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Indo-Russia talks: India, Russia decide to expand cooperation in dealing with major challenges; AK-203 rifle deal among 28 pacts inked

11:29 PM Dec 06, 2021 | FPJ Bureau

India is faced with challenges arising out of “extraordinary militarisation” in its neighbourhood and “completely unprovoked aggression” on the northern border, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said at the inaugural Indo-Russia 2+2 dialogue even as the two nations inked a pact for joint production of over six lakh AK-203 rifles and extended military cooperation till 2031.

Besides Singh, the 2+2 foreign and defence talks were attended by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, and Russian Defence Minister Gen Sergey Shoigu. The ministers held comprehensive discussion on strategically important bilateral and regional issues.

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Ahead of the 2+2 talks, Rajnath and Shoigu co-chaired a meeting of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military and Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-M&MTC) during which the two sides inked the agreement for joint production of over six lakh AK-203 assault rifles at a manufacturing facility in Uttar Pradesh's Amethi, and extended the pact on military cooperation for ten years (2021-31).

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The rifles will be manufactured for the Indian armed forces at a cost of around Rs 5,000 crore. The 10-year pact on military cooperation is a renewal of an existing framework.

“The pandemic, the extra-ordinary militarisation and expansion of armament in our neighbourhood and the completely unprovoked aggression on our northern border since early summer of 2020 have thrown in several challenges,” Singh said without naming China. At the same time, he said, India is confident of overcoming these challenges with the strong political will and inherent capability of its people.

Shoigu said bilateral military-technical cooperation is especially important in India-Russia relations, and that he and Singh had finalised plans for future cooperation. Russian foreign minister Lavrov said the 2+2 ministerial dialogue mechanism will further expand traditional understanding and help reinforce the bilateral special and privileged strategic partnership.

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