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India-Russia summit Thursday; 20 agreements on anvil
Wednesday December 10, 2014 11:26 PM, IANS

Russian President Vladimir Putin touches down in India Wednesday night for a 24-hour visit and a packed diplomatic schedule the highlight of which is the annual bilateral summit talks he will hold with Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday and the inking of around 20 agreements, especially in the field of civil nuclear energy, defence and trade.

Putin arrives at around 11 p.m. Wednesday at the Indian Air Force Station here at Palam.

His day Thursday begins with a meeting with Prime Minister Modi at Hyderabad House for the 15th Annual India-Russia Summit.

The summit talks are alternatively hosted by Moscow and New Delhi. Last year the talks were held in Moscow in October and attended by former prime minister Manmohan Singh.

Putin's visit comes at a time when the Russian economy is buffeted by Western economic sanctions over Ukraine and falling oil prices that has led to a sharp fall in the rouble.

India has already laid the ground for taking forward the close ties by stating that it has clearly spelt out that it "cannot be party" to any economic sanctions against its old friend.

The talks Thursday will be the first full-fledged summit between India and Russia after the Modi government took office in May.

After the delegation-level talks, both sides will witness the inking of agreements and there will be press statements by both the leaders.

Putin, who is bringing along with him a 15-member team of top business honchos, will attend an interaction with CEOs at the same venue.

He will then inaugurate the World Diamond Conference at Vigyan Bhavan, and later meet President Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan in the evening before leaving for home at night.

The summit talks will see both sides outline a joint vision of the relationship for the next decade. It will provide a roadmap for enhancing the partnership to qualitatively new levels and have a strong focus on redefining the economic partnership. Russia has said that the bilateral trade, which stands at $10 billion, is way too low and needs to be boosted.

Russian Ambassador Alexander M Kadakin, addressing a press briefing here on Monday, had said that nuclear cooperation, including for a "cascade" of nuclear reactors, would be high on the agenda of talks.

Kadakin said Putin's visit would "provide a powerful recharge to the whole gamut of bilateral relations" and broaden the spectrum of the mutually beneficial partnership, "which is gaining new substance".

He said a "serious document" on building a nuclear roadmap is expected to be inked.

Kadakin said Russia has agreed to build around 16 nuclear units but India has demanded "a much bigger" number of around 24 units.

Agreements in the field of hydrocarbons are also expected to be inked with Russia voicing readiness to offer India more fields to scout for oil in the Siberian region. India's ONGC Videsh Ltd. is already scouting for oil in the Sakhalin-1 field.

"We are ready to offer India other mines and fields for hydrocarbons," Kadakin said. OVL is likely to acquire stakes in the Vankor and Yurubcheno-Tokhomskoye fields in Siberia, according to reports.

Defence cooperation talks would also figure prominently, including on the fifth-generation fighter aircraft.

Modi, who has visited Russia thrice as Gujarat chief minister, had interacted with Putin during those meetings as well as at the BRICS - Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa - summit in Fortaleza, Brazil in July and also in Brisbane, Australia, last month.

The bilateral talks are expected to see both leaders strike a rapport that would take the relationship forward.

During his meeting with Putin in Brazil, Modi had told him that "Even a child in India, if asked to say who is India's best friend, will reply it is Russia because Russia has been with India in times of crisis".

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