India, Russia explore new areas of co-operation

India, Russia explore new areas of co-operation

Defence Minister A K Antony is scheduled to meet his Russian counterpart in Oct

India, Russia explore new areas of co-operation

President Pratibha Patil and children pose for photographers during a meeting with Russian pupils learning Hindi and Indian dances in St.Petersburg on Saturday. AFP

President Pratibha Patil, who concluded her four-day State visit to the Russian Federation on Sunday, may not qualify as a “tall leader”, either intellectually or by personal stature. But the kind of red carpet the Kremlin rolled out for her reflected the return of the genuine warmth in the two countries’ relationship.

Even in the years India and Russia have drifted apart ever so slightly, there have always been the people-to-people contacts and cultural programmes which have kept them engaged. It was one such ‘The Year of India in Russia’ which began in March, which provided the backdrop to President Patil’s visit to Moscow and St Petersburg.

In the fast-changing economic and geopolitical situation in the world, the presidential visit was utilised to cement the existing relations as well as explore new areas of cooperation.

President Dmitry Medvedev devoted almost two days to Patil’s visit, engaging in one to one talks, delegation level discussions and cultural programmes, including a gala concert presented by the Indian artistes.

Interestingly, 46-year-old Medvedev who has developed a personal rapport with Patil after the two met for the first time in India last December, went out of the way to be courteous to his guest. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin too spent over an hour with the Indian delegation.

Though presidential visits are largely ceremonial in nature and no agreements are expected to be signed, the two sides discussed a wide range of issues, including terrorism emanating from Pakistan and Afghanistan, the cross-border drug trafficking, the need to strengthen the economic relations and cooperation in the fields of energy and defence.

Boost to business

The leaders of both countries stressed the importance of giving a major boost to business and trade which is a mere $5 billion dollars at present, compared to $53 billion between India and China. The newly constituted CEOs’ forum is meeting later this month, followed by a bilateral meeting of commerce ministers and India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation. Defence Minister A K Antony is scheduled to meet his counterpart in October, before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrives in Moscow for an annual summit in December. The officials do acknowledge that there are differences to be sorted out like the final price for Gorshkov aircraft carrier, “but it is being worked out to the satisfaction of both”.

Russia has also made it clear that it will not agree to any curbs on the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing equipment to India and the installation of four additional units at Kudamkalam nuclear plant is very much on course.

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