India, Russia to bolster ties

MOSCOW, Oct 20:
Strengthening of “special and privileged strategic partnership” between India and Russia formed the central theme of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s wide-ranging talks with her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov here today.
The talks took place in the backdrop of warming up of ties between Pakistan and Russia which signed a defence agreement this year. Ending its self-imposed embargo on arms sales to India’s archrival, Moscow has agreed to sell four MI-35 attack helicopters to Pakistan.
Russian Ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin made light of the helicopter deal with Pakistan, telling PTI here: “What is the big deal about our giving four helicopters to Pakistan? We are giving technology to India to make 200 helicopters. India will be a helicopter superpower.”
He was referring to a Rs 6,000-crore deal between a Russian company and Anil Ambani’s Reliance to manufacture 200 twin-engine Kamov 226T choppers for the Indian Army in India which is a boost to the “Make in India” programme.
The Kamov helicopter deal was one of topics of discussion between Swaraj and Lavrov which also covered key regional and bilateral issues including defence, civil nuclear cooperation and trade ties.
India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said Swaraj talked about “strengthening a special and privileged strategic partnership” with Russia during her meeting with Lavrov.
Swaraj described Russia as India’s “tried and tested” partner and a “real friend”.
“I want to tell you that Russia is India’s tried and tested partner and a real friend. Our foreign policy towards Russia has always been the same,” she said.
Swaraj also raised the issue of liberalisation of visa regime for Indian tourists and businessmen during the talks which lasted for over an hour, according to Swarup.
The Minister also said she was very happy to convey that there was progress on all components of “Druzhba-Dosti”, the vision document agreed upon during the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin last year.
Swarup said the two ministers talked ways to boost cooperation in civil nuclear sector and trade and investments. The two sides also discussed situation in Syria and UN Security Council reforms.
On his part, Lavrov said he was hopeful that Swaraj’s visit will provide impetus to India-Russia ties.
He also referred to India’s entry into Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and said that its full membership will give boost to the efforts of the group in achieving its goals.
Russia has been favouring India’s permanent SCO membership, saying joining of the group by the largest democracy will add weight to the organisation. (PTI)