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PM's Russia visit: Boost for defence, energy ties

Manmohan’s Nov 11-13 visit to Moscow is in continuation of the annual summits, writes Vinod Sharma.

india Updated: Nov 07, 2007 23:50 IST
Vinod Sharma
Vinod Sharma
Hindustan Times

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s November 11-13 visit to Moscow is in continuation of the annual summits held since 2000 to develop a strong partnership in strategic areas. His meeting with President Vladimir Putin and other leaders will reassert the importance the two sides attach to promoting ties in key areas like defence, atomic energy, space and science and technology.

Sources told the Hindustan Times that the agreements to be signed during the 8th summit are in the process of being fine-tuned. But Putin will host a banquet for Singh and the two leaders will address the press jointly after talks.

The CPM's Politburo will be meeting in Delhi on November 12, when Singh will go through a series of engagements in Moscow, including the summit level exchange with Putin. Sources were silent on the issue. But the current status of the Indo-US nuclear deal on account of the Left’s opposition is bound to figure in the Indian leader’s dialogue with the Russian President.

Sources maintained that India’s institutionalised dialogue on defence and science and technology with Russia has about it a degree of exclusivity that's at once a reminder of the special relations between the two countries. Defence cooperation with emphasis on sharing technology is even more sophisticated and mature than it was during the Soviet period, the sources said.

They cited as a shining example of such trust and cooperation the BrahMos cruise missile that’s a joint venture of the DRDO and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroeyenia. The missile is named after rivers in India and Russia: the Brahmaputra and the Moskva.

Likewise, the Integrated Long Term Programme (ILTP) of cooperation in science and technology set up in 1987 is now 20 years old and has inspired establishment of several centres of excellence — of which seven are functional and three in the pipeline — for commercialisation of jointly developed new technologies.

Discounting reports that the Russians failed to extend adequate protocol during External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s recent visit to Moscow, the sources focused on the obvious positive elements in the traditionally strong relationship. They said the arrival of the first oil from Sakhalin in India in 2006 showcased “mutuality of interests and India’s technological and financial capability and preparedness to work with Russia.”

The sources pointed out that while Mukherjee could not meet his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on October 12, they had a meeting less than two weeks later at Harbin in China during the India-Russia-China trilateral. Among other things, the Russian Foreign Minister inquired about the Indo-US nuclear agreement.

As New Delhi cannot ignore or bypass Russia in its quest for energy security, Singh’s talks with Putin on Monday will help him gauge Moscow’s stand at the highest level on the scope, if at all, for civil nuclear cooperation without the Nuclear Suppliers Group waiver. Thus far, Russia has been disinclined to do nuclear commerce with Indiawithout the NSG clearance.

First Published: Nov 07, 2007 23:46 IST