Warm Russian, Indian ties outlive Cold War

Russian Prez Medvedev`s warm reception in India, including a $35 billion stealth jet fighters deal, dispels Russian fears its former Cold War ally has turned to the West.

Mumbai: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev`s warm reception in India, including wrapping up a stealth jet fighters deal potentially worth $35 billion, dispels Russian fears its former Cold War ally has turned to the West.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has in the space of a few months hosted all the leaders of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, said "Russia is a time-tested friend of India" at the start of Medvedev`s two-day trip on Tuesday.

"In the past few weeks a number of heads of state have made visits to India. India has emerged as one of the fastest and (most) powerful economies with plus 8 percent GDP growth rate," Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna said on Wednesday in New Delhi.

"In the whole world only India and China could withstand the recession in the past. This shows the resilience of India and its increasing role in world politics and economy," he said.

Russia has been India`s close economic and political partner since Soviet days, and monopolized India`s defense market for decades, but India has been steadily reducing its reliance on one country to reflect its growing influence on the world stage.

Medvedev will spend his last day in India visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra, meeting students in Mumbai and touring "Bollywood" film studios, a big export industry to Russia.

Medvedev, a photography buff who frequently posts his own photos on the Internet, took pictures of the 17th century monument dedicated to love.

"The Taj Mahal is a unique achievement of mankind," Mevedev wrote in the guest book.

Russia joined the United States and France in offering support for India for a permanent seat at an expanded Security Council to reflect the growing might of emerging economies.

India says a seat on the Security Council would reflect the G20 nation`s importance as its $1.3 trillion economy helps spur global growth and its government exerts more and more influence over issues from Doha trade to climate talks.

Reform is unlikely to happen quickly, however, with China decidedly lukewarm about admitting its regional rival to the U.N. top table.

India`s growing ties with the United States, underscored by a landmark civil nuclear deal, has made Russia ill at ease.

India, the second fastest-growing major economy in the world after China, is one of the top arms importers and plans to spend about $50 billion on defense in the next few years to upgrade its aging Soviet-era arsenal, mainly to counter a perceived China threat.

World leaders, accompanied by top executives, are hungry to secure a slice of India`s largely undeveloped economy, expected to grow at near-double digit rates for the next decade, making it one of the five largest economies in the world by 2020.

Russia has long seen India, which has a tradition of trying to ensure it does not walking a careful line to avoid backing one camp over another, as a counterweight to China and a potential ally in Afghanistan.

No details were given as to the size of the potential aircraft deal between Russia and India, but both countries have in the past talked about producing 250-300 such fighters over 10 years, unofficially said to be worth about $35 billion.

Boeing`s F/A-18 Super Hornet, France`s Dassault Rafale, Lockheed Martin Corp`s F-16, Russia`s MiG-35, Sweden`s Saab JAS-39 Gripen and the Eurofighter Typhoon are competing for a separate order from India for 126 fighter jets, valued at about $10.4 billion.

India and Russia agreed to open talks on building a third and fourth reactors for a nuclear power plant in India`s southern state of Tamil Nadu, but failed to sign a firm deal because of Russian concerns over a recently passed liabilities bill.

Bureau Report