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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Russia and India strike new arms deals

Russia and India struck new arms deals Wednesday as Moscow tried to retain its longtime position as the top weapons supplier to the Indian military amid growing Western competition.

The agreements on licensed production of Russian aircraft engines in India and the joint development of a new transport plane were signed on the eve of Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to India, which is expected to focus heavily on expanding military ties between the two old allies.

"The development of a close and trusting relationship with India is a top priority for Russia's foreign policy," Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said after the signing of the agreements.

His Indian counterpart, A. K. Antony, hailed the "cordial, productive and mutually beneficial" military ties between the two countries.

India has bought more than US$30 billion of Soviet and Russian arms since the 1960s, and it has ranked alongside China in recent years as a top customer for the Russian weapons industry.

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