Russia has closer defence ties with India than with any other country, including China, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said.

“As far as joint [defence] projects are concerned, we have advanced farther with India than with any other country, including China,” Mr. Putin said, citing the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile, the Akula class nuclear submarine leased to India, the multi-role transport aircraft and the fifth-generation fighter plane.

“The nuclear submarine should have set sail to India the other day. We are very actively working with them [Indians] on the transport plane. They have joined us full swing in the work for the Perspective Aviation Complex for Frontline Aviation (PAK-FA), T-50,” Mr. Putin said at a meeting with Russian security and defence experts on Friday at the Sarov nuclear centre.

Mr. Putin dealt at length on progress in building the fifth-generation plane.

“It is now clear that we will have the fifth-generation aircraft. Two, or even three, planes are already up in the air, and more planes will join them this year. Technological problems have all been solved; it is quite obvious that we’ll make the aircraft and make it quite fast. We needed a partner to bring down the final cost of the plane; they [Indians] will buy it in large numbers. The T-50 is shaping to be superior to the American fifth-generation plane.”

Mr. Putin was responding to a suggestion from a defence analyst to “engage actively” with India, China, Iran and other countries, and to pursue issue-specific alliances to uphold Russia’s security interests. “We’re engaging India full thrust, we’re in fact doing it all as you say,” replied Mr. Putin, who is almost certain to reclaim Russian presidency in the March 4 elections.

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