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Rajnath holds talks with Russian counterpart to bolster defence, strategic cooperation

Defense Minister Rajnath Singh meets Russian Defence Minister General Sergei Shoigu, in Moscow, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020. A PTI Photo

MOSCOW (PTI):  Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday said he had an excellent meeting with his Russian counterpart Gen. Sergey Shoigu here and discussed a wide range of issues, especially how to deepen defence and strategic cooperation.

Singh, who arrived here on Wednesday on a three-day visit to attend a crucial meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), pressed for expediting supply of a number of weapons systems, ammunition and spares to India by Russia under contracts which were concluded earlier.

Taking to Twitter, Singh termed his talks with Shoigu as excellent .

Excellent meeting with the Russian Defence Minister General Sergey Shoigu in Moscow today. We talked about a wide range of issues, particularly how to deepen defence and strategic cooperation between both the countries, he said in a tweet.

Earlier on Thursday, India and Russia finalised a major deal for manufacturing AK-47 203 rifles in India, the official Russian media reported.

The AK-47 203 is the latest and most advanced version of the AK-47 rifle, which will replace the Indian Small Arms System (INSAS) 5.56x45 mm assault rifle.

The Indian Army has a requirement for around 770,000 AK-47 203 rifles, of which 100,000 will be imported and the rest will be manufactured in India, Russia's state-run Sputnik news agency said.

There was no official confirmation from the Indian government on the finalisation of the deal.

The rifles will be manufactured in India as part of the joint venture Indo-Russia Rifles Private Limited (IRRPL), established between the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), the Kalashnikov Concern and Rosoboronexport -- the Russian state agency for military exports, it said.

Officials said that Singh is also likely to request the Russian side to ensure the timely delivery of the S-400 missile defence systems to India. The delivery of the first batch of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems to India is scheduled by the end of 2021.

Before departure, Singh in a tweet had said that issues of mutual interest will figure in his talks with Shoigu.

"India and Russia are privileged Strategic Partners. Looking forward to further this partnership during my visit," he said.

It is Singh's second visit to Moscow since June. He had represented India at the Victory Day Parade in Moscow on June 24 that commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War.

Singh will also attend a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation here on Friday which will be attended by the defence ministers of the eight member nations.

They are expected to deliberate on regional security challenges like terrorism and extremism and ways to deal with them collectively.

The meeting is taking place under the shadow of a fierce border row between India and China, both members of the influential bloc.

The SCO comprises eight member states -- India, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Chinese Defence Minister Gen Wei Fenghe and Pakistan's Pervez Khattak are expected to attend the SCO meeting.

The SCO, seen as a counterweight to NATO, has emerged as one of the largest transregional international organisations which accounts for almost 44 per cent of the world population stretching from the Arctic Ocean to the Indian Ocean and from the Pacific Ocean to the Baltic Sea.

The aim of the SCO is to maintain peace, stability and security of the region. India became a member of the SCO in 2017.

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