The leaders of veteran allies Russia and India agreed Monday to launch a joint unmanned mission to the moon during Kremlin talks on boosting military and trade ties.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced the plan after talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during which the two discussed projects for a more than twofold increase in trade by the end of the decade.

"The symbol of our cooperation is the joint agreement to send an unpiloted space ship to the moon for scientific investigation," Singh said in comments broadcast on Russian state television after the meeting.

Russia's space agency Roskosmos said it had signed an agreement with the Indian space agency for joint lunar exploration through 2017, including the construction of a module that will orbit the moon "for peaceful purposes."

"Russia and India will jointly build a space ship. Under the project we plan to send an entire laboratory to the moon," Roskosmos head Anatoly Perminov said in a statement.

During the talks the Russian and Indian leaders also "paid particular attention to cooperation in nuclear energy and in military-technical cooperation," Putin said.

Russia accounts for 70 percent of Indian military hardware while India currently accounts for 30 percent of Russian arms sales, Interfax reported, citing Russian officials.

Agreement was finalised on a joint project to develop a new military transport plane, the Il-214, as well as cooperation on a fifth-generation fighter jet.

The deals "open new prospects for our scientific, technical and production cooperation in sensitive areas," Putin said.

Singh thanked the Russian president for assisting in efforts to lift international restrictions on nuclear cooperation with India.

"We look forward to expanding our cooperation with Russia in the civil use of nuclear energy in the future," he said.

Nuclear trade with India is still banned as it has refused to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

New Delhi is currently vying for approval from the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group for a contentious nuclear deal with the United States under which it can get nuclear fuel and technology.

Singh said an intergovernmental agreement to build four nuclear reactors in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu was being prepared.

Under an existing deal, Russia has agreed to install two reactors in Tamil Nadu with a capacity to produce 1,000 megawatts of atomic energy a day.

The two regional powers promised cooperation, in particular between the BRIC grouping of huge, developing nations: Brazil, Russia, India and China.

"I see big prospects in active ties on the trilateral format: Russia-India-China and on the four-sided BRIC format," Putin said.

"In this increasingly interdependent world in which we live in we have an obligation to explore areas of convergence between" Russia, India and China, Singh said.

The two sides also managed to bring their positions closer on Afghanistan, Iraq, the Iranian nuclear programme, Putin said.

And they reached agreement on settling Indian debt to Russia from the Soviet era.

The two countries aim to boost bilateral trade to 10 billion dollars (6.8 billion euros) per year by 2010 from four billion dollars in 2006, Singh said.