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India, Russia debate Afghan future

Vajpayee is keen to boost India's profile in the international fight against terrorism
Vajpayee is keen to boost India's profile in the international fight against terrorism  

MOSCOW, Russia -- India's prime minister has held talks in Moscow with the Russian president with the formation of a post-Taliban government in Afghanistan topping the agenda.

Atal Behari Vajpayee is on a 10-day world tour designed to boost India's profile in the international fight against terrorism and is keen to build a common position with Russia on the future of Afghanistan.

Russia and India have strongly opposed the Taliban's rule in Afghanistan and are keen to see any future government favoring their own regional interests.

From India's point of view in particular that means limiting the influence of arch-rival Pakistan.

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In recent weeks both countries have announced that they are boosting the supply of arms to the opposition Northern Alliance.

Speaking after their initial meeting Vladimir Putin said the two countries had "practically identical positions" on the fight against terrorism.

He added that the meeting had demonstrated that "the strategic partnership between Russia and India is real."

His comments were echoed by Vajpayee who spoke of a "political consensus" and said the two sides had "full agreement in combating extremist ideas and terrorism."

He said Russia and India had "common geostrategic interests, both wanting to see a peaceful Asia free from terrorism and extremism."

The two leaders were later due to formalize their position by signing a joint statement on anti-terrorism to be known as the Moscow Declaration.

Apart from the conflict in Afghanistan Putin and Vajpayee also discussed ways of boosting economic ties between the two countries and agreed on a $3billion deal for Russia to build a nuclear power plant in India.

Weapons deals

On top of that the two leaders are also though to have discussed bilateral weapons deals with Russian media reporting that officials have been working on a deal to lease four Russian long-range Tu-22 M3 Backfire bombers.

During the Cold War India and the former Soviet Union were close allies with Moscow an important source of weapons and other hardware for the Indian armed forces.

The two sides are also reported to be looking at sealing an agreement on the delivery of the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier, complete with a fleet of several dozen MiG-29K fighter planes, The Associated Press reported.

After his four day visit to Russia Vajpayee's tour takes him on to the United States, where he is due to meet President George W Bush and attend the UN General Assembly meeting in New York, and on to the UK for a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair.


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