After hectic diplomatic parleys in the wake of the Kremlin's discontent over New Delhi's decision to defer formal inauguration till June, the 'Year of India' will be finally launched in Russia on March 31.
"The inauguration of the 'Year of India' in the Russian Federation will take place in Moscow on 31 March 2009 at the New Stage of the Bolshoi Theatre," the Indian Embassy said in Moscow.
The festival will be jointly inaugurated by Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) president Karan Singh and Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Alexander D Zhukov.
The idea to hold years of the two countries was first mooted by then president Vladimir Putin in 2005 during his meeting with the visiting UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi with a purpose to fill the void in cultural and person-to-person ties between the two nations after collapse of Soviet Union.
Originally, the year long festival of India was to be inaugurated on February 17 in the Kremlin Palace of Congresses by President Partibha Patil. However, due to general election schedule in India her Moscow visit was rescheduled to June.
Due to some communication gap or misunderstanding caused by translation New Delhi misinterpreted the Kremlin's readiness for rescheduling Patil's visit as a nod for starting the 'Year of India' in June, effectively watering it down to 'half year'. Prime Minister Putin, who had allocated the funds to host the Indian fest - his brainchild, was very upset at the Indian move, according to the sources here.
Last month Indian Ambassador Prabhat Prakash Shukla was summoned by the irritated Russian Foreign Office after an Indian media report suggested that the fest has been deferred 'apparently' due to Kremlin's cash crunch.
Later, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Borodavkin visited New Delhi to press for at least 'technical' inauguration of the year festival in before April 1, which could be followed by a formal inauguration in June by the presidents of the two countries.
Under the inter-governmental agreement, 2008 was declared 'Year of Russia' in India and the Kremlin had sent Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov in February 2008 for its gala inauguration in Purana Quila (Old Fort).
In December, the year long Russian fest was concluded with gala evening graced by President Dmitry Medvedev.
Moscow later expressed 'shock and disappointment' at the lukewarm coverage of Russian events by the Indian media.
"Those who do not understand the government-influenced Russian media may have a similar shock during the Indian Year in Russia: there is a fair chance Indian events will also fail to be noticed," a foreign policy expert Dmitry Kosyrev fears.