New Delhi: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi briefed Russian President Vladimir Putin about the “rationale” behind India’s move to change Jammu and Kashmir’s constitutional status and thanked him for Moscow’s “very clear and strong support”.
The Indian leader raised the matter himself during his summit-level talks with Putin at the Far Eastern port city of Vladivostok on Wednesday
Speaking to the media later, Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale said that Indian prime minister had “explained to the president at length about the rationale behind government’s decision” on Section 370 of the Indian constitution. He added that Modi also apprised Putin that “false and misleading information was being given on this matter”.
The Indian prime minister also “thanked Russia and President Putin for his very clear and strong support to India on this issue”. Gokhale described the conversation on Kashmir as a “very useful exchange”. “Our understanding is that Russia stands very firmly with India on this matter,” he added.
There had been some confusion over Russia’s stance when the informal consultations on Kashmir were held by United Nations Security Council last month. While Russia had blocked China’s move for a press statement after the closed-door meeting, a tweet by a senior Russian diplomat at New York about adhering to UN resolutions had raised eyebrows.
The Russian deputy ambassador to India later asserted that this was just a reference to UN charter and resolutions that calls for non-interference in internal affairs.
India has stated that the change in Jammu and Kashmir’s constitutional status and its division into two union territories was an entirely “internal matter” for the country.
Fifteen agreements were signed after the discussions, which included a pact for cooperation in the production of spare parts for Russian and Soviet-era military equipment.
In his remarks to the media, Putin also announced the launch of joint ventures for supplying weapons. “The production of the latest military products has been launched in conjunction with our Indian partners, and joint projects to produce Kalashnikov small arms, Ka-226T helicopters and missile strike systems in India are underway. We value the current level of bilateral defence cooperation and look forward to expanding it,” said the Russian president.
According to Russian Tass news agency, Putin extolled the benefits of Ka-226T light utility helicopters at the Eastern Economic Forum, which the Indian prime minister attended as chief guest.
“I flew on this helicopter, I liked it, it’s really comfortable. It’s good because it has coaxial rotors, there is no back rotor, so it is good with lateral wind pressure in the mountains and over the sea,” Putin told Modi, as per Tass.
According to the director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, Dmitry Shugayev, India placed an order of $14.5 billion worth of new contracts last year.
“This is an impressive figure, it’s a real breakthrough,” he said, adding that military cooperation was the “most important element of privileged strategic interaction”.
The two countries also agreed to extend the bilateral military and technical cooperation agreement by 10 more years.
On the other key pillar of India-Russia cooperation, Putin noted that Russia planned to build 12 nuclear plants in India over the next 20 years.
There was also discussion on further Indian interest in investment in the Russian oil and gas sector. “Indian partners hold 20% in the Sakhalin 1 project. Indian energy concerns are also invited to participate in other promising projects, such as Far Eastern LNG and Arctic LNG 2,” said the Russian president.
The two sides also signed a joint strategy paper for increasing trade and investment. “The document provides for removing barriers to investment, promoting major mutually beneficial projects in priority areas and enhancing scientific, technological and innovative cooperation,” said Putin.
Last year, India-Russia trade grew at 17%. But at just $11 billion, it is the lowest trade volume for India with a P-5 country.
Besides, Putin also announced that the first round of talks to draft a free trade agreement between India and the Eurasian Economic Union will be held soon.