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India-Russian Strategic Ties Strengthened by Putin's Visit

Russian President Vladimir Putin ended his three-day official visit to India Sunday afternoon with a tour of the country's hi-tech hub and the complex of aviation major Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in India's southern city of Bangalore.  

Before his departure, Putin said he hoped to strengthen ties with India in hi-tech fields. "India and Russia should work together on innovative new technologies. The younger generation should take the lead," Putin said.


Putin flew into New Delhi on Dec. 3, his first in two years, to try to provide new momentum to an old friendship by expanding business, energy and traditional military ties.


During his visit, Putin attended the fifth annual Indo-Russian Summit meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The two leaders signed a joint declaration and witnessed the signing of 11 agreements to push for stronger economic ties between the two countries, particularly in energy, banking, information technology, aviation and space.


Putin said he particularly supported better linkages between the two countries in the energy sector and investments by Indian entities in the oil exploration projects in his country and elsewhere.


Energy was high on Putin's agenda, particularly after Indian Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar's recent visit to Russia. Projects being eyed by India include a stake in the Sakhalin-III oil and gas project.


India has invested US$1.7 billion in the Sakhalin-I oil and gas project, its largest investment abroad, and is said to be considering another US$1-billion investment in the Sakhalin-III project, the massive offshore project in the Pacific Ocean.


Officials said that efforts are also being made to boost bilateral trade between the two countries, which currently stands at a little over US$1 billion.


In banking, Russia has identified eight banks for forging linkages with Indian banks such as the State Bank of India, Canara Bank and ICICI Bank, officials said.


The Russian president also supported India's bid for a permanent membership in the UN Security Council and sought New Delhi's support for becoming a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO).


"India is our candidate number one in terms of enlarging the geographical representation of the Security Council," Putin said when asked about New Delhi's long-standing desire for a permanent seat on the UN body.


India, in return, has backed Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization. Russia needs bilateral agreements with WTO members before it can join the global trade policy group.


New Delhi and Moscow share a strong friendship dating back to India's support of the former Soviet Union during the Cold War. About 70 percent of India's military equipment is of Russian origin.


During the talks, the two leaders also expressed their unhappiness over Washington's unilateral approach in Iraq, and stressed the need for multilateral efforts to resolve disputes.


"The two sides expressed their concern over the continuing violence in Iraq and underlined the necessity for internal dialogue aimed at achieving a national consensus on a new constitution and on restoring stability and security," Putin and Singh said in the joint statement.


(Xinhua News Agency December 6, 2004)

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