India and Russia have taken a significant step in cementing their strategic ties as they agreed to extend the tenure of the Indo-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC) by another ten years after the current expiry date of 2010.

Indian Defence Minister Shri AK Antony said that an apex committee will be formed to iron out problems on a fast-track basis on different issues related to ongoing and proposed projects for acquisition, joint development and production, joint defence R&D and joint exercises between the two countries.

The apex committee, jointly headed by Defence Secretaries of both countries, will meet at least once in six months and its first meeting will be held in Moscow before the visit of the Russian President in December 2008.

Describing Russia as a ‘trusted partner’ Shri Antony said Indo-Russian relations have ‘stood the test of time’.

He reaffirmed this statement by declaring that India has decided to procure 347 T-90 tanks from Russia. A further 1,000 tanks will also be manufactured in India under a transfer of technology agreement with Russia.

The Russian Defence Minister Mr Anatoly Serdyukov said “the defence ties between our two countries have transformed from a vendor-seller relationship to a joint development and production partnership.”

The Indian Defence Minister also stressed on the need to promote joint exercises, training and frequent exchange of delegations.

“The early conclusion of the Status of Forces Agreement would provide the framework to hold mutually beneficial joint exercises regularly,” Antony said.

By Daniel Garrun.