Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin will be holding their first ever bilateral meeting on Thursday, under the 15th Annual India-Russia Summit, to boost trade, investment, energy and defence ties.
This will be Putin’s sixth such visit to India, but it assumes importance against the backdrop of sanctions imposed recently on Russia by the US and European Union for its alleged role in the Ukraine crisis. So, Putin’s sole objective this time is believed to be nudging the Indian government to buy anything from fighter jets to diamonds.
During the meeting, India and Russia are expected to sign as many as 20 agreements in the fields of energy, defence, trade and diamond-cutting. Both leaders have already met twice and are learnt to have developed bonhomie of sorts. They first met during the BRICS summit in Brazil and then at a meeting of G-20 leaders in Brisbane, Australia. Putin, who is on a hurricane trip of 24 hours to India, is going to have a packed schedule, even as he will address Indian Parliament and industry on Thursday.
Russia has already expressed its keenness to have a considerable share in the Indian government’s plan to spend $ 100 billion to upgrade the country’s defence sector. It is concerned over India’s recent stance of buying more defence equipment from Israel and the US. However, Putin, apparently, is confident he will be able to push Modi to buy Russian Sukhoi superjet-100 and MS-21 passenger aircraft from Russia.
India had been traditionally making defence purchases from Russia, its ally since the ‘Cold War’ era. It still imports T90 tanks and Su-30 MKI fighters from that country, which is now expected to be jointly produced in India to promote Modi’s ‘Make In India’ programme. India, on the other hand, is upset over Russia’s renewed defence cooperation agreement with Pakistan. Moscow has already started shipping helicopters to Pakistan. But the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has always been believed to have friendly ties with Russia. It was under the then prime minister, BJP’s Atal Bihari Vajpayee, that India and Russia signed the historic ‘Declaration on Strategic Partnership’.
In an interview with news agency Press Trust of India, Putin said PM Modi was a “reputable political leader, who has already made a significant personal contribution to the promotion of the Russian-Indian cooperation”.
Under an ongoing civil nuclear cooperation agreement, Russia is expected to announce setting up of new nuclear plants in the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP). The Unit I of KKNPP became operational in July last year, though it gained complete generation capacity 11 months later. The second unit is yet to be operational. Russia has decided it will set up as many as 15 atomic reactors in both these units. An agreement on oil & gas is also expected to be signed, with Russia offering new exploration fields to India’s ONGC Videsh Ltd.
Modi and Putin are expected to jointly inaugurate ‘World Diamond Conference’ to make India a diamond trading hub. India and Russia are expected to sign an agreement on diamond-cutting. The two countries are also expected to launch talks for having a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement to boost two-way merchandise trade, which currently stands at $ 10 billion, though both sides had set a target of achieving $ 20 billion worth of trade by 2015.
The CECA will be launched with Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus.