Russia has reassured India that it would not supply arms to Pakistan while promising to accord priority to meeting India needs for advanced military systems, according to defence sources. Russia would also engage actively with India to ensure the success of the ‘Make in India’ programme and participate in a big way in the Aero India Exhibition to be held in February next year, Russian defence minister Gen Sergei Shoigu told defence minister Rajnath Singh during bilateral talks in Moscow on the margins of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) defence ministers’ meeting.

Singh also extended an invitation for General Shoigu to visit India for the next meeting of the Inter-Governmental Commission for Technical & Military Cooperation which is expected to be held towards the end of this year.

The one-hour meeting was marked by the traditional warmth and friendship, characteristic of the special and privileged partnership between the two countries with the two sides focusing on intensifying military technical cooperation and militarytomilitary cooperation, the Defence Ministry said.

The two ministers covered a broad range of areas of cooperation between their two countries. It was noted that this meeting coincides with the Indra Naval Exercises to be conducted by the Indian and Russia navies off the Straits of Malacca over the next two days.

Singh noted that these exercises demonstrated the common interests of both countries in maritime security in the Indian Ocean region. There was a substantial commonality in positions with respect to challenges at the regional and international levels in the areas of peace and security, reflective of the deep trust and confidence that both sides enjoy.

The Indian minister appreciated the steadfast support provided by Russia consistent with the defence and security needs of India, and in this context, particularly noted the timely manner in which Moscow had responded to requests for procurement of particular weapon systems. Both sides would continue to maintain contacts to ensure the timely delivery.

The two ministers welcomed the advance stage of discussions for the establishment in India of an India- Russian Joint Venture for the production of AK203 assault rifles which are considered one of the most modern weapons available for infantry forces. This provides a very positive basis for further engagement of the Russian defence industry in the ‘Make in India’ programme.

The meeting comes at a key point when Indian and PLA soldiers continue to engage in provocative actions in Eastern Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control, the border between India and China.