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Antony arrives in Russia; defence ties on agenda

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Indian Defence Minister AK Antony and Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov. A File Photo.

MOSCOW (PTI): Defence Minister A K Antony arrived here Tuesday for a crucial meeting of a key joint defence commission as the two countries are poised to finalise new co-ventures in strategic weapons, including investment and technical parameters of 5th generation fighters.

During the three-day visit, Antony would hold one-to-one meetings with his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov and take part in talks at the Indo-Russian Inter-governmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC), the apex body for co-ordination of ongoing defence projects.

The visit comes as several key Indo-Russia defence projects including the delivery of aircraft carrier Gorshkov and nuclear Akula-II class submarine are delayed.

The Russians are playing down the delays and hiccups, saying that the situation has drastically changed over last two years and the projects have been put on fast track.

However, no new defence agreements are expected to be signed during the visit, except the classified protocol of the 9th session. But the two sides are expected to explore possibilities of new joint ventures in advances weapon systems.

Defence sources said that despite India's drive for diversification of military acquisitions, Russia has remained the source of its most sensitive defence technologies.

The recent launching of indigenous nuclear submarine INS Arihant under one of India's most secretive Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) Project, lease of Akula-II class Nerpa nuclear attack submarine, BrahMos cruise missile technology and joint development of fifth generation fighter aircraft are examples handed out by Russians as the most lucrative projects.

"Unlike in the case of other partners, Russia has not denied India any technology it wanted," defence sources here say.

Antony, who under the austerity drive of the government arrived on a regular flight, is to co-chair the ninth annual session of the IRIGC-MTC.

After laying wreaths at the Tomb of Unknown Soldier under the Kremlin wall tomorrow, Antony will begin the official part of his visit, followed by a one to one meeting with Serdyukov, with whom he would co-chair the IRIGC.

According to Ruslan Pukhov and Konstantin Makiyenko of the independent think-tank CAST, unlike in case of serially produced arms sale to other countries, Russia develops tailor-made weapons platforms for the Indian armed forces to meet their stringent requirements.

"This gives a fillip for the innovative development of Russian defence industry, it is a win-win situation for both the countries," Makiyenko said citing the example of Su-30MKI multirole fighter developed for and with the IAF, which has become Russia's hottest export item.

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