Russia and India signed a flurry of trade and arms deals during President Vladimir Putin's visit to New Delhi for talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, including one that will see India produce more than 600,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles.
Putin travelled to India with Russia's defence and foreign ministers in a visit that saw the two countries reinforce their ties with a military and technical cooperation pact until 2031 and a pledge to boost annual trade to $30 billion by 2025.
The Russian president is visiting India amid increasingly strained relations between Russia and the United States, also a key Indian ally, which has expressed reservations about the growing military cooperation between Moscow and New Delhi. A joint statement published after the talks said Russia and India had "reiterated their intention to strengthen defence cooperation, including in the joint development of production of military equipment."
In addition to the deal for India to produce AK-203 assault rifles, Russia said it was interested in continuing to provide S-400 air defence missile systems. India's Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said the two countries had signed 28 investment pacts, including deals on steel, shipbuilding, coal and energy. He added that a 2018 contract for the S-400 missile systems was currently being implemented.
"Supplies have begun this month, and will continue to happen," he said, referring to the S-400. The deal with Moscow puts India at risk of sanctions from the United States under a 2017 US law aimed at deterring countries from buying Russian military hardware. Russian oil company Rosneft said it signed a contract with Indian Oil to supply up to 2 million tonnes of oil to India by the end of 2022.
The countries also signed a memorandum of understanding for Russia to send an uninterrupted supply of coal to India to support its steel production, among other deals. Putin and Modi also discussed the situation in Afghanistan, voicing their commitment to ensure that the country will never become a safe haven for international terrorism.
Putin: India time-tested friend
Describing India as a “great power” and a “time-tested” friend, Putin identified terrorism, drug trafficking and organised crime as common challenges facing both countries. In his initial remarks during in-person talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Putin also expressed concern over the developments in Afghanistan and said India and Russia will continue to coordinate on major challenges facing the region.
“We perceive India as a great power, a friendly nation and a time-tested friend. The relations between our countries are developing and we are looking into the future,” Putin said.
Modi said Putin's second visit abroad during the Covid-19 pandemic reflected his personal commitment to the India-Russia ties and that the special and privileged strategic partnership between the two sides was getting stronger. In the last few decades, the world witnessed many fundamental changes and different kinds of geopolitical equations and variables, but the friendship of India and Russia remained constant, Modi said.
“Your visit to India is a reflection of your commitment to ties with India,” the prime minister said. Putin said both sides continue to cooperate on global issues and the positions of the two sides on many issues have similarities. "Naturally, we are concerned about everything that has to do with terrorism. I mean the fight against terrorism and the fight against drug trafficking and organised crime," Putin said. "In this regard, of course, we cannot but be concerned about the situation and how it is developing in Afghanistan," he said. The Russian leader also referred to growing cooperation between India and Russia in areas of environment, trade and investment and high technology among others. "In 2020, we observed a decline in trade turnover by more than 17 per cent. The first nine months of this year, the growth was already more than 38 per cent," he said.