Enhanced civilian nuclear cooperation with Russia is high on the agenda during President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India beginning Thursday. While a big part of the visit will be ceremonial in nature, since Putin is the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations, the central theme will be to improve economic relations, India’s ambassador to Russia Kanwal Sibal said on Monday.
“There is a great degree of comfort in Indo-Russian relations,” Sibal told a roundtable organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry. “They are tension-free.” Though “political relations are excellent, defence relations are forward-looking and wide-ranging”, and “we are doing things with Russia in space that we are not doing with anyone else”, Sibal said trade and economic relations have not realized their potential yet.
A joint study group, set up to look into the problems faced by businessmen in both countries, is likely to hand over its draft report by next month, the envoy said. The JSG, set up after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last met Putin in Saint Petersburg in July 2006, will present its report at the first meeting of the Indo-Russian Investment and Trade Development Forum scheduled in February in New Delhi. Around 200 Russian businessmen are likely to attend, he said.
Putin's visit is likely to yield a joint declaration and a statement announcing Russia's intention to build four additional nuclear power units at Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu, a senior official said. Russia is already building two nuclear power reactors at Kudankulam, expected to provide 2000 MW of electricity. The additional units will come up only after curbs on India are lifted by the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
Russia, diplomats and officials said, is actively pursuing India's cause for an NSG waiver to allow it to resume civil nuclear commerce with its 45 member countries.
India and the Russian Federation will also expand and strengthen bilateral cooperation in a variety of spheres, including defence, space, oil and natural gas, and technology, Ministry of External Affairs officials said. As many as 10 agreements — including joint production of multi-role transport aircraft and fifth generation fighter jets, and joint development and launch of satellites like GLONASS — are likely to be signed during the visit, an official said.
India and Russia have also begun talks for cooperation in developing a missile shield for their satellites, sources said. A possibility of joint exploration and cooperation for energy security, particularly in third countries, will also be discussed during talks between Putin and Singh.
This will be the seventh Indo-Russian annual summit and Putin’s fourth visit to India since the two countries decided on annual summit-level talks. An accord on launching the YouthSat university satellite is among the documents expected to be signed.
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