|Thursday, October 5, 2000,
India, Russia sign arms deals
NEW DELHI, Oct 4 — A new era dawned today in the Indo-Russian defence ties with the two countries signing multi-billion dollar agreements for sale of armaments. They also decided to set up an inter-governmental commission on defence and technical cooperation.
The visiting Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Mr T.T. Klebanov, and the Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, signed the protocol and the agreements at a ceremony at South Block today in the presence of top-ranking civil and military officials from both sides.
The agreements, which came a day after than when they were actually expected see India and Russia shifting away from their buyer-seller relationship to one that of joint production.
Besides the signing of the three major deals for the supply and production of T-90 battle tanks, Sukhoi-30s and the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, which come as a shot in the arm for all three wings of the Indian defence forces, Mr Fernandes and Mr Klebanov also inked an agreement which will open new vistas in defence cooperation. The signing of the inter-governmental commission on military-technical cooperation is a new step since till now defence cooperation between the two countries was only till the joint working group level.
The commission, which will be co-chaired by Mr Fernandes and Mr Klebanov, is likely to have two working groups, headed by the Defence Secretary and the Secretary, Defence Production of the two countries.
Three major agreements for the supply from Russia of Admiral Gorshkov, frontline T-90 tanks and the licenced production in India of SU-30 MKI multi-role fighter aircraft and a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the peaceful use of nuclear energy were signed after months of negotiations. Apparently, there were still some last-minute hitches in the signing of the deal for the purchase of Admiral Gorshkov but were solved after prolonged talks between the officials of the two countries over the past two days.
The memorandum of understanding for cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy was signed by the Russian Deputy Prime Minister and the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Mr Brajesh Mishra.
Sources disclosed that India’s suggestion for a combined package pricing of various weapons had prevailed after the two sides had differences during the price negotiations for the armament systems. The single largest defence pact is estimated to be in the range of $ 3 billion.
Though defence officials were tightlipped about the number of T-90’s — the most advanced Russian battle tank — being purchased, highly placed sources said a total of 310 tanks would be inducted with 124 of them being picked off the shelf. The rest will be assembled in India under licence after the assembly line has been set up.
Earlier, describing India an “equal partner, long-term friend and an ally”, Russian President Vladimir Putin today assured the Indian Parliament that Moscow’s ties with other countries would not be at the cost of its special relations with India.
Addressing a joint sitting of the two houses of Parliament, the visiting Russian President came down heavily against the scourge of international terrorism that was a serious challenge to both India and Russia which “are large federal pluralistic states in the world”.
Departing from his prepared speech, Mr Putin told the august gathering that the same terrorist organisations and in some instances the same persons were active in acts of terrorism from Philippines to Kosovo.
In an obvious reference to Pakistan, he made it clear that “no matter how our relations develop with other countries, Asian or otherwise, that will not prejudice our relations with India”.
The Russian President said India and Pakistan should resolve the “Kashmir issue” through “bilateral efforts” and expressed his disapproval of “outside interference”. He regretted that during the past 50 years, the two countries did not succeed in resolving it, but praised India’s “consistent position” on the issue.
Mr Putin’s remarks on Kashmir andother issues triggered, thunderous applause from those assembled.
In his 15-minutes address, amidst cheering and applause, the young Russian President said: “We fully support the Indian initiative of a collective front to fight terrorism”.
On India’s stand on the nuclear issue, Mr Putin was confident that the country was moving towards tighter non-proliferation norms. He said Russia wanted to see India as a prosperous country and a major factor in contributing towards global stability.
The theme of international terrorism figured prominently in the speeches of the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, the Lok Sabha Speaker, Mr G.M.C. Balayogi, and the Vice-President, Mr Krishan Kant, who in his welcome address said India and Russia today were facing dangers of international terrorism.
While Mr Kant called for joint efforts to meet the challenge posed by “self-serving merchants of death”, Mr Vajpayee stressed that “the international community should resolve to overcome these challenges through concerted efforts”.
The Prime Minister said that one of the major challenges which we, in this region, have faced over a decade is the menace of international terrorism, religious extremism, drug trafficking and narco-terrorism and separatism”.
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