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India, Belarus to ink army tank, missile upgrade deals

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NEW DELHI (PTI): Minister of State for Defence, M M Pallam Raju, will go on a five-day visit to Belarus from Friday to seal pacts for supply of defence equipment and spares, upgrading air defence missiles and joint development of military hardware.

Raju, who will hold discussions with Belarus Defence Minister, Colonel-General Leonid Semenovich Maltsev, in Minsk between October 24 and 28, will seek supplies of opto-electronics for armament systems such as tanks and infantry combat vehicles, a Defence Ministry release said on Thursday.

Among other agreements that India would hope to sign during Raju's visit include upgrading of T-72 and T-90 tanks and BMP-II infantry combat vehicles, including Fire Control Systems, Commander Panoramic Sights, Digital Ballistic Computer and missile firing capability.

Already, Defence public sector undertaking Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) is holding talks with Belarus firm Teatradr for technology, equipment and spares for refurbishing the OSA-AK air defence missiles for the Indian Air Force.

India and Belarus already have growing bilateral trade, which was over USD 432 million last year, with exports from India amounting to over USD 315 million and imports at USD 117 million.

The DRDO had last December signed a memorandum with the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus to set up a Joint Research and Development Centre at Minsk, the capital of Belarus.

It had also signed contracts worth USD 2.6 million with various institutes under the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus for joint R&D in Laser and Powder Metallurgy technologies.

During the trip, Raju will visit 'Agat', the state scientific research enterprise, which has been collaborating with DRDO for over 15 years. "The two institutions are likely to enter into a long-term agreement soon," it said.

Raju, leading a four-member delegation comprising Army Director General Mechanised Forces Lt Gen D Bharadwaj, Joint Secretary (Ordnance Factories) V Somasundaram and BDL chief Major General (retired) Ravi Khetrapal, would call on Belarus President Alexander G Lukashenko.

India and Belarus consolidated their defence ties by holding two meetings on Military Technical Cooperation (MTC), on the pattern of a similar arrangement with Russia, since May last in Minsk and New Delhi respectively. The countries have been in close relations since 1993 when they signed a defence cooperation agreement.

Raju's visit comes close on the heels of External Affairs Minister S M Krishna's first visit to Belarus last month and Army chief General Deepak Kapoor's visit to Minsk in March last year. Earlier, the Belarus Defence Minister was in New Delhi in February last for the DefExpo.

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