MOSCOW -- Russia is bolstering cooperation with India in oil and defense, hoping to use its ties to the key Asian partner to its advantage in its rivalry with Washington.
Indian oil companies will join the $157 billion Vostok Oil development project in the Arctic, Russian state energy major Rosneft said Wednesday. Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin and Dharmendra Pradhan, India's petroleum minister, agreed in New Delhi to form a working team to iron out the details.
Sechin, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, leads the Arctic project. Vostok could produce 100 million tons of oil yearly by 2030, amounting to nearly 20% of total Russian output. Russia sees India, the world's largest oil consumer after the U.S. and China, as the biggest potential customer.
Rosneft also signed a contract with Indian Oil to ship as much as 2 million tons of oil to India from the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk by the end of 2020.
The countries are tightening military ties as well. Moscow will deliver the first batch of S-400 missile defense units to India -- and train Indian specialists -- as planned by the end of the year, an official from Russia's Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation told reporters Wednesday at the DefExpo 2020 in India.
Russia is prepared to start joint production of Kalashnikov rifles in India for that country's market in 2020, the official said. Moscow also has extended the license for Indian production of Russian tanks until 2028, meaning about 460 more vehicles will be produced in India.
As India expands its military, the South Asian country has pushed arms exporters like the U.S. to let it build more equipment domestically. Russia has accommodated this request, and has received $15 billion worth of orders in the past three years.
India has been approaching its neighboring powers after President Donald Trump's administration stripped the country of preferential trade status last year.
New Delhi also has been forced to cultivate alternative sources of oil after U.S. sanctions banned Iranian shipments. India is considering negotiating for greater trade with China despite their border dispute.
Russia has faced protracted sanctions from the U.S. and Europe since its seizure of Crimea from Ukraine. Nuclear talks with Washington have stalled as well, while the new coronavirus outbreak threatens the economy of China, Moscow's largest trade partner. Greater ties with India could offer some relief.
But the U.S. is expected to respond to the weapons agreements, especially since it regards India as a promising arms market. Washington slammed the brakes on the planned sale of fighter jets to Turkey after Ankara deployed the Russian S-400s in 2019.