BENAULIM (GOA), Oct 15:
India today inked three mega defence deals with Russia that included purchase of a most advanced air defence missile system as part of 16 pacts even as the two traditional allies strongly pitched for “zero tolerance” in dealing with terrorists and their supporters.
The bilateral pacts were signed here after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin held “fruitful and substantive” wide-ranging talks encompassing entire gamut of bilateral ties. The two sides also made three announcements to boost ties in sectors like trade and investment, hydrocarbons, space and smart cities.
Modi prefaced his remarks at a joint press event with Putin invoking a Russian proverb to drive home the point that “an old friend is better than two new friends,” in a reflection of India’s apparent unhappiness over Russia’s recent joint military exercise with Pakistan.
Besides the purchase of ‘gamechanger’ S-400 Triumf long- range air defence systems from Russia at a cost of over USD 5 billion, the other two deals related to procuring four Admiral Grigorovich-class (Project 11356) guided-missile stealth frigates and setting up of a joint production facility for making Kamov helicopters.
The inking of these deals assumes significance since in in the recent past it was perceived that India, which had signed Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with the US providing access to Americans to Indian military bases, was drifting away from its traditional defence ally, Russia.
Modi appreciated Russia’s understanding and support of India’s actions to fight cross-border terrorism, an oblique reference to India’s surgical strike across the Line of Control(LoC) last month targeting terror launch pads in PoK.
“Russia’s clear stand on the need to combat terrorism mirrors our own. We deeply appreciate Russia’s understanding and support of our actions to fight cross-border terrorism, that threatens our entire region.
“We both affirmed the need for zero tolerance in dealing with terrorists and their supporters,” Modi said.
The two leaders also discussed Uri attack by Pak-based terrorists during their “restricted talks” segment after which the Indian Side expressed its appreciation for Russia’s unequivocal condemnation of the attack on army base in which 19 soldiers were killed.
Putin, on his part, said both countries have close cooperation in fighting terrorism.
India, which has conveyed its opposition to Russia undertaking joint military exercises with Pakistan, a country which “sponsors and practices terrorism as a matter of State policy”, also said it was “satisfied” about Russia understanding of its interests.
“We are satisfied that Russia understand India’s interest and they will never do anything contrary to India’s interest and I think there was a strong meeting of minds on this subject,” Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said when asked about the Russian response to India’s concern over the recent Pak-Russia joint military exercise.
Modi said the “highly productive” outcomes of the meeting clearly establish the special and privileged nature of strategic partnership between the two countries.
“They also lay the foundations for deeper defence and economic ties in years ahead. The agreements on manufacturing of Kamov 226T helicopters; constructions of frigates; and acquisition and building of other defence platforms are in synergy with India’s technology and security priorities.”
Modi and Putin also dedicated the unit two of Kudankulam nuclear power plant and witnessed foundation laying of its Unit 3 and 4.
A joint statement issued after their talks said the two sides noted with satisfaction “the progress in discussions on the General Framework Agreement and the Credit Protocol for Kudankulam Units 5 and 6 with a view to conclude these documents before the end of 2016.”
Asserting that ties with Russia were “strong and time-tested”, Jaishankar said the commercial pacts inked today will generate “unprecedented” investment and were an effort to “bring up to speed” the bilateral economic ties, which were lagging behind.
Asked why terror was becoming an important issue in BRICS, which is a body meant to deal with issues relating to economy and development, Jaishankar said the bloc has been discussing contemporary issues.
“Earlier they dealt with economic challenges and now terror is an important issue and BRICS has never shied away from discussing political issues,” he said.
Modi said they have agreed to work on an annual military industrial conference that will allow stakeholders on both sides to institute and push collaboration.
“These projects are new chapters in a long history of strong and diverse defence partnership that both sides can take much pride in,” he said.
He said, “We are working to model a partnership that befits our common ambition and meets our shared goals for the twenty-first (21st) century.
“Our close friendship has given clear direction, fresh impulse, stronger momentum and rich content to our ties. In the emerging regional and global landscape, it has been a source of strength and substance, a driver of peace and a factor of stability.”
On cooperation in atomic sector, Modi said the dedication of Kudankulum 2 and laying of foundation concrete of Kundankulam 3 and 4 were examples of tangible results of India-Russia cooperation in the field.
“And, with proposed construction of another eight reactors, our wide ranging cooperation in nuclear energy is set to bring rich dividends for both of us. It also fits in with our needs of energy security, access to high technology and greater localization and manufacturing in India.”
The joint statement said Russia strongly supported India’s early entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and welcomed India’s accession to the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation and the Missile Technology Control Regime.
Talking about India’s expanding presence in Russia’s hydrocarbon sector, he said in last four months alone, Indian companies have invested close to USD 5.5 billion in that country’s Oil and Gas sector.
“And, with President Putin’s support, we are ready and willing to expand the scope of our engagement further. We are also undertaking a joint study of a gas pipeline route between our two countries.
“A combination of robust civil nuclear cooperation, LNG sourcing, partnership in the Oil and Gas sector, and engagement in renewables can construct a promising ‘Energy Bridge’ between our two countries,” he said.
