there even at difficult moments in our history. It has been a pillar of strength for India's development, security and international relations,” Modi said, acknowledging Moscow’s support to New Delhi when US and other western nations imposed sanctions on India in the wake of the nuclear tests in Pokhran in 1974 and 1998.

Noting that bilateral trade and economic ties are still far below potential, Modi and Putin agreed to promote Russian investments in India in major infrastructure projects like Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, Smart Cities and Freight Corridors, as well as in broader sectors like telecom, power and roads.

 They also decided to encourage Indian investments in Russia, particularly in industrial parks and technology platforms, in sectors like pharmaceuticals, fertilisers, coal and energy.

The joint statement issued after the meeting noted a direct investment fund of $2 billion between Rusnano JSC, a nanotechnology major in Russia, and a suitable investment partner in India for implementation of high-tech projects.

The deals signed on Thursday included a General Framework Agreement for construction of third and fourth unit of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu.

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