Indo-Russian strategic cooperation extended by ten years

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New Delhi, Sep 29 (UNI) In the first major step to take their strategic ties to the next level, India and Russia today agreed to extend the tenure of the Indo-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC) by another decade, besides, forming a committee to fast track ironing out of wrinkles in bilateral relations.

Addressing mediapersons, after signing the protocol on IRIGC-MTC, which expires in 2010, with his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov, Defence Minister A K Antony said an 'apex committee' headed by Defence Secretaries of both countries would soon be formed to iron out problems on a fast track basis on different issues concerning both countries.

''Problems related to ongoing and proposed projects for acquisition, joint development and production, joint defence R &D and interaction between defence forces of both countries, including joint exercises, would be sorted out by the apex committee.'' ''The committee would meet at least once every six months and its first meeting will be held in Moscow before Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visits India in December this year,'' he said.

Stressing on the need to promote joint exercises, training and frequent exchange of delegations, Mr Antony said defence cooperation remained the cornerstone of Indo-Russian bilateral relations.

''The early conclusion of the Status of Forces Agreement would provide the framework to hold mutually beneficial joint exercises regularly,'' he said, adding that a major part of our defence inventory was of Russian origin, and continues to remain so even now.

Describing Russia as a 'trusted partner', Mr Antony said Indo-Russian relations had stood the test of time and that existing defence cooperation would continue to receive utmost priority with decison already been taken to procure 347 T-90 tanks from Russia and another 1,000 to be manufactured in India under transfer of technology.

On the delay in acquisition of Gorshkov aircraft carrier, Mr Antony said the Russian demand for an escalation in price had been considered and would be placed before the Cabinet soon.

Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said defence ties between the two countries were transforming from a 'vendor-seller relationship' to 'joint development and production partnership'.

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