By Sandeep Dikshit
NEW DELHI, FEB. 8. With the military stand-off with Pakistan yet to abate, Russia today agreed to speed up supplies of advanced T-90 tanks to India. It had initially planned to dispatch a limited number of ready-to-use T-90 tanks during the current financial year, but may now supply up to 80 tanks before March-end following India's requests.
India and Russia also redefined their military relationship by agreeing to produce an advanced fifth generation fighter aircraft as also to collaborate in the development of military technology in frontier areas. ``Bilateral military ties have matured from a buyer-seller relationship and transfer of technology to that of collaboration and R&D; of military systems,'' said the Defence Minister, George Fernandes.
Russia will send a concept paper on the advanced fighter aircraft and later a technical team from India will visit Moscow for further discussions on the project in which both countries will have equal commitments.
However, an agreement to lease nuclear submarines has been kept in abeyance. Russia remains tight-lipped on the issue. The visiting Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Ilya Klebanov, said, ``We are not holding negotiations at this point.'' The Indian side, however, issued a categorical denial. ``There is no nuclear submarine,'' declared Mr. Fernandes. The two sides also disclaimed plans to cooperate in the development of ballistic missile systems.
India and Russia moved closer to concluding negotiations on the much-awaited sale of the partially-gutted aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov and TU-22 long-range bombers which can also deliver nuclear weapons. ``We should be ready to sign the contracts by summer-time,'' said Mr. Klebanov at the end of a three-day review of the Indo-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation here today.
Mr. Fernandes said technical discussions on Admiral Gorshkov were over and price negotiations would start soon. Asked if he was satisfied with the talks on Gorshkov and the TU-22 bombers, Mr. Fernandes said, ``Yes, I am. Given the responsibility we have, it is very necessary to have these platforms.'' The negotiations on the TU-22s assume importance in the light of India's draft nuclear doctrine which advocates positioning of atomic weapons on land, sea and air.
The Commission also decided on the dates to test the Smerch multiple rocket systems which India had been looking forward to for a long time. With the Smerch in India's arsenal, the country will have a capability to land saturating fire by rockets at a distance of around 90 km. It was also agreed to discuss cooperation in the satellite global surveillance system and set up facilities in India for medium refit and modernisation of kilo-class submarines. The commission noted that the jointly developed anti-ship Cruise missile Brahmos (an amalgamation of the Brahamputra and the Moscva) which have a range of around 300 km had functioned satisfactorily. Mr. Fernandes described the project as a ``watershed'' in Indo-Russian ties.
Emerging after nearly three hours of Minister-level talks that paved the way for signing of three protocols, Mr. Fernandes termed the meeting as ``very productive and meaningful'' since it ``constructively'' addressed issues relating to military-technical cooperation on a ``mutually- beneficial basis''.
The two countries also signed protocols for cooperation in warship building, aviation and developing land- based systems for the army and in the aviation sector. The protocols, including one on military-to-military cooperation, were signed in the presence of Mr. Fernandes and Mr. Klebanov.