Thu, Sep 05, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Putin, Modi vow closer ties at economic forum

OFF THE GROUND?The leader of a military helicopter project is hopeful that the talks would start production as the 2015 agreement has faced repeated delays

AFP, VLADIVOSTOK, Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, look at a model of the nuclear-powered icebreaker Lider at the Zvezda shipyard in Bolshoi Kamen, Russia, yesterday.

Photo: AP

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday said that he would boost ties with Moscow as he met Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin’s showcase economic forum in Russia’s far east.

Russia has hosted the three-day forum in Vladivostok since 2015 to boost partnerships with Asian nations.

“This is a historic opportunity to give a new impetus to cooperation between our countries,” Modi said at the start of talks after the men toured a naval shipyard.

“Today we are going to sign a declaration ... expressing our desire to further increase cooperation,” Putin said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was also to visit Vladivostok, along with Mongolian President Khaltmaa Battulga and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

However, Putin was spending most of his time yesterday with Modi, who highlighted his ties with the Russian leader in an interview ahead of the forum.

“Our relationship has special chemistry, special ease,” Modi told newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

Modi said he also planned to discuss tiger conservation with Putin, a lover of big cats.

After shaking hands warmly on Modi’s arrival, the two men boarded a Russian navy patrol ship and headed to the Zvezda shipyard about 40km across a bay from Vladivostok.

India is a key client for Russia’s arms industry and Moscow was looking to make progress on new deals during the talks.

Ahead of the visit, Kremlin foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov said that “increasing mutual investments” and “energy cooperation” would be high on the agenda.

Trade between the two nations amounted to about US$11 billion last year.

Moscow and Delhi are also looking at “opportunities to explore hydrocarbons on the continental shelf in the Arctic and the Russian far east” together, Ushakov said.

Russia and India in 2015 signed a US$1 billion agreement to jointly make Kamov Ka-226 military helicopters, part of the “Make in India” initiative to encourage foreign companies to manufacture their products there, but the deal has been pushed back repeatedly.

A major arms importer looking to modernize its armed forces, India is keen to produce more on its own soil, and in March launched a joint venture with Russia to manufacture AK-203 assault rifles.

Rostec, the umbrella corporation that controls Kamov, is “hopeful” that the summit can kick-start the helicopter project, its director for international cooperation Viktor Kladov said last week.

“A major push will be made, definitely,” he said. “All technical and commercial talks are finished.”

India last year purchased the Russian S-400 advanced air defense systems for more than US$5 billion, with deliveries to be made by 2023, defying US warnings of sanctions on nations buying Russian arms.

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