NATIONAL

Putin for upgrading Indo-Russian ties

MOSCOW DEC. 25. The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has lauded the wide-ranging partnership with India and called for further energising bilateral ties. "I set great store by the trust-based and constructive nature of the multifaceted Russian-Indian partnership,'' he said in a message of greetings to the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, on his birthday.

Recalling the "fruitful" discussions with Mr. Vajpayee in Delhi earlier this month, Mr. Putin described them as "an important stage in deepening'' bilateral cooperation.

"I am confident that through the agreements reached (in Delhi), we can impart a fresh impetus to the progressive development of bilateral ties and augment the capital of mutually beneficial cooperation," he said in his message, according to the Kremlin Press Service.

Meanwhile, a Russian legislator said a deal to sell the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier to India was in the pipeline. Viktor Ozerov, head of the Defence and Security Committee of the Russian Parliament's Upper House, who led a parliamentary delegation to India last week, said the Defence Minister, George Fernandes, had confirmed India's intention to buy Gorshkov. "We saw that their mind is set on the deal," the RIA-Novosti news agency quoted Mr. Ozerov as telling presspersons today.