Russia: Indian prime minister traveling to Moscow

India's prime minister was traveling to Moscow Sunday for talks with President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials on energy and security cooperation and increasing purchases of Russian military hardware.

During Manmohan Singh's talks with Putin, the two sides were expected to discuss boosting bilateral trade, which has declined to US$1.8 billion (Ђ1.5 billion) annually since the Soviet collapse and has remained stagnant for the past few years.

India is also in discussions with Russia on developing a medium-range transport aircraft and a fifth-generation multipurpose fighter aircraft.

Before leaving for Moscow, Singh praised warming ties between the Cold War allies. "This partnership is a cornerstone of India's foreign policy and the declared priority of both our countries," Singh said.

India has bought more than US$30 billion (Ђ25 billion) worth of Soviet and Russian arms since 1960 and in recent years, it has been second only to China as a buyer of Russian weaponry.

Singh said India's defense ties with Russia, which has included joint military exercises, were growing at a satisfactory pace. "However, we hope to build a similar, long-term partnership in the field of energy security covering a range of energy sources," he said.

Officials said earlier this week that Singh would promote India's efforts to boost investment in the Russian oil industry, especially in fresh exploration blocks on Sakhalin Island, off Russia's Pacific Coast.

Energy-starved India is looking for sources of oil and petroleum to power its burgeoning energy needs. India's state-run oil company ONGC Videsh Ltd. has already invested US$1.7 billion (Ђ1.31 billion) in an oilfield in Sakhalin Island.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin was quoted by the ITAR-Tass news agency as saying that during Singh's three-day visit, talks were likely to also include discussion of commercial aviation and space exploration, reported AP. P.T.

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