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Modi meets Putin in Russia with eye on defence deals


Narendra ModiRussia’s President Vladimir Putin on Thursday hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a visit that could see billions of dollars clinched in defence and energy deals.

Modi arrived in Moscow on Wednesday but the visit officially kicks off after midday (0900 GMT), including talks with Putin, a meeting with business executives and a talk at a Moscow expo centre.

The two leaders met Wednesday evening for a one-on-one dinner chat that was closed to press and held in the company of only their translators, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Modi said on Twitter that conversation focused on India-Russia ties, calling it “fruitful” and also publishing pictures of the pair exchanging gifts.

Ahead of the trip, Modi said he aims to “deepen the cooperation between India and Russia in the economic, energy and security spheres” and called his BRICS partner “one of India’s most valued friends in the world.”

Officials declined to discuss possible defence deals to be signed in Moscow, though media reports indicated there could be as much as $7 billion worth of contracts agreed Thursday.

A report last week said that India’s top acquisition body had cleared the purchase of Russia’s most advanced S-400 air defence systems.

“The country is vulnerable to Pakistan and China both in terms of missile attacks and air strikes,” and the technology is “very desirable” despite it’s hefty price, said Dipankar Banerjee, a defence analyst at Delhi-based think-tank Forum for Strategic Initiatives.

Kommersant daily this week said Putin’s one-on-one talks with Modi would likely be the defining moment for the deal as the two seek to resolve price disagreements.

India could be in the market for as many as five systems, the paper’s sources in the defence sphere said, with deals on Russian frigates and a helicopter-building joint venture also on the table.

They could announce also the location of a new Russian nuclear plant in south India’s Andhra Pradesh, an extension of the Russian nuclear plant under construction in Kudankulam where one reactor is already in operation.

Modi is seeking to expand the country’s nuclear energy use to meet the rising energy needs of the coal-dependent nation amid global warming risks, with a program for at least 12 new reactors.

The visit is Modi’s first state visit to Russia since he became prime minister, but the two have met several times at international events, even discussing the merits of yoga at the BRICS summit in the Russian city of Ufa in July.

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