Modi Pledges Closer India-Russia Ties and Fast-Tracked FTA

  • Russia’s position on terrorism ‘mirror’s India’s’: Modi
  • Agreements signed on defense, manufacturing, infrastructure

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to deepen defense ties with Russia at a bilateral meeting in Goa, as India continues its push to modernize its military amid rising tensions in South Asia.

Speaking on Saturday ahead of the BRICS summit alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he called “an old friend,” Modi announced several defense contracts – including for military helicopters and a deal to acquire Russia’s S-400 air defense system – and said India and Russia will hold an annual defense sector conference.

Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi in Goa on Oct. 15.

Photographer: Mikhail Metzel/Mikhail Metzel/TASS

"With the complex and changing global context, your leadership has provided stability and substance to our strategic partnership," Modi told Putin on stage, after the two governments finalized agreements ranging from defense and manufacturing to infrastructure.

A decision on the start of Eurasian Economic Union Free Trade Agreement talks involving India would be taken by the Eurasian Council in December, Putin said. The union includes Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

"Cooperation in military and military-technical spheres is developing successfully," Putin said on Saturday. "Russia is not only supplying arms and vehicles but also is opening joint ventures in India."

India is one of the world’s biggest arms importers, largely due to a lack of domestic manufacturing capacity. Modi has tried to boost India’s domestic defense manufacturing sector with his “Make in India” policy, and has pushed to strike deals with foreign defense firms that include local manufacturing and technology transfer. 

On Saturday, Modi said the finalized defense deals with Russia would contribute to his "Make in India" program. Military choppers and battleships will be assembled in India, Putin confirmed.

Modi said the one-on-one conversation with Putin, held over roughly two hours, would "lay the foundation for deeper defense and economic ties in years ahead." 

He praised Putin and the India-Russia relationship, and said Russia’s stance on cross-border terrorism "mirrors" that of India’s. Tensions have run high in South Asia after 19 Indian soldiers were killed in September by militants New Delhi said crossed over the de facto border that divides the disputed area of Kashmir between India and Pakistan. Pakistan has denied any involvement.

Defense ties between Russia and India are crucial for New Delhi. In part because of a Cold War alliance between Moscow and New Delhi, many of India’s weapons flow from Russia. From 2011 to 2015, nearly 40 percent of Russian arms exports went to India, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The two spoke ahead of the BRICS summit that involves leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa which takes place Oct 15-16.

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