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    Russia's Putin highlights 60 years of diplomatic ties with India

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    MOSCOW, April 13 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's president has congratulated Indian leaders on 60 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries, the Kremlin press office said Friday.

    "Russia has always valued friendly relations with India. They have stood the test of time and have been characterized by absolute stability and success," Vladimir Putin said.

    Russia and India, which maintained friendly relations throughout the Cold War, have both emerged as briskly developing economies since the Soviet Union's collapse in 1992, and India's adoption of economic reforms in the 1980s.

    The two countries, both of which still face major economic and welfare problems despite their dramatic economic growth, have continued to cooperate in the oil and gas sectors, nuclear energy, weapons and space.

    Energy-hungry India is a partner in the vast Sakhalin I hydrocarbon project off Russia's Pacific Coast, and Moscow has invited the country to participate in the Sakhalin III project and in the development of oil and gas fields in Siberia.

    Russia is building two nuclear power plants in the Asian nation and has suggested building four more. However, India, which has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), needs special approval to go ahead.

    Military cooperation between the two nations goes back nearly 50 years, with India accounting for about 40% of Russian arms exports. Eighty percent of India's Armed Forces, the second- largest in the region, are equipped with Russian weaponry.

    The countries have signed a host of arms deals, including most recently an agreement on the transfer of Russian technology to build RD-33 jet engines in India and to develop a military transport plane together - seen as a move to secure a contract for 126 MiG-35 jet fighters in the backdrop of strong competition from the U.S., Sweden and France.

    However, Russia's overall trade with the world's largest and most populous democracy has been fairly low in recent years, totaling $2 billion a year, although Moscow and New Delhi have moved recently to boost trade to $10 billion by 2010.

    Putin also highlighted Russia's political partnership with India, whose bid to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council Moscow has consistently supported and whose positions on key international problems often coincide with its own.

    "Russia and India have succeeded in creating a solid legal basis and effective mechanisms to further consolidate bilateral ties in the new circumstances of an emerging system of international relations," he said.

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