Russian president heads to India's financial capital

22nd December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev headed for Mumbai on Wednesday, after squeezing in a tour of the Taj Mahal on the second leg of an India visit focused on strengthening defence and trade ties.

In Mumbai, where security has been stepped up over a reported intelligence warning of a possible militant attack targeting foreigners, Medvedev was scheduled to speak to students at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay.

He is also expected to visit a leading Bollywood film studio before leaving India in the evening.

On Tuesday Medvedev held talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi and witnessed the signing of a raft of defence and nuclear deals potentially worth billions of dollars.

The two sides also agreed to double bilateral trade to 20 billion dollars by 2015.

"I believe that trade between us does not nearly reflect our privileged partnership," Medvedev told reporters at a joint press briefing.

One standout deal was a contract on the joint design and development of fifth-generation fighter aircraft with stealth capabilities.

Although no figures were mentioned, experts say the final fighter deal could be worth close to 30 billion dollars, with India planning to induct up to 300 of the aircraft into its air force.

Medvedev's visit concluded a flurry of top-level diplomatic activity that has seen the leaders of all five permanent members of the UN Security Council beat a trade-focused path to India's door over the past six months.

British Prime Minister David Cameron was in the country in July, and US President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao have passed through over the last six weeks.

Each visitor brought large-scale business delegations and used the visit to trumpet new deals with the world's second-fastest-growing major economy.

Medvedev was especially keen to fend off growing international competition for a slice of India's increasingly lucrative market for military hardware -- once monopolised by Moscow.

Traditionally India's default defence supplier, Russia now has to compete with top manufacturers from Europe and the United States as India diversifies its sources of military hardware and becomes more demanding over pricing and quality.

As well as bilateral issues, Medvedev and Singh discussed regional security and agreed to deepen counter-terrorism cooperation.

"Those who hide terrorists hide criminals. No modern civilised state can hide terrorists," Medvedev said.

He made no specific mention of India's arch-rival Pakistan, which Delhi accuses of harbouring militant groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) -- blamed for the November 2008 attacks on Mumbai.

The Press Trust of India, quoting unidentified official sources, said suspected LeT infiltration was behind the alert sounded in Mumbai on Tuesday ahead of the Christmas and New Year holidays.

"There are conscious efforts by terror organisations to target foreigners during these two festivals here," said Mumbai Police Commissioner Sanjeev Dayal.

Police promised "extensive security arrangements" as Medvedev's visit coincides with a two-day trip to the city by his Indian counterpart, Pratibha Patil, whom he met in Delhi on Tuesday.

© 2010 AFP

0 Comments To This Article