India and Russia work on fences, arms deals

By Maha Dahrawi, CNN Written by

India and Russia are working to improve ties, but Russia is still trying to strike an arms deals with the United States.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in India this week, his first visit to the country in 11 years, and it was billed as a sign of revival for the relationship.

During his four-day stay in New Delhi and his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Russia said it is working to strengthen its trading relations with India to “greater heights.”

India and Russia signed bilateral agreements worth $1.3 billion, and a memorandum of understanding between the Russian Direct Investment Fund and the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund of India was signed to help raise capital for infrastructure projects.

“We have an advanced relationship with Russia,” Modi said. “The strategy will be to make it more enhanced and stronger.”

New Delhi has been building closer ties with Russia after a period of political estrangement. It’s been courting the United States too as it balances ties with both regional powerhouses, but relations with both Washington and Moscow are in flux due to the changing geopolitical landscape.

Russia stands to lose business as it tries to sell the US$10 billion deal for the S-400 Triumf anti-aircraft system, although the Obama administration rejected the sale.

Russia also remains apprehensive about the future of the American nuclear submarine deal with India — the agreement was cancelled in 2015 after US objections over India’s nuclear test ban. The United States suspended much of its aid after India carried out nuclear tests in 2006 and again in 2013.

But Russia has also struck a number of deals with India to counterbalance declining ties with Washington. It also went to bat for the US in the wake of India’s decision to seek an exemption from the Iran nuclear deal.

In a written statement, Putin said he would discuss regional issues during his stay, where Russian support for India’s development in Afghanistan is expected to be on the agenda.

Ahead of Putin’s arrival, India’s biggest business lobby, the Confederation of Indian Industry, called on the government to “actively pursue cooperation in the domain of defense and security, as well as synergies between India’s civil nuclear and aerospace sectors with the Russian Federation’s space and defense technology.”

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