India, Russia to work in 31 new areas of defence co-op

India, Russia to work in 31 new areas of defence co-op Moscow: Describing Russia as a time-tested friend, India on Thursday said the two countries will work in 31 new areas under long-term military cooperation programme to be inked during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit here in December this year.

"Russia is a time-tested, dependable friend of India. Our special defence relationship with Russia will continue," Defence Minister A K Antony told reporters at the end of his three-day official visit to Moscow.

"The extension of our long-term defence cooperation programme till 2020 would include 31 new areas," he said but declined to give details.

Antony, who co-chaired the 9th session of the India- Russia Intergovernmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation along with his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov, said that the military cooperation with other countries "will not be at the cost of Russia."

He thanked Russia for the cooperation extended to India in developing indigenous nuclear submarine INS Arihant. "Cooperation in such sensitive areas will continue, but I have my own secrets to keep," he said when asked about the new areas of defence co-operation.

Antony said under the new programme -- marking the decisive transition from the 'buyer-seller' relationship to the joint research -- development and production of futuristic weapon systems and platforms like fifth generation fighter aircraft and multi-role transport aircraft for the military projects would shortly enter into the phase of implementation.

Responding to a question on the issue of aircraft carrier Gorshkov, Antony said the talks would be continued next month, when a Russian team is scheduled to visit India.

"In last six months the things are moving on the fast track and both sides are committed to resolve the issue at the earliest," he said.

Responding to a question about the recent CAG report criticising the Gorshkov deal, Antony said: "We are keeping in mind CAG report and can say something only after the upgraded Gorshkov is delivered in 2012."

Regarding the delay in the delivery of Akula-II class nuclear attack submarine on 10 year lease, he said the issue was discussed with the Russian Defence Minister.

"He assured that everything is being done to cover up the delay caused by last year's accident and the submarine will be handed over at the earliest," Antony said.

Besides the military-technical cooperation Antony also discussed the strategic issues, including the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan with Russian defence minister as they pose common threats and challenges to both countries.

Bureau Report