Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a meeting on Monday evening as part of the 21st India-Russia Annual Summit.

The two leaders discussed various matters, including terrorism, mutual investments and military cooperation.

“Currently, mutual investments stand at about $38 billion [over Rs 2.86 lakh crore] with a bit more investment coming from the Russian side,” Putin said, according to ANI. “We cooperate greatly in military and technical sphere like no other country. We develop high technologies together as well as produce in India.”

The Russian president said that the fight against terrorism was also a “fight against drug trafficking and organised crime”. Putin also expressed concern about the situation in Afghanistan where insurgent group Taliban took over the country’s regime in August.

Putin added that Russia perceives India “as a great power, a friendly nation, and a time-tested friend”, reported ANI. He said that the ties between the two countries was growing.

Meanwhile, Modi described the relationship between the two countries as a “special and privileged strategic partnership”, reported PTI. He added that there had not been any change in the pace of the ties between the two countries despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Your visit to India is a reflection of your commitment to ties with India,” Modi said. He added that the relationship was a “a unique and reliable model of interstate friendship”.

Monday’s meeting was the first time that Modi and Putin met face-to-face since November 2019. They had then met on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in Brasilia.

Modi had visited Vladivostok in Russia in September 2019 for the previous annual summit between India and Russia.

The annual summit between Russia and India was not held in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

India signs deal with Russia on assault rifles

Earlier on Monday, India signed a contract with Russia to buy 6,01,427 AK-203 assault rifles under the Indo-Russia Rifles Private Limited Program for military-technical cooperation, reported ANI.

The two sides also signed protocols on amending a deal signed in 2019 on the cooperation in the manufacturing of the Kalashnikov rifles in India, the Hindustan Times reported.

In November, India’s defence ministry had approved the agreement with Russia to manufacture six lakh AK203 assault rifles at a new factory in Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi town. This deal is worth more than Rs 5,000 crore, according to The Indian Express.

India and Russia also signed a pact to extend military technology cooperation till 2031.

The agreements came after Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh met his Russian counterpart General Sergey Shoigu in Delhi. Both the leaders, along with India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Russia counterpart Sergey Lavrov, held a 2+2 inter-ministerial dialogue.

During the 2+2 dialogue, Singh said that the defence engagements between India and Russia have progressed in an “unprecedented manner” in recent times and hoped that Moscow would remain New Delhi’s partner.

India and Russia relations are time-tested, based on a common interest in multilateralism, global peace, prosperity and mutual understanding and trust,” Singh said.

The Indian defence minister said that military cooperation was the most important pillar of the partnership between the two countries. He hoped that the partnership brings regional peace and stability.

On his part, Shoigu said: “Russia-India defence cooperation is important for the relations between our two countries during these times. I am confident that Russia and India will help in enhancing regional security.”

Jaishankar said the meeting will address the emergence of “multipolarity and rebalancing”.

“We look at the consequence of over-centralised globalisation,” he said. “Long standing challenges of terrorism, violent extremism remain among newer challenges.”

‘Expansion of armament in neighbourhood’ a challenge: India

At the talks, India’s defence minister spoke about several challenges that India has been facing.

“The pandemic, the extraordinary militarisation and expansion of armament in our neighbourhood and unprovoked aggression on our northern border since early summer of 2020 have thrown in several challenges,” he said, according to PTI.

Singh was referring to India’s border tensions with China. The two countries have been locked in a border standoff since their troops clashed in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh in June last year. Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in the clash. China put the number of casualties on its side at four.

India and China have held several round of military talks in an attempt to resolve the tensions.

The Indian defence minister on Monday said that the country was confident that it will overcome the challenges “with its strong political will and inherent capability of its people”, NDTV reported.

“Recognising that its development needs are colossal and that its defence challenges are legitimate, real and immediate, India seeks partners who are sensitive and responsive to India’s expectations and requirements,” he was quoted as saying by the news channel.