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  • Bilateral ties with Russia to reach 'great heights': PM

    Moscow (PTI): Underscoring Russia's "special and unique" place in India's foreign relations, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has hoped that bilateral cooperation in the fields of defence and energy security will continue to grow in future.

    "India and Russia have enjoyed close ties of friendship and partnership over the last sixty years. Russia occupies a special and unique place in India's foreign relations. Our time-tested relationship is based on deep mutual trust and understanding," Singh, who will leave for Moscow on Sunday on a two-day visit, said in an interview to government agency RIA Novosti.

    Expressing optimism on the future of bilateral strategic partnership between the two nations, he said "Indo-Russian relations will grow to great heights. The evolution of our relations will be based on the solid foundation of the last sixty years. I see a continuing convergence and similarity of our world views on major international issues.

    The prime minister dubbed Russia as India's "most important partner" in defence cooperation.

    "Russia is the only country with which we have a formal mechanism of an Inter-Governmental Commission for military-technical cooperation, which meets annually under the chairmanship of the two defence ministers," Singh underscored.

    "Defence cooperation is an integral element of our strategic partnership. Joint research, development and production of defence equipment will continue to play an important role in strengthening India's strategic partnership with Russia," Singh said noting that many defence contracts between the two nations are at various stages of implementation.

    He cited last month's signing of inter-governmental agreement for cooperation in the production and development of fifth generation multi-functional fighter aircraft (FGFA).

    "I am sure that bilateral collaboration in the field of military technical cooperation will continue to grow in the future," the PM said.

    He proposed India, with its rapidly increasing energy demands, could become a major guarantor of energy demand for Russia, with its immense proven reserves of oil and gas.

    "With India growing at over 8-9 per cent per annum, our energy requirements are increasing rapidly. President Putin has defined energy security as not just security of supply but also security of demand. India can be a major guarantor for energy demand," Singh said.

    He noted that Indian and Russian oil and gas companies are engaged in discussions to expand their cooperation beyond the Sakhalin-1 project. At the same time, Russian oil and gas companies are active in India.

    The Prime Minister named enhancement of power generation capacity as an extremely important objective for India. According to him, India needs energy from all sources, including renewable and nuclear energy.

    "We have plans to produce 20,000 MW of nuclear power by 2020. International civil nuclear energy cooperation will enable us to augment our nuclear energy production," Singh stated.

    He expressed gratitude for Russia's ongoing partnership in the construction of nuclear power units at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu.

    Sources said the two countries could sign a fresh deal for the construction of four more reactors at Kudankulam to enhance its projected capacity from 2 MW to 6 MW on Monday.

    Responding to a question about his vision of Indo-Russian strategic partnership after 15 years, Singh said: "I am very optimistic about the future of our strategic partnership with Russia."

    Singh pointed that Indo-Russian "geo-political interests have always had much in common" and Moscow and New Delhi have intensive contacts at all levels.

    He expressed gratitude to Russian President Vladimir Putin for strong personal commitment to Indo-Russian relations and for institutionalising the mechanism of annual summit- level exchanges during his first visit to India in 2000.

    "We have a shared destiny, and a common neighbourhood where we seek to build an atmosphere of peace, stability and cooperation. India and Russia will continue to work together to shape an equitable international order which reflects contemporary realities," he said.

    Singh is scheduled to hold wide-ranging talks with President Putin in the Kremlin on Monday.

    "India and Russia present a unique example of two large states with a strong interest in a peaceful, secure and prosperous world order and high stakes in the orderly functioning of the international system," Singh pointed out.

    He said that their shared world view, which envisages a strong role for the United Nations, could help foster closer political relations and cooperation in multilateral forums.

    "I also see much more collaboration to exploit our mutual strengths and complementarities.

    "The rapid growth of our economies will create new opportunities for mutual cooperation, particularly in the area of energy security. Apart from this, the traditional pillars of our strategic partnership can be expected to see a further deepening," he said.


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