Russia asks Pakistan to push 26/11 probe, backs India for UNSC, NSG (Second Lead)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

NEW DELHI - Underlining their “privileged strategic partnership,” India and Russia Tuesday inked a raft of agreements worth billions of dollars, including a contract for jointly building a fifth generation fighter jet, and resolved to expand their counter-terror cooperation. Russia also asked Pakistan to bring the 26/11 perpetrators to justice.

Setting a target of doubling bilateral trade to $20 billion by 2015, the two sides agreed to focus on upgrading the economic content of their relationship, which has not kept pace with the level of their strategic partnership, as Indian and Russian companies signed a clutch of deals worth several billions of dollars.

In a boost to India’s counter-terror efforts, Russia called for the elimination of “safe havens for terrorism and violent extremism that are present in Afghanistan and Pakistan” and agreed to expand consultations on the volatile Afghan situation.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who began his two day-visit to India Tuesday morning, reiterated his country’s support for India’s bid for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. India was a “strong and deserving candidate”, he noted.

“Russia wants to India to have a permanent seat in the UN Security Council if the decision to expand the organ is taken,” Medvedev said a joint press interaction with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after their delegation-level talks that lasted two hours.

Russia also backed New Delhi’s full membership in elite nuclear groupings like the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) as the two sides discussed setting up “additional nuclear reactors” in Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu.

Cooperation in space also saw an upswing as the two sides signed a pact on giving India access to high precision signals from Glonass, the Russian rival to the American GPS that could help in effective integration of India’s military land, air and sea assets.

The Manmohan Singh-Medvedev talks covered a host of issues, including the expansion of civil nuclear cooperation, the intensification of bilateral economic ties, global terrorism and the international financial crisis.

Eleven agreements were signed in the presence of Manmohan Singh and Medvedev. Eighteen pacts were signed on the margins of the third summit between the two leaders that led to a an all-encompassing joint statement entitled “Celebrating a Decade of the India-Russian Federation Strategic Partnership and Looking Ahead.”

A memorandum of understanding between India’s department of atomic energy and Russia’s state atomic energy corporation Rosatom for broader scientific and technical cooperation and a pact on cooperation in the oil and gas sector were among the pacts signed to signal the growing energy partnership between the two sides.

Ending speculation, the two sides signed a preliminary design contract (PDC) for building a fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA), a deal that kicks off a set of arrangements that could potentially mean $30 billion of business. The contract envisages joint design and development of the aircraft with the involvement of HAL on the Indian side and Sukhoi Design Bureau and Rosoboronexport on the Russian side.

The 30-tonne aircraft is expected to have very advanced avionics, stealth to increase survivability and enhanced lethality, according to Indian Air Force (IAF) officers. It will have the capability to launch air-to-air, air-to-surface and air-to-ship missiles.

Medvedev’s trip to India tops visits by leaders of the US, Britain, France and China in the last few months, making this year unique in Indian diplomacy when the leaders of all five permanent members of the UN Security Council visited the country.

Seeking to put innovation and business at the centre of the partnership that has remained mostly defence-centric in the past, Medvedev underlined “a new and qualitative change in the relationship” and pointed out that “a modernization cooperation was shaping up between the two countries.”

Expanding counter-terror cooperation figured prominently in the talks.

“The two sides agreed that all terrorist networks must be defeated. They called upon Pakistan to expeditiously to bring all the perpetrators, authors and accomplices of the Nov 2008 Mumbai attacks to justice,” the joint statement said.

At the joint press interaction, Medvedev stressed that “no civilised state can hide terrorists,” but did not mention Pakistan by name.

“Terrorists are criminals. They, of course, should be punished. Those who hide terrorists conceal their crimes. No modern civilised state can hide terrorists as law abiding citizens. They are subject to punishment,” Medvedev said. He was replying to a question by IANS on militant safe havens of terror across the Indian border and how India and Russia were copperating to tackle terrorism.

“Our cooperation is productive and open. We are interested in strengthening that cooperation,” Medvedev said, adding thar bilateral extraditon treaties are needed so that terrorists wanted in one country can he handed over.

“India and Russia are both victims of terrorists, as such there is a natural synergy of interests in working together to deal with this menace. We should cooperate in information sharing and intelligence sharing and devise effective counter-terrorism strategies,” Manmohan Singh said.

Seeking to ramp their economic ties, Russia sought India’s assistance in bolstering its pharmaceuticals and IT sectors and signed pacts in these areas.

An agreement on visa simplification was also signed that could ease the travel of citizens of the two countries and promote bilateral business ties.

Taking their nuclear cooperation further, the two sides discussed setting up “additional nuclear reactors” in Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu. “This reflects our mutual desire for strong cooperation in the field of defence and (civil) nuclear energy,” Manmohan Singh said.

Atomstroyexport, a subsidiary of the state-owned nuclear company Rosatom, is building two 1,000 MW reactors in Kudankulam in collaboration with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), and is in negotiations to build two more reactors of 1000 MW each.

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