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19 Oct 07. India and Russia have signed a “landmark” intergovernmental agreement for the joint development and joint production of a Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA). The agreement was signed at the conclusion of the seventh meeting of the India- Russia Intergovernmental Commission for Military and Technical Cooperation, in the presence of Indian defence minister AK Antony and his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov.

The agreement will mark the launch of another chapter in the joint development of state- of-the-art weapon systems by the two countries. The BrahMos cruise missile is already a successful example of joint development of such weapon systems by both the countries.

Secretary (defence production), KP Singh and deputy director of the Federal Service for Foreign Military Cooperation, Vyacheslav Dzirkaln signed the agreement on behalf of both the countries. The two defence ministers, Antony and Serdyukov, signed a protocol that envisages a ‘new strategic relationship’ based on greater interaction at various operational levels.

Speaking to reporters, Antony said the two countries have agreed to strengthen and expand relations in all areas, especially with regard to joint exercises between the respective defence forces, as well as in the field of research and development. “Now the frequency and level of exercises will be higher,” Antony said.

He also mentioned that talks with Russia have begun to extend the military cooperation agreement beyond 2010. The pact had been signed during the Russian president Vladimir Putin’s visit to India in 2000. The current programme for the period 2000-2010 involves 200 defence projects estimated at $18bn.

“Russia is also set to lease out to India an Akula-II nuclear submarine for a period of 10 years beginning with 2008 or 2009,” the Izvestia national daily reported on Thursday.

Antony described the agreement on FGFA as a “major landmark.” He hoped that the two countries would soon sign an intergovernmental agreement on co-development and co-production of a multi-role transport aircraft. He also expressed satisfaction at the outcome of discussions on other important projects e.g., supply and licensed production of T-90 tanks, SU-30 MKI aircraft and other strategic issues. On the issue of the refurbished aircraft carrier, Admiral Gorshkov (redesignated INS Vikramaditya), he admitted that there was a delay. According to Antony, it had been decided that technical groups would conduct some more studies. He appreciated the efforts made by the Russian side to resolve issues relating to life cycle support of equipment of Russian origin.

On the question of an “integrity pact,” in defence deals, another sore point between the two countries, as Russia has refused to sign any such provision, he said, “the objective is neither to create problems for anybody nor to favour anybody. What India wants is transparency in all defence purchases. In the past, there have been a lot of controversies. We want to avoid it. We want speedy modernisation but with transparency. The integrity pact is one of the safeguards for transparency.” Antony, who arrived here on Tuesday, visited the NPOM missile factory, which is India’s partner in BrahMos Aerospace. He is believed to have pressed the Russian side to buy the missile for its armed forces.

Before leaving for home Antony is also scheduled to call on deputy prime minister Sergei Ivanov, who has overall supervision of defence R&D and military industrial complexes in the Russian cabinet.

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