BENAULIM, India: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin were set to sign lucrative energy and defense deals Saturday, aimed at shoring up economic ties between the long-time allies.
Putin was greeted with a military band and traditional dancers after arriving in the Indian tourism state of Goa for talks with Modi ahead of a BRICS summit.
Other heads of the BRICS club of leading emerging nations—Brazil, China and South Africa—were also gathering for this weekend’s summit that is expected to focus on trade and counter-terrorism.
Putin is seeking to seal deals with India in an attempt to help revive Russia’s recession-hit economy, following sliding oil prices and Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.
Among the agreements expected were Moscow’s delivery of its most advanced anti-aircraft defense system to India, a deal that has been in the pipeline for several years.
India, the world’s top defense importer, is undergoing a $100-billion upgrade of its Soviet-era military, as it looks to protect its borders from arch-rival Pakistan and an increasingly assertive China.
But India has increasingly turned to the United States, rather than Russia for its hardware in recent years, as Modi cultivates closer ties with the Washington.
Nevertheless, India’s ambassador to Russia, Pankaj Saran, hailed the “special and privileged” partnership between the two nations.
“It is very deep and very intense and it is poised to grow even further,” Saran told reporters before the talks got underway.
The leaders are also focusing on energy deals to meet India’s growing thirst for fuel and electricity for its fast-growing economy.
Russia’s biggest oil company Rosneft is expected to acquire India’s Essar Oil in a multi-billion-dollar deal, according to local media reports, quoting officials involved in the agreement.
The leaders are also expected to sign a framework agreement to supply two more reactors to a nuclear plant in Kudankulam in southern India.
Saran said they would also likely discuss India’s tensions with neighbour Pakistan, which spiked after last month’s attack on an Indian army base that killed 19 soldiers.
Modi has sought to isolate Pakistan internationally since the attack that India blamed on Pakistan-based militants.
India said it subsequently carried out strikes against militants over the border in Pakistan, prompting a furious response from Islamabad.
But Putin is seen as unlikely to weigh into the dispute between the rivals, as Moscow also eyes closer defense ties with Islamabad. Russia and Pakistan carried out their first joint military exercise last month.