Home India News Putin visit: Mega defence deals, focus on resolving liability, Sistema

Putin visit: Mega defence deals, focus on resolving liability, Sistema


New Delhi: Russian President Vladimir Putin touches down here past Sunday midnight for a barely 18-hour visit during which India and Russia are expected to seal multi-billion dollar defence pacts and find the way forward on contentious issues like civil nuclear liability law and the Sistema investment.

Putin will be accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan Monday morning. This will be followed by wide-ranging talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

President Pranab Mukherjee will host lunch for the visiting Russian leader, who is widely seen as the architect of the special and privileged partnership between India and Russia in the 21st century.

Putin will also meet the ruling United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj.

Putin, who last visited India as prime minister in 2010, flies out of India Monday evening.

Ahead of the visit, the Kremlin said that Putin will discuss “concrete steps to further develop strategic partnership” in trade, investment, military and energy policy.

Defence deals worth $7 billion could prove to be the show-stealer. The highlight will be the contract, worth around $4 billion, to buy additional Sukhoi 30 MKI fighters equipped with the Brahmos cruise missiles, an Indo-Russian joint venture.

India has already signed a pact for delivery of 80 Mi-17 V5 helicopters, of which 42 had already been inducted since February this year.

Despite India diversifying its imports, Russia still accounts for over 60 percent of the country’s military hardware. On the trade front, the two sides are expected to reiterate the target for scaling up bilateral trade to $20 billion.

With differences festering over application of India’s civil nuclear liability law to units III and IV of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant (KNPP), the proposed power plants to be built by Russia, a pact on these units is unlikely to be signed after the Monday summit talks.

“I don’t think the agreement on units III and IV will be signed because we are still negotiating it but there will be more than a dozen documents which would be concluded covering the entire gamut of relations, including military cooperation,” Russian ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin told reporters here Friday.

However, in the one-one-one talks between Manmohan Singh and Putin, there may be an informal understanding on the revised price of these reactors that could pave the way for the signing of the deal later, said reliable sources.

Similarly, the sources indicated that the talks could lead to an understanding on the way forward to resolve the Russian telecom giant Sistema’s $3.1 billion investment, which has bred much bitterness in Moscow.

However, with difficult issues requiring some more time, the two leaders are expected to focus on the broader diplomatic and strategic canvas of the relationship, with increased cooperation in Afghanistan and in global fora like the G20 summit of the world’s leading economies which Russia will be hosting next year.