AGencies Dec 6, 2014 : The 15th India-Russia annual summit in New Delhi on 11 December will not be a routine annual ritual. It will be an occasion for the age-old ‘special strategic partners’ to address a string of contentious issues that have cast a shadow on their bilateral ties for several years and come up with an honest and sincere approach to build further on their convergences while tackling their divergences boldly.The two principals – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin – are no strangers to each other and have already met twice this year, first in Brazil on the sidelines of BRICS summit in July and then in Brisbane, Australia, during the G20 summit in November. The two leaders, thus, won’t have to waste time in knowing each other and can hit the ground running straightaway.A new dimension of the upcoming Indo-Russian summit is that this will be the first time when such an event is being held after the accession of a new government in India, headed by Modi. This will be Modi’s first annual summit with Russia. And knowing Modi, one can safely surmise that he will leave no stone unturned to ensure that Indo-Russian relations are put in a higher orbit.As for Putin, it must be pointed out that it was he who had initiated the India-Russia Annual Summit process during his landmark visit to India in October 2000. Fourteen years later, Putin’s main objective of his India visit would be to steer this process to the 2.0 stage.When PM Modi met Putin for the first time in Brazil in July he told him that every child in India knows that Russia is India’s closest friend. But the Modi-Putin relationship goes back to the days when he was the chief minister of Gujarat. He had visited Russia thrice as Gujarat chief minister and had had interactions with Putin.This is how India’s main New Delhi-based point man for Russia, Ajay Bisaria, joint secretary in-charge of Eurasia division in the Ministery of External Affairs, described India’s relationship with Russia: “Russia is a significant partner for India in strategic sectors like defence, nuclear security and science, including space. Russia is also our primary defence partner and will remain so for decades.”While briefing journalists on Friday evening about Putin’s upcoming India visit, Bisaria remarked thus: “Russia is also amongst our most important interlocutors on regional, international and multilateral issues. Our two countries work closely together

in international fora, at the United Nations and other groupings such as the G20, BRICS, EAS and Russia-India-China (RIC... President Putin’s visit is a landmark event and is expected to provide a fresh impetus to the existing excellent bilateral relations between our two countries. A dominant theme of this Summit will be the spelling out by the two leaders of a joint vision of our relationship for the next decade. It will provide a roadmap for enhancing the partnership between our two countries to qualitatively new levels. It will have a strong focus on redefining the economic partnership between our countries. Several documents are under preparation for signing at the Summit, in the fields of defence, nuclear energy, customs, banking and energy.”Alexander Kadakin, the Russian ambassador in India, has gone on record as identifying medical tourism, education and tourism as among the key areas in which Indo-Russian cooperation is set to intensify further. “About 15 important bilateral documents are expected to be signed, including some in the field of military-technical cooperation. Another important document is being prepared in peaceful nuclear energy, which will be discussed at a future meeting; both countries will continue their cooperation in this area,” Kadakin said.Apart from a possible pact on diamond trade and articulation of a vision document for next decade of Indo-Russian relations as mentioned by this writer here, the two sides are also going to have in-depth discussions on many subjects in prime focus sectors like nuclear energy, hydrocarbons, defence and space.There will be a substantive discussion on setting up of the units 3 and 4 of the Kudankulam nuclear plant the price tag of which has more than doubled to $6 billion as compared to Kudankulam’s units 1 and 2. India was keen that Putin undertakes a trip to Kudankulam, Tamil Nadu, but the plan had to be shelved for paucity of time.Modi and are also going to focus on some contentious defence-related issues like the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA). Such issues will come up during their delegation-level talks and a meeting under the restricted format where select participants from either side would be in attendance.India has major concerns about its work share and many other outstanding issues with regard to the FGFA project. It is understood that Putin would be accommodative and may come up with a better offer that would give a boost to Modi’s pet project: Make in India.

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