India and Russia have agreed to expand the range of strategic defence cooperation in a significant manner, with the first-ever joint exercise by the air forces of the two countries planned next year.
The decision was announced at the 13th meeting of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC), which was co- chaired by Indian defence minister AK Antony and his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoigu in Moscow.
Simultaneoulsy, the two countries will hold a joint naval exercise in the Peter the Great Bay in the Sea of Japan.
It may be recalled that the armies of the two countries had recently held Exercise Indra in Rajasthan recently and the focus was on anti-terrorism.
The announcement comes just two days after the commissioning of the Russia-built aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya by the Indian Navy.
The two ministers agreed that there was a need for further cooperation at all levels, especially in view of the regional and global challenges and to fight the menace of terrorism jointly. Both sides reviewed the situation in West Asia, especially in Syria and the evolving paradigm in Afghanistan.
Besides, the two sides have decided to give a further impetus to the already strong military technical cooperation by involving various echelons of the defence establishments in strategising policies and cooperation in the fast changing global security scenario.
Antony cited the India-Russia project for the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) and Multi-role Transport Aircraft (MTA), that symbolised India-Russia ties that go beyond the mere buyer-seller relationship.
He said both sides must give their best at all phases of the execution of these two projects - design, development and production.
The Russian side assured that the naval aviation specialists will train Indian pilots fully for take-offs and landing on INS Vikramaditya and in all probability it will be held in Goa.
On the issue of after sales support, both sides felt the need for signing long-term maintenance support agreement.
The meeting also reviewed issues relating to T-90 tanks and SU-30 projects.