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Why Putin's New Delhi visit is important
Vinay Shukla in Moscow
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January 22, 2007 10:43 IST
Last Updated: January 22, 2007 11:04 IST

India and Russia are expected to sign nearly 10 agreements, including on joint production of a multi-role transport aircraft and fifth generation fighter jets, during Russian President Vladimir Putin's New Delhi visit this week to fortify bilateral strategic partnership.

Officials and diplomats in Moscow said the two countries are expected to sign 8-10 agreements covering a wide spectrum of bilateral ties, including cooperation in civilian nuclear field, energy, space and defence.

Joint Indo-Russian political declaration, a joint statement on continuation of civilian nuclear cooperation under which Russia will build four more additional nuclear power units at Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu, after the lifting of curbs by the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Bilateral agreement on the joint use and development of Russian GLONASS space-based global navigational system and the accord on launching the YouthSat university satellite are among the documents expected to be signed during the summit or on the sidelines.

After the summit talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Putin, the two countries are also expected sign an agreement to boost defence cooperation, including the joint development and production of a multi-role transport aircraft and the fifth generation fighter jet.

However, the concrete defence deals on the acquisition of 300 T-90S main battle tanks, up to 40 Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighters are not expected to be signed during the summit.

"Concrete deals are signed at the secretary, deputy minister level and are rarely signed during summits," Chief of the International Cooperation Department of the Russian Defence Ministry, Colonel-General Anatoly Mazurkevich said.

Energy remains the issue of vital importance for India in her relations with Russia and the two sides are hoping to ink some concrete agreements between Oil and Natural Gas Corporation and Russian oil and gas majors -- Rosneft and Gazprom.

A high-level delegation of OVL, the foreign operations arm of ONGC, was in Moscow for last minute thrust to tie up some concrete deals ahead of the summit. OVL has invested more than $2 billion in Sakhalin-1 offshore oil block under production sharing arrangement in Russia's far-east and has already received first two batches of its share of crude oil for Mangalore refinery.

With radical change of economic situation in Russia and massive inflow of petro-dollars President Putin's government has revamped its energy policy and is asking access to downstream projects in the countries seeking stake in Russian upstream projects.

India has indicated its willingness to provide access to the Russian oil and gas majors to downstream facilities including refineries and product pipelines in the country in exchange for upstream hydrocarbon assets in Russia.

President Putin would be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi to symbolise the importance attached by India to its time-tested relations with Russia.

"The visit will signal that India is reaching out to other global players and the perception of a dilution of relations (with Russia) will get corrected," Indian ambassador to Russia Kanwal Sibal told media persons.

"There is a great sense of comfort in relations with Russia, they are tension free. Russia does not create problems for us in our neighbourhood," Ambassador Sibal said.

According to Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov the bilateral ties are based on 'deep mutual trust.'

Russia for many years has been too busy mending fences with the West and resolving strained relations with former Soviet republics. Now with resurgent economy and massive cash flow due to high oil prices has aggressively started to regain the great power status lost after the Soviet collapse and is staging a comeback as a global player.

Putin's India visit is also seen by many in Moscow in this context. "This will be a real triumph in bilateral relations," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told PTI.

"President Putin's visit to India and his talk in New Delhi with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would fill a new solid content and would yield concrete results for boosting bilateral cooperation in all fields," Lavrov said.

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