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In India, Russia's Putin agrees to sell arms, energy

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Manish Swarup/AP

(Read caption) Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, right, and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin speak during a signing of agreements in New Delhi, India, Friday.

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Arms, oil, and nuclear energy have topped the agenda during Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's current visit to New Delhi. These are very much the sort of big concerns that have dominated mutual ties since the former USSR forged a close cold war-era friendship with India in the 1950s.

Russia announced Friday it would build up to 16 nuclear reactors across India, sell New Delhi more than 200 stealth fighter jets, and push to boost bilateral trade to $20 billion by 2015 from a current $8 billion.

As in the past, the two states seem at pains to trumpet their political agreements about the state of the world, their shared distaste for the US-dominated "monopolar" global system, and the vast potential synergies of their differently-based economies.

"With no exaggeration, India is our strategic partner," Putin told a teleconference with Indian business leaders Friday. "That's a reflection not only of the sympathies between our nations, but also a sign of almost full correspondence of our geopolitical interests."

But the relationship has been changing in some remarkable ways. No longer is Russia the undisputed technological leader and ideological driving force, as it was in Soviet times, experts say.

Combining strengths

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