Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has sealed a visit to India with a raft of multibillion-dollar arms and energy deals, including the construction of 16 Russian nuclear reactors.
The two countries also signed agreements for the long-awaited sale to India of a refitted Soviet-era aircraft carrier as well as 29 MiG fighter jets, further cementing Moscow’s role as New Delhi’s principal arms provider.
Energy-hungry India is one of the world’s biggest markets for nuclear technology and the reactor deal is a triumph for Russia’s state atomic agency Rosatom, which faces stiff competition from French and US rivals.
While welcoming the deals, Putin stressed the two Cold War allies were still short of realising the potential of their partnership, one half of the powerful four-strong BRIC group of emerging nations that includes China and Brazil.
“The level of our capabilities has not been reached,” he said following talks with Indian Premier Manmohan Singh on Friday.
Singh hailed the meeting with Russia – a “trusted and reliable strategic partner” and a “pillar of our foreign policy” – and pointed to the “rich and very substantive” agreements signed in nuclear energy, defence, space and other sectors.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said the reactor agreement covered the construction of “up to 16 nuclear energy units” at three Indian sites.
Earlier, Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Russia’s state atomic agency, said six of the reactors would be built by 2017.
Two units are under construction in Tamil Nadu state. Russia won a deal to build four more in 2008. It was unclear if the 16 reactors referred included these six.
The accord on the aircraft carrier, the Admiral Gorshkov, marks the end of a lengthy purchase process marred by price disputes and delayed deliveries.
Ivanov said the ship would be delivered by the end of 2012. Experts believe the final cost to be about $A2.51 billion.
Russia supplies 70 per cent of India’s military hardware.
Mikhail Pogosyan, the general director of Russian plane maker Sukhoi as well as the unit that makes MiGs, estimated the value of the MiG-29K fighter deal around $US1.5 billion ($A1.64 billion).
At just over $A8.2 billion in 2009, bilateral trade is miniscule and the two countries aim to lift it to $A21.9 billion by 2015.
“There is the political will on both sides, but we need support from the captains of industry,” Putin said.
“Cooperation in hi-tech is the priority for us,” he added. “The Russian government is ready to directly support this activity, with
the help of additional financial assistance, if need be.”
On security issues, Putin said militant outfits operating along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border were cause for concern not just to Russia and India but the region.
Putin also said Russia had prioritised its military relations with India over rival Pakistan, with which New Delhi has fought three wars since 1947.
Russia also agreed to help put an Indian into space in 2015 – the target date for India’s first manned space mission.