India and Russia seal new defence deals, trumpet partnership
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India agreed to buy dozens of Russian military helicopters and kits for the assembly of Sukhoi jets at a summit in New Delhi on Monday, where the leaders of both countries reaffirmed their commitment to a strategic partnership.
India, traditionally one of Moscow's top arms clients, said the two sides would also set up a joint venture to manufacture Russian-model helicopters and a $2 billion (1 billion pounds) fund to invest in trade and economic cooperation projects.
"Russia is a key partner in our efforts to modernise our armed forces," Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a statement, welcoming Russian President Vladimir Putin as "a valued friend and the original architect of the India-Russia strategic partnership".
Putin's one-day trip, his first to India since he started a new Kremlin six-year term in May, underlines Russia's interest in India, long a regional ally and now a partner in the BRICS group of emerging-market nations.
Writing in the Indian daily the Hindu earlier, Putin stressed that "deepening friendship and cooperation with India is among the top priorities of our foreign policy".
"India and Russia show an example of responsible leadership and collective actions in the international arena," he wrote, a veiled swipe at the West and in particular the United States, which Putin accuses of seeking to impose its will on the world.
Russian defence industry sources had said the visit could produce deals on the sale of fighter jets and aircraft engines worth more than $7.5 billion. However, the main agreements appeared to fall short of that figure.
Kremlin sources said Russia will sell India 71 MI-17 V-5 military helicopters worth $1.3 billion as well as technological kits worth $1.6 billion to assemble 42 Sukhoi SU-30MKI fighter jets. India's foreign ministry said the original deal for these jets was agreed last year.
Russia Helicopters and India's Elcom Systems Private Ltd will also set up a joint venture to manufacture helicopters.
Separately, Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) - a sovereign wealth fund - and Indian lender State Bank of India will jointly invest up to $2 billion to boost trade and economic cooperation projects.
RDIF said in a statement that the two firms will work together to facilitate access to long-term capital in Russia and India and promote mutual investments between the two countries.
(Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Ron Popeski)
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