Prime Minister Narendra Modi leaves for Moscow on Wednesday on a two-day visit to attend the 16th India-Russia annual summit, with expectations riding high on major agreements in the defence and nuclear sector.
The last edition of the summit -- held in New Delhi in December 2014 -- was a roaring success, evident in the fact that 20 deals worth over $100 billion were signed in less than 24 hours. “India’s partnership with Russia is incomparable,” Modi had tweeted then.
Apart from Japan, Russia is the only nation that holds annual summits with India.
Here’s what is on the Prime Minister’s agenda:
A deal on the joint-production of 200 Kamov-226T helicopters may be the highlight of this visit, in the first big step for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s campaign to build a domestic industrial base and reduce the military’s dependence on expensive imports.
The purchase of five Russian S-400 air defence systems from Russia, approved by the Defence Acquisition Council on December 17, will also be keenly watched. The S-400 is a proven antiaircraft system, and is widely considered the most advanced of its kind in the world, with the capability of engaging missiles as well as aircraft.
The deal includes purchase of some 6,000 missiles from Russia while the DAC is also expected to clear Pinaka MRLS that may replace traditional artillery guns on the border. The Pinaka system can fire a barrage of unguided rockets with a range of up to 38km within seconds.
India and Russia are likely to sign an agreement on fifth and sixth units of the Koodankulam nuclear reactors during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the Eurasian country.
The PM will also offer Russia a site in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh to build six nuclear reactors of 1,200 megawatts (MW) each, sources said.
The government is also planning to make optimum use of the available nuclear sites in various states to accommodate more atomic reactors to meet India’s growing energy needs.
The deputy chief executive officer of Rosatom -- Russian equivalent of India’s Department of Atomic Energy -- Nikolai Spasskiy visited India on December 7-8 and held negotiations with DAE secretary Sekhar Basu regarding the possible inking of the nuclear pact.
Economic ties and trade
While economic trade do not reflect the intensity of Indo-Russia ties, a 18-member business delegation -- including Reliance Group’s Anil Ambani and TATA Advanced System’s Sukaran Singh -- will take part in an interactive session of CEOs during PM Modi’s visit this week.
India is also turning to Russia to secure overseas energy assets to help fuel its economy. Indian Oil Corp and Oil India, both state-owned, are in talks with Russia’s Rosneft to buy up to 29% stake in a Siberian oil project.
For Russia, India offers an alternative, fast-growing outlet for its exports as sanctions imposed by the West squeeze its economy.
Bilateral trade between both countries stood at $9.51 billion in 2014 -- of which Indian exports accounted for $3.17 billion and Russian exports to India were at $6.34 billion.
Terrorism too is on the cards. India’s former ambassador to Russia, Kanwal Sibal, was of the opinion that Russia might discuss Syria with India but the spotlight “would be on what is happening in the Afghanistan-Pak region. The presence of the Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan is of concern for Russia. It is also a concern for India as destabilisation of Afghanistan and extremist activity there is a problem for us”.
Declassifying Netaji files
The Centre has initiated a dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin to access KGB files on Subhas Chandra Bose after Netaji’s relatives requested the Prime Minister to pursue the issue with Russia.
“We requested him to pursue the KGB files personally with Putin when he visits that country this month. He said that a dialogue with the Russian president has already been initiated. Secret files with KGB are of immense importance regarding Netaji’s disappearence,” the freedom fighter’s grand nephew Chandra Bose said.
(With inputs from agencies)