India, Russia sign new defence deals

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, right, before a meeting at his residence in New Delhi, India, Monday, December 24, 2012. The two leaders also discussed the security situation in the region

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Russia and India have signed new defence deals worth $2.9bn (£1.8bn) during President Vladimir Putin's day-long trip to India.

Under the accords, India will buy 42 Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets and 71 Mil Mi-17 helicopters.

Mr Putin held talks with Indian PM Manmohan Singh during his visit.

Moscow has long been Delhi's main weapons supplier but has lost out on several major deals to Western companies in recent years.

Trade between Russia and India is currently worth about $10bn (£6bn) a year, but has been growing more slowly recently.

Ahead of the visit, Mr Putin said that he wanted to increase bilateral trade to $20bn by 2015.

Monday's talks between Mr Putin and Mr Singh also included the security situation in the region, including Afghanistan.

"India and Russia share the objective of a stable, united, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan, free from extremism," Mr Singh was quoted as telling Reuters news agency after the talks.

Moscow's concern

In an article in India's Hindu newspaper, Mr Putin described as a "historic step" the declaration of strategic partnership between the two countries signed in 2000.

The Russian leader also said that the military co-operation between the two nations has reached an "unprecedented level".

Russia's currently accounts for some 70% of India's arms purchases, the BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi reports.

But India has recently signed a number of big defence contracts with the US and other countries, including France and Israel, our correspondent says.

Russia is concerned, he adds, that its traditional position as India's main arms supplier could be under threat.

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