Putin wants to expand Russian ties with India

Russia and India have shared close ties since the Cold War, when Moscow was a key ally and the main arms supplier to New Delhi.

Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service/RIA Novosti/AP
Russian President Vladimir Putin opens a meeting of the Russian Geographical Society in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has voiced hope for expanding ties with India during his visit there and sought to assuage New Delhi's concern about Moscow's ties with Pakistan.

Putin, speaking in an interview with the PTI news agency released by the Kremlin on Tuesday, hailed a "privileged strategic partnership" between Russia and India, and said the two nations would move to expand it further during his Thursday's visit to New Delhi.

He praised Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a "reputable political leader, who has already made a significant personal contribution to the promotion of the Russian-Indian cooperation."

Russia and India have shared close ties since the Cold War, when Moscow was a key ally and the main arms supplier to New Delhi.

Putin has sought to reinvigorate relations with old allies as part of his efforts to restore Moscow's global clout, and India has remained a top customer for Russian weapons industries.

Putin said in the interview that military ties remain a key part of Russian-Indian cooperation and pointed at programs to jointly develop supersonic cruise missiles and a next generation fighter jet.

"The high level of bilateral cooperation and trust allows us to start a gradual transition from the traditional producer-consumer model to joint development and production of advanced weapons systems," he said.

Putin voiced hope that energy cooperation will also expand, saying that Moscow would welcome Indian energy companies to tap prospective oilfields in the Arctic. Russia plans to start supplies of liquefied natural gas to India starting in 2017, he said.

Putin also sought to soothe New Delhi's concerns about Moscow's intention to develop military-technical ties with India's rival Pakistan, saying that Russia's cooperation with Pakistan is focusing on cooperation in fighting terrorism and drugs.

"This kind of cooperation serves the long-term interests of all countries of the region, including India," he said.

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