India PM leaves for Russia, China

India PM leaves for Russia, China
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

NEW DELHI - Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh left Sunday for a four-day trip to Russia and China aimed at strengthening trade ties and addressing a festering border dispute with Beijing.

The prime minister will also look to secure energy, defence and other economic deals in both countries.

In a statement before leaving India, the 81-year-old spoke of the longstanding defence and trade ties with Russia.

"The scope of our relationship with Russia is unique, encompassing strong and growing cooperation in areas such as defence, nuclear energy, science and technology, hydrocarbons, trade and investment," he said in a statement.

Singh added he would try to address "areas of concern" during his visit to Beijing.

"India and China have historical issues and there are areas of concern," he said, adding they would not affect "the overall atmosphere of friendship and cooperation".

India seeks a breakthrough in a border row with China that has soured relations for decades, after the leaders of the two Asian giants pledged earlier this year to build trust.

Singh will meet President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday with the focus on arms purchases.

India, which is spending billions of dollars upgrading its military, has been Russia's top weapons buyer for years.

Both countries will also be looking to seal accords on the next phase of a Russian-built nuclear power project on India's south coast. The project is designed to help meet India's surging demand for electricity, but has been dogged by delays and protests over safety.

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