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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ivanov Strikes Aircraft Deals With India

APAntony and Ivanov greeting before talks Wednesday focusing on their countries' prospective arms agreements.
NEW DELHI -- Russia and India struck new arms deals Wednesday as Moscow tried to retain its longtime position as the top weapons supplier to the Indian military amid growing Western competition.

The agreements on licensed production of Russian aircraft engines in India and the joint development of a new transport plane were signed on the eve of President Vladimir Putin's visit to India, which is expected to focus heavily on expanding military ties between the two old allies.

"The development of a close and trusting relationship with India is a top priority for Russia's foreign policy," Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said after the signing of the agreements.

Putin last year tapped Ivanov to head United Aircraft Corporation, a new state holding combining Russia's leading aircraft makers. His Indian counterpart, A. K. Antony, hailed the "cordial, productive and mutually beneficial" military ties between the two countries.

Russia is courting India to win a contract to supply it with 126 new fighter planes. The MiG aircraft maker is facing tough competition from U.S., French and Swedish companies, but Ivanov voiced hopes that his country would win the bid with its latest MiG-35 plane.

Wednesday's deal to make Russian fighter-jet engines in India -- which would power India's existing fleet of Russian-made MiG-29 fighters -- could give Russia an advantage in the contest to supply the newer planes. The MiG-35 is powered by an upgraded version of the same engine, possibly reducing the costs of the new plane for India.

Another deal Wednesday envisioned the joint development and production of a new mid-sized transport plane.

"Our cooperation today isn't simply a buyer-seller relationship. We have joint research and development and production bodies," Antony said.

Along with arms contracts, Russia and India also have held a series of joint military maneuvers, including an anti-terrorism exercise of paratroopers and special forces held in India last year.