Russia, India ink "landmark" arms deal

Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes and Russian officials signed an agreement late last week to expand the burgeoning military cooperation between the two states to include the joint development of a next-generation fighter jet and other weapons projects. "It's a landmark document," Fernandes told reporters after talks at the Defense Ministry. "We believe that it will contribute to strengthening our military-to-military relationship." He said that the protocol on military cooperation covers Indian purchases of new Russian weapons and envisages cooperation in building a new fighter aircraft and joint production of the Brahmos cruise missile. The two countries have decided to increase the charter capital of the Brahmos venture from $240 million to $300 million. The Brahmos, based on the Russian Yakhont anti-ship missile, has a range of 300 kilometers and flies at twice the speed of sound. It is expected to be deployed in 2004, becoming the first supersonic cruise missile in India's arsenal. India and Russia are also considering exporting the Brahmos. Fernandes also said that a long-awaited deal on the acquisition of the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov will be signed by the end of March, the Saint Petersburg Times quoted him as saying.

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