MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia plans to sign over $10 billion worth of deals with India during the visit of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin later this week, Putin’s deputy, Sergei Sobyanin, told Reuters in an interview.
The deals will range from contracts for the joint design of a fifth-generation fighter jet and production of multi-purpose transport planes to agreements to supply Russian mineral fertilisers and build new nuclear reactors.
“I believe the overall volume of trade and economic agreements will exceed $10 billion,” Sobyanin, who chairs the Russian-Indian inter-government commission, said in comments e-mailed to Reuters on Wednesday.
Russia wants to boost trade with India to $20 billion by 2015 from the current $8 billion. Together with China and Brazil, Russia and India make up the BRIC group of major emerging economies, whose global influence is seen as rising.
Sobyanin, who is also Putin’s chief of staff, said warm ties with former cold war ally India did not undermine relations with other BRIC nations, although trade and investment volumes may differ.
“I would like to stress that there is no conflict between Russian-Indian cooperation and relations with China and Brazil,” Sobyanin said. “Our relations with all three countries are equally important.”
Sobyanin said India’s state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) had expressed interest in developing oil and gas fields on Russia’s Yamal peninsula and was holding talks with Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom on the issue.
“The Russian side ... is ready to extend cooperation with Indian partners in the oil and gas sector. I think it will become an important theme for discussion,” he said, adding Gazprom was ready to invest in oil and gas projects in India.
Energy-hungry India is one of the world’s top arms importers and plans to spend tens of billions of dollars on defence in the next few years, causing unease for long-time foe Pakistan and regional rival China.
Russia has successfully tested its new supersonic fighter aircraft, invisible to radar like the U.S. F-22 Raptor stealth fighter. Sobyanin said Russia would sign a contract on March 12 to jointly design an Indian version of the plane.
“It is an absolutely real project. As is already known, the fighter has already performed several test flights,” he said. He said almost 50 years of cooperation in the defence sector had created grounds for future strategic partnership with India.
Sobyanin said Russia and India would also sign an amended version of a contract for the long-delayed delivery of a refurbished Soviet-era aircraft carrier that was a major obstacle to cooperation in recent years.
He said Russia had almost completed equipment delivery for two reactors at Kudankulam nuclear power station and was in talks to build two more reactors. He said Russia was also ready to start nuclear plant construction in Haripur in West Bengal.
Sobyanin said Russia wanted to jointly explore and develop uranium and thorium fields. He said the two sides would also sign a framework agreement on supplies of mineral fertilisers, produced by firms such as Ural Chem and Acron.
Sobyanin said Russia and India would also create a joint venture to produce positioning equipment for Russian-made satellite navigation system GLONASS, a potential rival to the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS).
He said Putin and his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, would discuss global economic issues ahead of the BRIC nations’ summit in Brazil next month.
“We see BRIC dialogue as an efficient instrument for creation of a more balanced and predictable international system,” he said. “No doubt, BRIC issues will be among key themes during the visit.
Editing by David Holmes