Russian president arrives in India

Dec. 24, 2012 at 1:53 AM
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NEW DELHI, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin, seeking closer trade and other ties with India, arrived Monday as New Delhi convulsed with protests over a gang rape incident.

"I would like to stress that deepening of friendship and cooperation with India is among the top priorities of our foreign policy. And now we have every reason to say that they have really unique special and privileged character," Putin wrote in an op-ed piece in The Hindu newspaper ahead of his visit.

Putin said he hoped Russia-India bilateral trade, expected to reach $10 billion this year, would double by 2015.

Putin will also be looking to increase Russian arms sales to India, long a major buyer. Russia is seeking to sign multibillion-dollar deals with India for the supply of Su-30MKI fighters, Mi-17 helicopters, aircraft engines and tank missiles.

In his article in The Hindu, Putin wrote the "strategic nature of the partnership between India and Russia is witnessed by the unprecedented level of our military and technical cooperation." He said serious attention was "being paid to developing a fifth-generation, multifunctional fighter plane and a multipurpose transport aircraft."

He also said Russia and India should maintain direct contacts between business communities and promote establishing efficient investment, technological and industry alliances in the most dynamic and promising fields, for instance, in the energy industry, primarily the nuclear one. He said the construction of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in southern India became "a major breakthrough project in that field."

The two countries also are part of the BRICS group of emerging nations, which also include Brazil, China and South Africa.

"I would like to note that our joint work in the BRICS has become increasingly intensive. The authority of that association is growing every year, and that is quite natural," Putin wrote.

"Our proposed initiatives are aimed at establishing new architecture for a multi-polar world order ... . We expect a meaningful dialogue with the Indian side within the framework of Russia's presidency in the G20 that has begun."

Putin's visit comes when New Delhi has been rocked by protests over the horrific and brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old student in a moving private bus by its driver and five other people a week ago. The victim and her male companion were also severely beaten by the assailants and later tossed out of the bus. The woman, critically injured, is battling for her life in a Delhi hospital, while her companion is recovering. Police have since arrested all the six accused. The protesters, mostly women, have been demanding improved safety and have even called for the death penalty for repeated sex offenders.

The protests became violent Sunday. Police used water cannons and tear gas and resorted to baton charging to disperse the thousands of demonstrators.

Latest reports said authorities, concerned about the protests, moved the venue of Monday's scheduled meeting between Putin and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Singh's residence from another location where meetings with foreign dignitaries are normally held.

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