India, Russia Agree To Increase Bilateral Trade

By Agence France-Presse India and Russia pledged on Dec. 4 to enhance economic relations and outlined ways to increase trade, which leaders of both countries agreed was essential to reinforce their close political ties. A joint declaration on strengthening and enhancing economic, scientific and technological cooperation was signed by India Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin after talks in New Delhi. Both countries say they consider it "vitally important to expand economic relations . . . [because] along with the political and strategic dimensions, effective cooperation in the economic and allied fields is at the core of the Indo-Russian partnership," the joint statement said. "Particular attention will be devoted to the issue of energy security, which is considered an increasingly important component of bilateral relations," the declaration said, adding long-term cooperation would be extended to the Caspian Sea area as well. Access to funds for business, improving transport and infrastructure, and customs overhauls were some of the steps agreed to by the two sides to crank up two-way trade. India-Russia bilateral trade, at present, stands at about $1.4 billion, down from more than $4 billion before the breakup of the Soviet Union. In their joint statement, the two governments pledged to "jointly explore the possibilities of regional trade and economic cooperation with other countries, in a manner that is in harmony with their respective national interests." Exploiting skilled manpower to create knowledge-based industries would also be prioritized, the statement said. The two sides also signed an agreement to increase cooperation in telecommunications. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2002

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