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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 January 2007, 06:19 GMT
Putin set for arms, energy talks
Trade between Russia and India
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Moscow, May 2005
Trade between the two is currently worth $2bn a year
Russia is helping build two nuclear reactors in Tamil Nadu and is offering four more
India is keen to source more oil and gas from Russia
Russia is keen to sell India its new MiG 35 fighter jet

Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in India for talks expected to focus on multi-billion dollar arms and energy contracts.

Mr Putin will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other Indian leaders during his two-day trip.

On the eve of the visit, Russia and India signed two deals on the production and joint development of aircraft and fighter plane engines.

Russia is also offering to build four nuclear power reactors in India.

The two countries have had close links since Soviet times, with India remaining a top buyer of Russian weaponry.

However, the relationship faces new challenges, including competition from the West and the growing economic and military might of China

Signing new co-operation agreements with his Indian counterpart on Wednesday, Russia's Defence Minister, Sergei Ivanov, said a close and trusting relationship with India remained a top priority.

'Strategic triangle'

Russia is currently bidding to supply more than 120 fighter planes to Delhi.

Moscow faces stiff competition from Western manufacturers, leading a top Russian official to warn of "consequences" should India choose a Western manufacturer.

Russia and India are also rapidly deepening co-operation in the energy sector.

Russia has identified India as a new market for its civilian nuclear technology, with Russian engineers already building two reactors in India.

For its part, India has declared an interest in securing a stake in future Russian oil and gas field developments.

Future plans aside, businessmen from both countries say urgent action is needed to tackle insurmountable bureaucracy.

The BBC's Russian affairs analyst Steven Eke says when weapons are left out of the equation, trade between Russia and India has actually fallen to its lowest level for more than two decades.

Nonetheless, many Russian diplomats see a special place for India, our analyst says.

They have repeatedly raised the idea of a strategic triangle, uniting Russia, India and China, in an axis opposed to the global dominance of the United States.

It has been stymied by realities on the ground, including the fact that Russia and India are both wary of China's status as an emerging economic and military super-power, our analyst adds.


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