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After successful US visit, Nirmala Sitharaman will now engage with Russia

After attempting India’s quest to create “an even more robust relationship than before” with the United States during her-five day visit to Washington, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will now engage with her Russian counterpart to take the long-standing relationship forward.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu is coming to New Delhi to have an extensive dialogue with his Indian counterpart, the first after the two sides inked a $5.5 billion deal for the procurement of five regiments of Russian-made S-400 Triumf air defense systems in October. The deal was singed under threat of US sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, a measure signed by President Donald Trump in 2017.

The Russian defence minister will have a bilateral meeting with Nirmala Sitharaman in south block on December 14. Officials privy to the development said that besides other issues on defence cooperation, the two sides are expected to finalise the modalities on mutual military logistics support agreement. This agreement will be similar to what India has signed with the US in 2016, named as Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) that allows the countries to use each other's military bases and ports for logistics, refueling and repairs purposes. India has similar agreement with Singapore also.

"Russia had proposed such military logistics agreement with India in August and during Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin's meet in October in New Delhi, the issue gained momentum. A draft has been prepared and during next week's meeting, the two sides are expected to work on the modalities of it," said an official.

Moscow has been India's major defence partners as over two-third of Indian military is dependent of Russian equipment.

After S400, India also went ahead by signing a $950 million deal to supply two frigates directly from Russia and a contract to build two more at Indian shipyard.

Meanwhile, ahead to next week's meeting, Russian National Security Advisor Nikolair Patrushev met his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval in New Delhi on Friday. NSAs of two countries are working on to explore a joint mechanism in Afghanistan to counter increasing threat from radical militant groups in the region.

During Nirmala Sitharama's visit to the United States, she managed to gain support from her counterpart James Mattis, who has repeatedly spoken out against the imposition of sanctions on India.

"We will work everything out. Trust me,” Mattis told reporters in Pentagon on the threat of US sanctions on India after signing defence deals with Russia.

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