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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Primakov Urges Boost in India Trade

NEW DELHI, India -- Calling for a doubling of India-Russia trade by 2000 and increased Indian investment, Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov sought to reassure Indian business leaders Tuesday that Russia remains a safe place to do business.

Primakov, speaking at the end of his two-day state visit to New Delhi, tried to put to rest concerns about Russia's economic problems, including the collapse of its banking system. He said Russia was committed to its international financial obligations, an open economy and noninterference with dollar exchange rates.

Russia has been one of India's largest trading partners, but Russia's economic crisis has hit bilateral trade, which has been dwindling since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Trade between the two countries has fallen from a high of $5.5 billion in 1990 to $1.5 billion in 1998.

"This we cannot accept,'' said Primakov, calling for trade to double by 2000 and increase four times by 2005.

Russia also proposed lowering taxes for foreign investors, and would consider repaying Indian businessmen who lost money deposited in banks backed by the government in the recent banking crisis.

In his meeting Monday with his Indian counterpart, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Primakov said they pledged to personally oversee removal of obstacles to better trade.

Primakov also urged more cooperation in electronics, thermal power, the transfer of science and technology, coal mining and oil refining.

Also Tuesday, Russian and Indian officials signed an agreement aimed at boosting New Delhi's tea exports to Moscow, the Indian Commerce Ministry said in a statement

Officials of India's Tea Board signed the agreement with the Russian Tea and Coffee Association and the Russian Association of Tea Producers.

The Russian associations will assist their enterprises in importing tea from India between January 1999 and December 2005.

Meanwhile in Moscow, First Deputy Trade Minister Igor Mitrofanov said India and China could buy up to 200 planes from Russia in the next year or two, Itar-Tass reported.

It was not clear whether Mitrofanov was referring to fighter jets or all types of aircraft.

Itar-Tass quoted Mitrofanov as saying at a government meeting on exports that crisis-hit Russia could earn between $8 billion and $10 billion if the sales are successful.

It quoted him as saying India and China were "ready" to complete deals, but gave no further details.