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India, Russia set to expand nuke ties: Menon

November 17, 2008 19:03 IST

India is looking forward to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's first ever visit in December to strengthen energy cooperation with Russia, especially in the nuclear field.

Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon said in New Delhi that, "Both India and Russia are keen to expand nuclear cooperation. All the preparatory work has been done." He was inaugurating an international conference on "Changing Patterns of Indo-Russian Cooperation" organised by the Observer Research Foundation.

Saying that India and Russia already have an "excellent relationship" and India considers relations with Russia very important, the foreign secretary noted that bilateral trade, however, was not commensurate with potential. "Trade still remains a challenge," he said, adding "though it is positive, that is not enough". Bilateral trade last year was around $5 billion (about Rs 25,000 crore).

Explaining the increasing importance of India-Russia relations in a developing multi-polar world, the foreign secretary pointed to the meeting of finance ministers of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries before the G-20 summit played an important role. Menon said that in changing world scenario "the combined weight becomes more important."

Saying India-Russia bilateral complementarities would only grow in future, he said he believed BRIC countries could play an important role in combating the global economic slowdown.

Dr Vyacheslav Nikonov, the president of the Unity for Russia Foundation, noted that both Russia and India are growing at a fast pace of round 7 per cent despite hardships. "There were neither any confrontations nor big problems between Russia and India. Russia supported India whether it is Kashmir or the Pakistan issue," he said, stressing the potential for improving bilateral cooperation.

Pointing out the importance of the role of BRIC in international relations, Dr Nikonov suggested that the triangle of Russia, India and China could emerge as a strong force.

Similarly, Russian Ambassador V Trbnikov said that India and Russia together could play an important role in shaping the new emerging world.

One of the papers presented at the conference by Kokarev K A, deputy director of Russian Institute of Strategic Studies, proposed that, "The recent experience of Russian forces in successfully combating US trained and equipped Georgian forces should be noted by Indian partners."

According to Kokarev around $ 10 billion worth of defence orders are currently under execution between India and Russia. He warned the Russian arms exporters to complete obligations in time in view of tough competition.

He also reminded them that western companies are trying to enter the Indian defence market and are ready to invest a third of the value of contracts in the development of the Indian economy. He said, "There is some effect of the pressure of a political nature too, whereby the American government regularly bans any kind of cooperation with the main Russian defence equipment company Rosoboronexport."

Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi