Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed two new economic agreements today, reaffirming the special Indo-Soviet relationship.
One agreement provides for 1 billion rubles ($1.18 billion) in Soviet credits for participation in major Indian projects, mostly in energy-related fields. The other extends trade cooperation another 15 years.
The agreements marked the high point of Gandhi's two days in Moscow. He is in the Soviet Union for a five-day tour, his first foreign state visit since he took office last October. The Soviets, anxious to keep intact the friendship with India maintained while Indira Gandhi was in power, have given her son a lavish welcome.
Gandhi met Gorbachev once before, when he headed the Indian delegation to the funeral of the late Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko last March. Gandhi and Gorbachev met twice this week.
At a press conference today, Gandhi paid homage to 30 years of friendly relations with the Soviet Union while carefully steering a neutral course on East-West issues.
Gandhi praised Soviet-Indian ties as a "friendship that is not against anyone," and expressed "a keen desire" to see it grow.
At the same time, he said that Indian relations with the United States were "good," noting that last year the United States had become India's main trading partner. He said he hoped to promote better trade and cultural ties on his trip to Washington next month.
Gandhi sidestepped a question on Soviet defense aid, saying only that "cooperation in that field is improving substantially." The Soviet Union for years has been India's main arms supplier.
Gandhi said he was awaiting more definite details before he would respond to Gorbachev's call for a pan-Asian security conference.
On Afghanistan, which he said came up in his talks with Gorbachev, Gandhi said he reiterated India's carefully couched position, which opposes outside interference in any country's affairs. He said the talks touched on recent incidents involving Pakistani aid to Afghans fighting Soviet and Soviet-backed government troops.
Gandhi's harshest words were allegations about Pakistan's nuclear program, and U.S. failure to stop it. "The U.S. wants to turn a blind eye to the Pakistani nuclear program," he said.
Gandhi appeared relaxed and assured as he answered a series of questions with cautious brevity and occasional wit. Asked why he had chosen the Soviet Union for his first official trip, Gandhi said, "You have to start somewhere," noted the importance of Indo-Soviet relations, and concluded, "most importantly, they were the first to invite me."