Russia and India on Tuesday signed a pact worth up to 30 billion dollars on the development of a fifth-generation fighter aircraft and agreed to pursue a deal to build two Russian nuclear reactors. The agreements surrounded talks in New Delhi between visiting Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Indian Premier Manmohan Singh, during which both sides set a target of doubling bilateral trade to 20 billion dollars by 2015.
Medvedev arrived in India on Tuesday, seeking to fend off growing international competition for Indian defence contracts that were once monopolised by Moscow. India is one such country that is seeking to procure arms from all over the world, in a bid that is likely to destabilize the region’s balance of power.
British Prime Minister David Cameron was here in July, and US President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao have passed through over the last six weeks.
All the visits have secured deals and framework agreements worth billions of dollars, and the Russian president was also looking to seal key accords on the supply of fighter jets.
Traditionally India’s default defence supplier, Russia faces stiff competition from Europe and the United States as India diversifies its sources of military hardware and becomes more demanding over pricing and quality.
The meeting with Singh witnessed the signing of a contract on the joint design and development of fifth-generation fighter aircraft with stealth capabilities.
Although no figures were mentioned, the final deal could be worth close to 30 billion dollars, with India planning to induct up to 300 of the aircraft into its air force.
The two sides also agreed to pursue plans for Russia to build two additional generating units at a nuclear power plant in the southern Indian state of Tamil, where it is already setting up two reactors.
Energy-hungry India is one of the world’s biggest markets for nuclear technology with plans to reach a nuclear power capacity of 63,000 megawatts by 2032, from the current level of 4,560 megawatts.
“Those who hide terrorists hide criminals. No modern civilised state can hide terrorists,” Medvedev said.
He made no specific mention of Pakistan, perhaps in view of the snub the other world leaders have earned following statements that were only words of India put in their mouth for transient pleasure.
Critical of China’s military modernisation drive, India is embarking on what global consultancy firm KPMG has described as “one of the largest procurement cycles in the world”.
Between now and 2016, India’s defence sector is expected to spend 112 billion dollars on capital defence acquisitions, KPMG said in a recent report.