A broad defence cooperation agreement was among five pacts signed following delegation-level talks between the visiting Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday.

With Ukraine having consolidated its military enterprises into bodies under governmental control, on the lines of what Russia did to its military-industrial complex a decade ago, New Delhi feels the path has been smoothened for a more intimate defence relationship.

Instead of dealing with a number of defence enterprises scattered over Ukraine, India will find it easier to conduct focussed negotiations, which could help it get a better deal.

During the Soviet times, Ukraine was home to 30 per cent of the country’s military industrial complex and it is now attempting to modernise its defence industry. In this scenario, India senses it will be able to duplicate its approach towards Russia of moving away from the buyer-seller relationship and going in for an R&D-joint production model such as the pacts with Moscow for Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft, Military Transport Aircraft and BrahMos.

Ukraine is already modernising India’s 100-plus fleet of military transport aircraft and has been active in providing engines for naval vessels and military spares.

Ukraine in turn assured India of its support in a bid to join four international export control organisations, including the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group. Kiev voluntarily gave up the nuclear weapons arsenal it had inherited from the Soviet Union and its backing to India in this respect is considered important.

The two sides also inked an agreement on exchanging nuclear safety-related information. Ukraine operates 15 reactors of the same type as the ones being put up by Russia at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu. As the Ukrainian reactors are a decade or more older, transfer of safety-related expertise would be of help to Indian nuclear engineers.India pressed hard on the visa issue which, it feels, is a major non-tariff barrier. Official don’t know if the fortnight-long wait for business visas is Ukraine’s retaliation for India clamping down on visas to women of a certain age group from Ukraine and Central Asian countries, but the subject was deemed crucial enough for Dr. Singh to mention it to the Ukrainian President.

India feels one reason for the huge trade deficit with Ukraine is visa issuance delays. It made progress with another approach to reduce the imbalance, currently 5:1 in Kiev’s favour, with Ukraine agreeing to Indian investments in the fertilizer sector.

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