Amidst political unrest in Russia, Manmohan to meet Medvedev, Putin

Amidst political unrest in Russia, Manmohan to meet Medvedev, Putin

Manmohan Singh will be in Moscow Dec 15-17 for bilateral meetings, when the two counties are expected to sign about half-a-dozen agreements in the defence, energy, trade, science and technology and health sectors.

Obviously not wanting to send a signal to both the domestic and international audience of its unease over the protests, Russia is going ahead with Manmohan Singh's visit.

Giving details the prime minister's visit, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told reporters here that the summit meeting and a restricted one-on-one meeting with Medvedev will happen on Dec 16 morning, while he will meet with Putin in the afternoon.

"However, what is happening within Russia is strictly their internal affair. We do not expect any impact on the visit or our bilateral discussions," Mathai said in reply to a question.

He also noted that during the bilateral meetings, the two sides will discuss the entire spectrum of their relations, including their nuclear energy, hydrocarbons, defence, trade, space and other fields.

The two sides, he said, will sign "some" agreements in the defence, health, and science and technology sectors. In indications that the much-awaited deal on setting up units III and IV of the Kudankulam nuclear plan in Tamil Nadu, where locals are protesting over safety concerns of the plant, may not come through during the prime minister's visit, Mathai said "discussions are still going on" regarding the two units. The first two units using Russian reactors are on the verge of becoming operational at the plant.

"We will take a call" once the discussion are over, he said, adding that he "cannot fix a time frame" for the agreement on units III and IV, though the discussions, being carried out by the India's Department of Atomic Energy and its Russian counterpart, is at "an advanced stage."

On the Russian proposal to have a joint Enrichment and Reprocessing (ENR) facility on Russian soil, Mathai said its modalities are being discussed by Nuclear Power Corporation of India LImited (NPCIL) and its Russian counterpart.

In the backdrop of a Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) guidelines on restricted export of ENR technologies to non-signatories of the NPT, Russia's recent offer on the joint ENR facility is crucial and a final Indian decision on the project is yet to come.

New Delhi and Moscow are also likely to discuss ongoing defence projects such as the leasing of the Russian nuclear-powered submarine to Indian Navy for 10 years beginning 2012, joint development of the fifth generation fighter aircraft and multi-role transport aircraft, and refit of the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier that is to be delivered to Indian Navy in December 2012.

They will also finalise means to achieve their target of $20 billion annual bilateral trade, which now hovers at $10 billion, before 2015. With Russia all set to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on Dec 16, the day Singh is in Moscow, the two sides will expedite their Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA).

"We have heard that Russia is slated to join the WTO on Dec 16. Once that is complete, the bilateral joint study group will be able to make very concrete proposals on the economic relations. We are working on the CECA," he added.

During the visit, the prime minister is also slated to join a meeting of captains of industry from both nations in Moscow, where concrete business proposals from the Indian private sector will be taken up.

To a question if the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan will come up for discussion, Mathai answered in the affirmative and said since the two neighbours of India is "a geographical bridge" to Russia, the situation in the immediate region of both India and Russia would be discussed.

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