President Vladimir Putin said Russia remained the top supplier of advanced weapons and defence technology to its “privileged strategic partner” India and added that Moscow and other BRICS nations were determined to back New Delhi’s fight against terror.
“Russia remains in the lead in terms of both direct supplies of most advanced weapons and military equipment and conducting joint researches with India as well as producing goods for military purposes. Our countries actively collaborate in the military technical field,” Putin said in an exclusive interview to IANS and Sputnik news agencies.
He underlined India-Russia partnership in the development of BrahMos supersonic cruise missile and building of a new fifth-generation fighter aircraft as “the successful joint projects” of the two countries.
The President, who will be in Goa for the five-nation BRICS Summit this weekend, said many of the Russian projects in India not only have commercial importance but also play a significant social and economic role for the economies of the two partners.
Such projects, he said, “harmoniously fit in the new Indian industrialisation programme”, a reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” initiative.
“Russian companies see real prospects and high attractiveness of the Indian market,” Putin said in response to questions jointly emailed by IANS and Russian Sputnik wire service.
Describing India as “Russia’s especially privileged strategic partner,” Putin said the cooperation between the two countries was “making good headway in all areas on the basis of strong traditions of friendship, trust and mutual respect”.
Putin responded to a range of issues, including India-Russia economic ties, terrorism and Afghanistan.
On the economic front, he said India still remained “Russia’s major foreign trade partner” despite trade between the two countries dropping by 7.8 per cent last year.
“We are resolved to overcome the negative trend, which, in our opinion, is largely associated with volatility on the global markets and in exchange rates,” he said.
The comments come amid a notion that India had made a strategic shift in its military diplomatic ties after a rapid rise in arms trade with the US and other Western nations.
Russia has been traditionally the largest arms supplier to India. But the ties have witnessed some strain, particularly over the cost overrun of some Russian projects, including the delivery of aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov.
India has also made its concerns known over Russia’s decision to supply Pakistan with the Mi-35 attack helicopters and engines for the JF-17 — a lightweight single-engine multi-role combat aircraft developed jointly by China and Pakistan.
Russia recently also conducted a joint military drill with Pakistan, sparking strong opposition from India at a time New Delhi was seeking to isolate Islamabad on charges of sponsoring terrorism.
But Putin shared his views unambiguously on terrorism, saying the BRICS bloc was “determined” to cooperate in the fight against terrorism.
“For our five countries’ leaders this meeting (in Goa) will be a good opportunity to harmonise our positions on key issues on the international agenda. We are determined to cooperate in the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking and corruption,” Putin said.
Putin said BRICS, made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, would “also contribute to settling conflicts and ensuring international information security”.
The two-day summit in Goa begins on Saturday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to hold a bilateral meeting with Putin on the sidelines.
Modi is likely to raise the issue of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism with the Russian president.
On Afghanistan, Putin said India and Russia were both interested in deepening “constructive multilateral cooperation” to help rebuild the war-torn country where decisive action was needed to defeat terrorism.
“Russia and India share the need to support national reconciliation efforts under international law and are interested in deepening constructive multilateral cooperation for the purposes of assisting Afghanistan in solving the issues of national security, building counter-narcotics capacity, ensuring social and economic development, and enhancing interconnectivity.”
Questions to Putin were emailed before India’s September 29 surgical strikes targeting terrorist launch pads in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.