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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Report: India to Lease Nuclear Sub

APAdmiral Madhvendra Singh speaking at a news conference Monday in New Delhi.
NEW DELHI, India -- India's naval chief declined to confirm or deny Monday a report that New Delhi is to lease a nuclear submarine from Russia that would give the South Asian nation a new edge over nuclear rival Pakistan.

But Admiral Madhvendra Singh did say any nuclear power would have to rely on submarines to defend itself.

"I would neither confirm nor deny the existence of such things," Singh said when asked about the report, which suggested the deal would be finalized during President Vladimir Putin's visit to India this week.

The Indian Express newspaper reported Monday that India and Russia were to finalize an arms package that includes the three-year lease of the Akula II class nuclear submarine.

The sale of the Russian-made aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, announced earlier this year, also was expected to be wrapped up during the visit.

The submarine can carry nuclear-capable cruise missiles with a range of about 300 kilometers, the newspaper said.

The report said the deal has been kept secret by both governments for fear of pressure from Western nations.

On Saturday, Putin said in an interview with Indian newspaper The Hindu that New Delhi and Moscow were discussing nuclear cooperation, but there were "certain limitations" because of Russia's international obligations.

Close defense and trade ties and regional security will dominate talks between Indian leaders and Putin during his two-day visit that begins Tuesday evening. They also were expected to sign a declaration of cooperation.

Leasing the submarine would give India a so-called nuclear triad -- the capability of delivering nuclear weapons by air, ground-to-ground missile or from the sea.

The naval chief would not comment on the existence of nuclear weapons on Indian naval vessels. But he said any nuclear power would likely rely on submarines to defend itself.

"The most powerful part of the triad is in the navy. It is not on the sea, it is under water," Singh said.

The Indian navy has about 18 submarines, some of them are armed with Russian-made Klub missiles, capable of delivering nuclear warheads.

Singh also rejected criticism that in buying Admiral Gorshkov, India was wasting millions of dollars on a "sitting duck."

He said the current negotiations between India and Russia were focused only on the price of the Gorshkov, while all other technical aspects have been sorted out.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee asked Western nations Monday to take serious note of comments by Putin expressing concern over the safety of nuclear weapons in Pakistan.

Putin said in an interview with The Hindu that Russia was concerned that weapons of mass destruction could fall into the hands of thieves and terrorists, and that countries such as Pakistan should take preventive measures.

That warning was echoed Monday by Vajpayee, who said "all other nations, especially allies of Pakistan, must take note of it."

India and Russia will set up a panel to coordinate fighting terrorism during Putin's visit, Indian Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal said Monday, Reuters reported. The panel -- which will include the security agencies of the two nations -- will be New Delhi's fifth such panel after agreements with the United States, Britain, France and China.