Defence deals worth around $4 billion (Rs 22,000 crore) were among 10 key pacts inked today between India and Russia after comprehensive talks including on differences over $three billion investment by Russian telecom major Sistema, whose licence was cancelled.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh undertook an extensive review of bilateral cooperation, especially in the field of nuclear energy and discussed ways to expedite an agreement for nuclear reactor 3 and 4 at Kudankulam.
The venue of the meeting between the two leaders was shifted at the last minute from Hyderabad House to 7, Race Course Road, the official residence of the Prime Minister in view of the large-scale protests after the gangrape incident.
All key bilateral issues, including defence, space, trade and investment, science and technology, education, culture and tourism were discussed in the meeting which also witnessed Russians raising their concerns over the issue of Sistema.
However, official sources only said "the issue (Sistema) was discussed" and did not divulge any more details.
Sistema, with investment of $3.1 billion, has 56.68 per cent stake in Shyam Sistema Teleservices (SSTL) whose 21 out of 22 licences were cancelled by the Supreme Court on February 2 as irregularities were found in their allocation.
Russian Government, which has a stake of 17.14 per cent in the company, has since been expressing concern and pressing India to ensure protection of Sistema's investment.
After his talks with Putin during the Russian leader's brief visit of nearly 18 hours for the bilateral summit, Singh said, "We also discussed regional and global issues, on many of which there is a marked congruence in our approach.
"The development of our nuclear energy programme has been a key pillar of our strategic partnership," the Prime Minister said while noting that construction of Unit 1 of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project was "now complete, and power generation will commence shortly". He also said India looks forward to the completion of Unit 2 next year.
"Negotiations for the construction of Units 3 and 4 at Kudankulam have made good progress," Singh said.
According to the sources, the two countries expect to finalise the negotiations for 3 and 4 soon.
"We expect that the implementation of our arrangements on the construction of new NPPs in India will begin in the nearest future," Putin had said ahead of his visit.
About their discussions on regional and international issues, Singh said, "India and Russia share the objective of a stable, united, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan, free from extremism, terrorism and external interference. We reviewed the ongoing developments in Afghanistan, and agreed to work together against threats posed by extremist ideologies and drug trafficking".
The pacts include Foreign Office consultations protocol, cultural exchanges, science, technology and innovation, telecommunications; financing of projects and promoting investments which envisages investments upto $2 billion in important bilateral projects or companies, privatisation and other opportunities.
The defence deals include contract for delivery of 71 Mi -17V-5 helicopters and contract for delivery of 42 technological kits for SU-30MKI aircraft licensed production.
"Russia is a key partner in our efforts to modernise our armed forces and enhance our defence preparedness. A number of joint design, development and production projects are underway in high technology areas. We expressed satisfaction that these projects are progressing well," the Prime Minister said.
Singh also noted that there was still untapped potential in areas such as pharmaceuticals, fertilisers, mining, steel, information technology, civil aviation, telecommunications, infrastructure, food processing, innovation and services.
"We have asked our inter-governmental and business level groups to recommend specific steps for enhancing bilateral trade and investment flows," the Prime Minister added.
The leaders also expressed satisfaction at the improved bilateral trade during 2011 and 2012 and agreed to enhance efforts to achieve the target of $20 billion bilateral trade by 2015.
India welcomed Russia's recent accession to the WTO and both sides agreed that it provided further opportunities to augment bilateral trade and investment and business-to- business linkages. "In this context, they called upon Russia- India Chief Executive Officers Council's meeting at the earliest," a joint statement said.
Noting that science and technology cooperation between the two countries remains robust, the Prime Minister said they welcomed the operationalisation of the India-Russia Joint Science and Technology Centres which can assist the development and commercialisation of promising technologies, including nano-technology, bio-medicine and super-computing.
"I particularly welcome the agreement on cooperation in using the GLONASS satellite navigation system that has just been signed," Singh said.