India, Russia to extend military cooperation beyond 2010

September 29th, 2008 - 5:18 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 29 (IANS) India and Russia Monday decided to extend their military cooperation for another 10 years beyond 2010 and set up an apex body to give “proper focus” to the various working groups dealing with different defence-related issues.The decisions were taken at the eighth meeting here of the India Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC) on contentious issues relating to two big ticket military deals the two countries have inked.

These relate to the additional $1.2 billion Russia has demanded for the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier that India has purchased for $1.5 billion and the delays in the indigenous production of the T-90 main battle tank due to Moscow’s refusal to transfer crucial technology.

“I am happy to say that we have taken a decision in principle to extend our military cooperation by another 10 years beyond 2010,” Defence Minister A.K. Antony said at a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov after they had co-chaired the commission meeting.

“We are taking our relationship forward from that of a vendor-seller to areas of design, development, co-production and co-marketing of military hardware,” Antony added.

“Both of us want to strengthen our relationship to make it more dynamic and to expand to more areas,” the minister maintained.

The two countries had also decided to not only stage more joint exercises but also to ramp up their scale, Antony pointed out.

On his part, Serdyukov largely echoed Antony’s sentiments but was reticent when asked a question on when Russia would lease a nuclear submarine to India, a crucial step in testing the underwater-launched version of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile the two countries have jointly developed.

“A lot of things are discussed in the media but we don’t know what it is,” was all that Serdyukov would say.

As for the new joint working group, Antony said it would be headed by the defence secretaries of the two countries and would meet at least once in six months.

“The first meeting will be held in Moscow well before the visit of the Russian President (Dmitri Medvedev) to India in December,” the minister said.

“Previously, there were many working groups but there was no focus. Therefore, we felt the need for an apex body so that all issues can be taken up holistically,” Antony explained.

Answering a question on the Gorshkov price hike, the minister said: “Positive discussions have been held over the past few months. The Russians have given their proposals. These have been examined. We are now in an advanced staged and soon hope to go to the relevant committee of the cabinet.”

On the T-90 tanks, Antony said: “There are some problems of support and these have caused some delays (in producing the tank in India). Today, we have decided to find a solution. Things will move fast.”

India had purchased some 300 T-90s from Russia in 2001, while another 1,000 were to be manufactured in this country. The delay in commencement of production prompted India to purchase another 300 tanks last year.

Antony, however, chose to ignore a question on the progress on an agreement the two countries inked last year to jointly design and produce a fifth generation stealth fighter.

The agreement had been signed last October when Antony visited Moscow for the seventh meeting of the inter-governmental commission.

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