ROAR: “A Russian-Indian breakthrough”

Vladimir Kremlev for RT
By stepping up cooperation with the West and Russia, India is trying to ensure a “balance of forces,” analysts believe.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Moscow coincided with the conclusion of the Year of India in Russia. During this year, developments and achievements of India in different spheres have been presented in Moscow and the regions.

The media commented on the achievements in Russian-Indian cooperation that marked Singh’s visit, during which he met with the Russian president and prime minister on December 7. The parties adopted a joint declaration and signed important agreements, including documents on the cooperation in the nuclear sphere and a program of military-technical cooperation for 2011-2020.

The political element of talks between Russian and Indian leaders was as successful as the commercial one, Vremya Novostey daily said. The Indian prime minister supported Russian initiatives in the security sphere, the paper said, adding that Moscow considers India one of the candidates for permanent membership of the UN Security Council.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily described the agreements achieved in Moscow as a “Russian-Indian breakthrough.” They“ reflect the current ties and lift the strategic cooperation to a new level,” the paper wrote.

One of the most important results of the talks was the agreement between Russia and India on cooperation in civilian nuclear energy use, analysts say. It does not contain “such limitations as a similar India-US agreement,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta said. “In fact, it holds a potential possibility of Russia becoming the most important supplier of fuel for Indian nuclear plants,” the daily added.

Russia plans to build up to 20 nuclear plants in India. “It is not just billions, it is tens of billions of dollars,” Sergey Kiriyenko, head of Russia’s state nuclear corporation was quoted by the media as saying. “India is becoming the largest foreign partner for Rosatom,” Vedomosti daily added.

Dmitry Orlov, general director of the Agency of Political and Economic Communications described the agreement as “a favorable and profitable deal.” It is a contract working for “the development of Russian technologies,” he told actualcomment.ru website.

“The agreements with India in the civilian nuclear sphere demonstrate that our technologies have found a market abroad,” he said. “This interest stimulates scientific developments in the country and makes concrete profit for a federal budget.”

India is already a nuclear power “irrespective of Russia’s will,” Orlov added. “I think that our assistance to India in developing civilian nuclear energy and the realization of its nuclear program in no way will affect the defensive capacity of that country,” he said. The export of non-military nuclear reactors “does not change the balance of forces in the defensive sphere or break any of our commitments,” he added.

Moscow and New Delhi have also reached an agreement on the modernization of the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier that India had purchased, the media say. The two countries have been negotiating the final cost of the warship after Russia had asked for an additional $1.2 billion to the original $1.5-billion 2004 contract.

“Last time Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Moscow in December 2007 to meet then-President Vladimir Putin,” Kommersant daily said. “But because of stagnation in bilateral trade and scandals in military and technical cooperation, that visit became the least effective of all,” the paper said. “Russia’s overhauling of the conditions of the contract on the modernization of the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier became a serious irritant,” the paper said.

“After that, the relations between Moscow and New Delhi chilled, and India started coming closer to the US, including in the spheres where it had cooperated with Russia before,” the daily said.

In 2007, New Delhi and Washington signed an agreement on nuclear cooperation, and in July this year India signed a contract to purchase 100 American fighters, the paper said. “One-and-a-half weeks before the current visit to Moscow, Manmohan Singh paid a state visit to the United States,” it added.

“However, during yesterday’s talks in the Kremlin with President Medvedev, the Indian prime minister made it clear that the rapprochement with the United States should not be regarded as India’s readiness to rely solely on Washington and sacrifice relations with Moscow for the sake of it,” Kommersant said.

Russia and India “have confirmed plans for military integration,” Rosbalt news agency said. In September, the defense ministries of the two countries agreed to prolong the agreement on cooperation in the military sphere for ten years, it added. The plans include selling Russian T-90 tanks, joint development and building of transport planes and a fighter.

“In the future, India may become the main purchaser of Russian arms,” the agency said. However, New Delhi wants “technologies and licenses,” not just “metal,” Boris Volkhonsky of the Center of Indian Studies at Institute of Oriental Studies told the agency. India took a fairly tough line on imports of Russian arms in the 1990s, he added. Nevertheless, India is ready to meet Russia halfway “for strategic considerations,” the agency said.

India’s prime minister stressed that New Delhi was also interested in new areas of cooperation, such as the pharmaceutical and diamond industries, as well as bio-, nano- and information technology.

Stepping up their cooperation, Russia and India are pursuing not only economic, but also geopolitical interests, said Evgenia Voyko of the Center for Political Conjuncture. The two countries have confirmed the strategic character of relations, emphasizing the strength of ties during the crisis, she added.

“It is very important for Moscow to intercept the initiative of ‘the Indian expansion’ from the United States,” the analyst said. Another direction of Russia’s policy is cooperation with India in the military sphere, but the “Chinese factor in Russian foreign policy” partly hinders that, she noted.

At the same time, the Indian leadership notices “the growing US presence” in different industries, and strengthening relations with Moscow is aimed at ensuring “the balance of forces,” she said.

Sergey Borisov, RT