India raises Russian decision to sell Mi-35 choppers to Pakistan; talks trade

New Delhi: India raised the issue of Russia's decision to sell Mi-35 attack helicopters to Pakistan during talks between visiting Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry O. Rogozin and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj here Wednesday that also saw both discuss a host of bilateral issues, including ramping up trade ties.

The meeting - Russia's first high level contact with the new Indian government - lasted over four hours, officials said, in an indication of the importance of the talks.

Asked if the issue of sale of Mi-35 helicopters had figured in the talks, ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said the issue did figure in the context of their defence cooperation talks. Earlier this month, Pakistan said that it was negotiating with Russia for the Mi-35s.

The spokesperson said the principal focus of the talks was on how to harness the "untapped potential" of their economic ties and raise it from the $10 billion at present, of which Russian exports amount to $6.5 billion.

He said both sides were "informally agreed" that the bilateral trade "does not reflect the potential and there is need to ramp it up" in all sectors, like hydrocarbons, nuclear energy, fertilisers, coking coal, diamonds and Russian investment in infrastructure development.

Both sides have also decided to set up a joint feasibility study on a free trade agreement between India and Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, which have formed the Eurasian Economic Union bloc.

"Ïndia sees Russia as a key partner in energy security," he said. Sushma Swaraj informed the Russian minister that the first unit of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power plant attained full capacity on June 7. The second unit was to attain criticality at the end of the year. In April this year, India and Russia signed an agreement for building units 3 and 4 of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant. He said technical issues, relating to seismic studies, of the area in Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu were going on.

Asked if Russia had evinced interest in India inking a deal similar to the $400 billion gas deal with China, the spokesperson said that both had "detailed talks on energy cooperation"". Both sides would talk later on technical aspects, and "no specifics were discussed, he said.

Russian investment in Indian infrastructure projects were also discussed, including in the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC).

Rogozin co-chairs the India-Russia Inter-governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation. He is a close confidant of President Putin.

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