Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 239

Top officials from the defense establishments of Russia and India yesterday wound up four days of closed-door talks in New Delhi aimed at boosting military cooperation between the two countries and, more specifically, at reaching agreement on specific purchases of Russian military equipment by India in the coming year. The talks — the fourth session of their kind — were held under the auspices of a Russian-Indian working group on military and technical cooperation. The Russian delegation was led by First Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Mikhailov.

At the close of the talks the two sides signed a protocol expressing their intention to deepen military cooperation and reaffirming their commitment to an earlier, long-term bilateral cooperation program. During a visit to Moscow by Indian defense minister Mulayam Singh in October, the two countries agreed officially to extend their program of military and technical cooperation from the year 2000 to 2010. (Itar-Tass, October 12) India is among the world’s top purchasers of Russian military hardware, and is estimated to have taken delivery of some $3.5 billion worth of military equipment between 1990 and 1996. (Itar-Tass, December 2) But despite such positive developments — from Moscow’s point of view at least –Indian officials have reportedly indicated their unease over possible delays in Russia’s export of parts for its military hardware. They suggested that, for this reason, India is pursuing a policy of self-sufficiency in arms production that will be based in part on acquiring licenses to produce Russian weaponry at home. (Itar-Tass, December 20, 22)

The weekend’s talks on military-technical cooperation follow two days of discussions, also in New Delhi, on the topic of broader commercial and economic relations between the two countries. Those discussions took place under the auspices of a bilateral intergovernmental commission on trade, economic, scientific, and cultural cooperation, chaired on the Russian side by First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais. Both sides apparently expressed distress during the talks that bilateral trade, estimated at $1.6 billion so far this year, has remained anemic despite a warming in political relations between India and Russia. The two sides signed an agreement on boosting trade in the Electronics and Information Technology sector, and also agreed to increase cooperation in civil aviation, in the exchange of trade information, and in high technology electronic materials and components. But accords of greater significance — also discussed during the Chubais visit — will apparently be finalized during a visit to India early in the new year by President Boris Yeltsin. That visit was said to have been scheduled for late January, but it is unclear whether Yeltsin’s current health problems will force a postponement. (Russian agencies, December 17; RIA, Xinhua, Itar-Tass, December 18; M2 Communications, December 19)

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