The Prime Minister said the two countries also agreed to set up a Science and Technology Commission.
“Through this our societies will reap the benefits of joint development, transfer and sharing of cutting edge technologies in different fields,” he said.
The joint statement said Russia also supported India’s interest in full membership in the Wasseanaar Arrangement, a prominent multilateral export control regime
The joint statement said the two countries reaffirmed their continued commitment to work together towards development of energy efficiency and renewable energy source.
On trade ties, Modi said both countries continue to expand, diversify and deepen economic engagement.
“Businesses and industry between our two countries are connected more deeply today. Trade and investment ties are on the upswing.
“And, with President Putin’s backing, we hope to fast track India’s association with Eurasian Economic Union Free Trade Agreement,” he said.
Modi added that efforts by the two sides for early setting up of the Investment Fund of USD 1 billion between National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) and Russia Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) will help advance infrastructure partnership.
The Prime Minister said success of the Summit “shines a spotlight on the abiding strength of India-Russia strategic partnership.
“It also highlights our strong convergence of views and positions on pressing international and regional issues.”
Modi said both he and Putin noted the similarity of views on the situation in Afghanistan and turmoil in West Asia.
“We also agreed to work closely to respond to the challenges posed by the unsettled nature of the global economic and financial markets. Our close collaboration at the United Nations, BRICS, East Asia Summit, G-20 and Shanghai Cooperation Organization makes our partnership truly global, both in its scope and coverage,” he said.
Meanwhile, India today made some plain speaking to China that countries cannot afford to have differences on the issue of tackling terror and put forward its concerns over Beijing blocking UN designation of JeM chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist.
The Indian position was conveyed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Chinese President Xi Jinping during a bilateral meeting here that came against the backdrop of China putting on hold India’s move to get Azhar, the brain behind the Pathankot attack, banned by the UN.
The bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the BRICS summit to be held tomorrow saw Xi disclosing that a second round of dialogue between the two countries will be held soon on India’s bid for membership of the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in which New Delhi hopes “differences” will be narrowed down. Xi said the dialogue would be helpful.
On the issue of terrorism, Modi told Xi that “Both India and China are victims of terrorism and the region was suffering from the menace. The Prime Minister said no country is immune from terrorism and on this issue, we cannot afford to have any differences,” MEA Spokesperson Vikas Swarup told reporters after the meeting.
“In particular, India and China must increase their coordination in context of UN 1267 committee and look for common ground,” he said.
India has been upset with China when it put on technical hold New Delhi’s move to designate Azhar as a global terrorist by UN. Recently, China extended the hold by few months.
Swarup said both sides recognised that terrorism as a “key issue” with Xi asserting that the two sides should strengthen the security dialogue and partnership.
“Both India and China have been victims of terrorism which was a scourge afflicting the entire region,” Indian Ambassador to China Vijay Gokhale quoted Modi as saying while referring to terror incidents in Afghanistan, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
Swarup said India was in dialogue with China on enforcing a UN ban on Azhar. “We expect China will see logic in it.”
The Prime Minister said India and China must increase cooperation in the fight against terrorism and look for a common ground and a long-term road to tackle the menace.
Xi said India and China must step up counter-terrorism efforts and strengthen security dialogue and partnership.
It was announced that Yang Jiechi will meet his Indian counterpart NSA Ajit Doval soon.
Asked whether China has been provided with any evidence in the pursuit of obtaining China’s support on the Azhar issue, Swarup said “no evidence”.
He said Indian side has not spared any effort to convey that to Chinese and it hopes that they “see logic”.
To another question, he said China condemns all forms of terrorism and a counter-terrorism dialogue has taken place with it. “This will be discussed in the next round and our expectation is that China will take all steps… (to check the menace).”
Replying to questions whether China has softened on its stand on India’s NSG membership, Swarup said, “This shows there is dialogue, a good strategic dialogue. Of course this will narrow differences.”
Asked whether China reiterated the position that membership of the NSG was by consensus among parties, he replied “no”.
Last month, a Chinese delegation led by Director General of Department of Arms Control Wang Qun had visited India for talks on the issue with Indian officials.
In the June Plenary of NSG in Seoul, despite strong American support, China stonewalled India’s bid to get entry into the group on the grounds that it was a not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Swarup said Chinese leader clearly acknowledged increasing threat of terrorism and condemned all forms and manifestations of terrorism.
President Xi said terrorism and violent extremism were on the increase and alluded to the threat from ISIL while pitching for stepped up bilateral counter-terrorism efforts, Swarup told reporters.
Xi also said the two sides must maintain strategic dialogue on the counter-terrorism.
The two leaders also noted the upcoming visit by Chinese State Councillor Yang who will hold talks with National Security Advisor Doval where the dialogue will continue.
India and China held their first high level dialogue on counter-terrorism and security in September.
“The Chinese side is very well aware of our concerns, need for us to ensure that globally notified terrorists are designated by the UN. There is a close coordination between India and China on this issue and that particular dialogue will continue,” Swarup said.
He also said that there was a brief discussion on the NSG issue.
On the economic side, both leaders noted the progress made in sector with Xi talking about various to address the trade deficit in favour of China. (PTI)