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Russia's prime minister highlighted banking and engineering as factors boosting bilateral
Russia's prime minister highlighted banking and engineering as factors boosting bilateral trade with India, at a meeting with the country's premier on Monday.

Viktor Zubkov told Manmohan Singh that trade with India was becoming more diversified, and that the share of cooperation in the engineering sector was on the rise. Singh, who arrived in Moscow on Sunday on a two-day official visit, met with Zubkov before his talks in the Kremlin with President Vladimir Putin.

Zubkov said bilateral trade, which grew 27% to reach $4 billion last year, involved, among other things, active cooperation in the banking sector. He said Russia's state-owned Vneshtorgbank had been authorized to open a branch in India.

"The operations of the first branch of a Russian bank in India will hopefully help to increase mutual trade more dramatically," Zubkov said.

The prime minister, until recently Russia's chief financial regulator, said direct contacts between Russian and Indian businessmen had bright prospects, and that a project to launch a joint trade and economy Web site would accelerate partnership in this area.

He said substantial progress had been made in forming a joint venture to produce titanium dioxide in India's state of Orissa, which the Indian government plans to turn into a special economic zone, and that the founding documents were now being drawn up.

The Indian-Russian intergovernmental commission for cooperation met in Moscow on October 12 and set a target of increasing bilateral trade to $10 billion by 2010, more than twice as much as last year. The Russian premier reiterated Moscow's commitment to the target.

Singh's visit to the Russian capital is expected to yield a series of trade and defense agreements, including a deal on broader use of the funds India provides as repayment for its Soviet-era and other debts to Russia. Other mooted agreements include cooperation in combating illegal drug trafficking, and joint efforts in building a new multipurpose transport aircraft.

The two countries are actively involved in energy projects, including the construction of a nuclear power plant in Koodankulam in southern India. The Indian Oil and Gas Corporation is helping develop the Sakhalin-I oil and gas field in Russia. The two countries are working on a gas field in the Bay of Bengal.

Russian and Indian experts are involved in space exploration through a package of cooperation deals relating to Russia' Glonass satellite navigation system.

In the defense sector, India is Russia's leading partner. In October, Moscow and New Delhi signed a $1.6 billion contract for the supply of 40 Russian Su-30 Flanker fighter assembly sets to India by 2010. The countries have also set up a joint missile manufacturer, BrahMos.

A visit by India's defense minister in mid-October produced a deal to jointly develop a fifth-generation fighter plane and an agreement on joint production of spare parts for Su-30 Flanker fighters.


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