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International relations

Modi clinches deal with Putin for joint Arctic LNG development

Closer cooperation on hydro and renewable energy sought in India-Russia summit

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, welcomes Russian President Vladimir Putin prior to their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Oct. 5.   © Reuters

NEW DELHI -- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday announced an agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin to jointly develop a liquefied natural gas project on the Arctic shelf, in a statement following a summit between the two leaders. 

The joint statement said, "The [two] sides acknowledged the interest of Russian and Indian companies in cooperation in the field of [liquefied natural gas] and welcomed the commencement of supply of LNG under the long-term contract between Gazprom Group and GAIL India Ltd."

The two governments also expressed support to companies from both sides "for development of cooperation and exploring opportunities for joint development" of oil fields in Russian territory, including on the Arctic shelf, and projects on the shelf of the Pechora and Okhotsk Seas.

Securing energy sources is a critical issue for India, which will need more power to support future economic growth.

Calling the civil nuclear cooperation an important component of their strategic partnership, the joint statement said India and Russia had also decided to further explore the possibilities of closer cooperation on hydro-electric and renewable energy sources.

Among the pacts signed during the annual summit were plans to cooperate in other fields such as space and railways. The two leaders also officially concluded a $5 billion deal for New Delhi's purchase of Russian S-400 missile system despite the U.S. threat of sanctions.

India is to procure five units of the S-400 Triumf missile system and associated equipment, which is expected to boost its defense capability along its borders with nuclear-armed neighbors Pakistan and China, with which it has long-standing border tensions. The S-400 is Russia's most-advanced long-range surface-to-air missile system, which is capable of engaging all types of aerial targets including aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, and ballistic and cruise missiles within a range of 400km.

India is now caught in the crossfire between the U.S. and Russia, as the administration of President Donald Trump has warned countries planning to purchase this advanced missile system and other Russian defense equipment that they would face sanctions. New Delhi -- which has a 70-year history of procuring military hardware from Moscow, from where it gets over 60% of its defense equipment -- is hoping to be granted a waiver from the U.S. for the S-400 deal. After Russia, the U.S. is India's largest arms supplier.

Modi said Russia had assured India of full cooperation in New Delhi's planned manned space mission, known as "Gaganyan", which is to be launched by 2022.

The annual bilateral summits, which started in 2001, have given a "new energy" to the "special and privileged strategic" ties between the two countries, Modi said.

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