Source AP ©

Russia, India agree on new transport plane

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian President Vladimir Putin wrapped up a visit that highlighted deepening military and economic ties between the two nations and signed a deal to jointly build a multipurpose transport plane.

It was unclear, however, whether the two sides were able to reach agreement to jointly build a new generation of fighter jets - something that has been long under discussion between Moscow and New Delhi.

Military ties between two countries have deepened in recent years as India has bought more Russian military hardware; India now ranks alongside China as a top customer for Russia's weaponry.

"The talks, as always, took place in a constructive and genuine business atmosphere," Putin told reporters after talks ended. "For us, it is important that this Moscow visit again confirmed our mutual interest in developing long-term cooperation in all key spheres."

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, meanwhile, said India is hoping for deeper cooperation from Russia in developing its nuclear energy industry. Russia, which is building a nuclear power plant at Kudankulam in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, is hoping to win a contract for more nuclear reactors.

Putin also called for expanding energy ties between two countries. India has been trying to increase investment in the Russian oil industry, especially in new exploration areas off Russia's Pacific Coast.

India's state-run oil company ONGC Videsh Ltd. has already invested US$1.7 billion (EUR1.31 billion) in an oilfield on Sakhalin Island.

Before talks began, the two leaders tried to emphasize the positive relations between the two countries.

"Russia is a tried and tested friend of our country. Your contribution to the strengthening of that friendship has been immense," Singh told Putin.

Putin responded: "I hope that despite our cold, wintry Moscow weather, you will feel the warmth of our hearts. Our relationship has a long history and today it is developing at the highest pace."

Officials also signed an agreement to change how India repays its Soviet-era debts to Moscow. Russia had been angling for a deal that would allow it to reinvest Indian debt payments in more parts of the Indian economy.

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