Indian mortar system nearly hits Russian Defence Minister

An Indian mortar system dropped from a military plane, landed just meters from Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov and his Indian counterpart on Sunday while they watched joint military exercises in western India, Russian news agencies said.

The mortar system, parachuted from an Indian aircraft, was shown on Russian television as it approached the ground near the platform where Ivanov and Indian Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee were sitting, Itar-Tass reported.

Journalists and soldiers were shown running for cover but Ivanov, a former spy and close friend of President Vladimir Putin, and Mukherjee remained seated.

Ivanov, sporting sun-glasses and a military cap, brushed off the incident and praised the Indian Air Force for such accuracy.

"Today an artillery system of India's airborne forces landed right between two sand-dunes which is the ideal concealment from the enemy. So I raise my cap to Indian pilots," Ivanov said, Itar-Tass reported.

"Nothing terrible happened, we all saw that and we all had sufficient time to react. Thank God we are not blind."

The 120-mm mortar, fixed on a military vehicle, was dropped during "anti-terrorist" exercises at the Mahajan firing range in north-western Rajasthan, reports Reuters.

Ivanov has urged India to sign the agreement on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) to take the bilateral military-technical cooperation involving sophisticated technologies to a qualitatively higher level, the report said.

Before his departure from Moscow, Ivanov said Russia and India had taken their long-standing defense cooperation from a "primitive buyer-seller" relation to joint research, design, development and production, in the thrust areas of cutting-edge technologies, it said.

"But to take this cooperation to a qualitatively higher level, in near future, it is very necessary to sign the IPR agreement," Ivanov was quoted as saying.

He did not rule out holding a joint anti-terror exercise involving Russia, India and China along with some other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) at some point in the future, the report said. India had become an observer of SCO earlier this year, informs Xinhua.


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