Russia galvanises nuclear co-operation with India
The best 'gift' according to President Vladimir Putin that India and Russia could give themselves to commemorate two key events in 2007; the 60th anniversary of India's independence and 60 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Russia; was deepening their strategic ties.
Putin, chief guest at this year's Republic Day celebrations, bolstered the strategic relationship by enhancing India's energy security with an agreement to construct four additional power units at the Kudankulam nuclear power reactor.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, speaking to the media after several hours of detailed discussions with Putin, on Thursday said, "energy security is the most important of the emerging dimensions of our strategic partnership, and we look forward to longtime partnership with Russia in this vital field."
Both Putin and Singh presided over a brief ceremony after their talks at Hyderabad House, at which they signed a joint statement on the outcome of the Russian President's visit and a joint statement on cooperation in the field of peaceful uses of atomic energy.
While they watched, senior government officials from both countries signed another eight agreements in sectors ranging from culture to space cooperation and nuclear power to banking and movement of goods.
"Russia," the prime minister said, "remains indispensable to the core of India's foreign policy interests." The affirmation that this bilateral relationship was fundamental to India's "vital national interests" was addressed to critics who have accused the government of aligning too closely with the West, particularly the United States.
The joint statement, issued unusually while the two-day visit is still on, details the multi-faceted nature of the Indo-Russian engagement, devoting five of the 28 paragraphs to improving the economic content of the relationship.
"Without political support, it is not possible to build economic relations," Putin said, referring particularly to nuclear energy. "Given the high level of mutual trust, we believe common sense will dominate in the coming years," said Putin, responding to a question on how political will would help expand commercial relations between the two countries.
"We will seek new and more efficient models of cooperation." "We consider as extremely important the completion of the construction project in Kudankulam," Putin said.
The two countries would continue cooperation in the area of peaceful uses of atomic energy, while cooperating in conventional energy, from exploration to construction of pipelines for delivery.
Earlier on Thursday morning, Singh broke protocol and drove to the airport to receive the Russian President. A rare gesture, Singh has only extended this special courtesy earlier to Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, US President George W Bush and Nepali Prime Minister GP Koirala.