India and Russia on Monday inked as many as 28 pacts, including a big-ticket defence deal to jointly manufacture over half-a-million AK-203 assault rifles in this country, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin held the 21st India-Russia Summit in the national capital to boost bilateral strategic and trade ties.
Modi welcomed the visiting President at the iconic Hyderabad House in the heart of Delhi with a hug this evening. "Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, there has been no change in the relationship between India and Russia. You (Putin) should be credited for the strategic ties between our countries for three decades," Modi said in his opening remarks.
President Putin, on his part, described India as a "great power" and "a time-tested friend".
"We are working on very promising sectors, including energy and space. We are also working and cooperating in areas of military and technology. We are naturally concerned about everything related to terrorism, terror funding, and drug trafficking and that is why we are naturally concerned about the situation in Afghanistan."
Briefing reporters after the late-evening summit, Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla emphasised that both the leaders discussed Indo-Pacific and Delhi's security concerns in the wake of the situation in Afghanistan. "Both sides were clear that Afghan territory should not be used for sheltering, training or planning acts of terrorism."
Responding to a poser on the long-range S-400 surface-to-air missile defence system deal between the two countries, the Foreign Secretary said that "supplies have begun this month and will continue to happen", indicating that the pact was already signed amid threats of American sanctions.
Earlier in the day, the much-awaited AK-203 assault rifle deal worth Rs 5,000 crore was sealed after a bilateral meeting between Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoigu in Delhi, as the two countries also renewed their military-technology ties for the next decade.
"India deeply appreciates Russia's strong support for India. We hope that our cooperation will bring peace, prosperity and stability to the entire region. Glad that a number of agreements/contracts/protocols were signed pertaining to small arms and military cooperation,” Singh tweeted.
Under this defence pact, India and Russia will manufacture the assault rifles at a facility in Amethi in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. A joint venture, called Indo-Russian Rifles Private Limited, has already been floated for the same.
While Putin arrived in the Indian capital on Monday evening, the Russian Defence Minister and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov came here on Sunday for the first-ever 2+2 meeting with their Indian counterparts. This was Prime Minister Modi and President Putin's first face-to-face meeting after the one on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in Brazil in 2019.
“The visit is of historic importance as it's the first physical contact after a long gap, since 2019. This is the first foreign trip since then for the President of the Russian Federation and that should testify to the importance of our bilateral relations and its exclusive nature," Russian Ambassador to India Nikolay Kudashev had earlier told the media.