Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia, India Sign Partnership Pact

NEW DELHI, India — Russia and India forged a strategic partnership on Tuesday in a bid to rekindle the warmth of their Cold War-era friendship, but stressed that they were not seeking to create a new military-political alliance.

The declaration, signed by visiting President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, binds the two countries to a joint approach on fighting international terrorism, defense issues and nuclear energy.

"These negotiations have confirmed the coincidence of long-term national and geopolitical interests of Russia and India," Putin told a joint news conference with Vajpayee.

Although the president was received in New Delhi with all the pomp and ceremony accorded to foreign leaders, his three-day visit got off to a more sober start than U.S. President Bill Clinton’s flamboyant trip to South Asia in March.

But for India, the renewal of its amity with Moscow neatly balances its new-found friendship with Washington, and raises the international standing of a nuclear-capable country now seeking permanent membership of the UN Security Council.

The partnership pact also helps Russia, a firm believer in a multi-polar world, to rebalance its strategic outlook after the pro-Western tilt of its first post-Soviet years.

Under the agreement, the two countries agreed not to participate in any military-political alliance, associations or armed conflict directed against each other.

But Vajpayee stressed that India, which has gone openly nuclear citing a perception of threats from Pakistan and China, was not forming an old-style strategic alliance with Moscow.

"The declaration on strategic partnership is not directed against any third country," he said.

"It’s a firm and long-term commitment on the part of both Russia and India to work in close cooperation as partners on all issues, political, economic and international."

Putin, who arrived in New Delhi on Monday night, began the day by inspecting a guard of honor at the sandstone presidential palace as Indian air force jets screamed overhead.

Wearing a suit and looking solemn, he paid homage to the father of independent India, Mahatma Gandhi, laying a wreath and planting a sapling tree at a memorial beside the Yamuna river.

That was followed by delegation-level talks at which the two sides signed pacts on a host of areas, from diamond trade to gas production and central bank cooperation.

Later, Putin received an honorary doctorate degree from the left-leaning Jawaharlal Nehru University, whose vice chancellor, Asis Datta, declared him "a great leader of a great country."

Vajpayee and Putin both referred to concern about the radical Islamic agenda of Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban movement, and said their agencies would work closely together to combat terrorism. Both countries are wrestling with armed Islamic separatism, one in Kashmir and the other in Chechnya.

Brajesh Mishra, Vajpayee’s principal secretary, told a news conference that the two sides may set up a joint working group on Afghanistan, and there would be some reference to this in a joint statement to be issued Wednesday.

Vajpayee made a specific reference to "the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy," something India has accused neighbor Pakistan of adopting in its challenge to New Delhi’s rule in the rebellion-torn territory of Kashmir.

Putin said he had called for concrete efforts for a resumption of peace talks between India and Pakistan.

Putin’s visit, the first by a Russian president to India in almost eight years, was also billed as a chance to rebuild a trading partnership that has withered miserably since New Delhi and Moscow both cast off socialist controls in the early 1990s.

Bilateral trade stood at $1.6 billion last year, a far cry from the $5.5 billion of 1990. "We directed the inter-governmental commission to suggest new approaches and innovative ideas to expand and diversify our trade and economic cooperation," Vajpayee said.

Putin invited Vajpayee to visit Moscow — an invitation the Indian prime minister said he had accepted — and reiterated Russia’s view that India was a "strong and deserving" candidate to become a permanent member of the Security Council.