Over 100 business leaders, including over 30 Russian blue-chip firms’ CEOs, are expected to hold talks with their Indian counterparts in New Delhi tomorrow ahead of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit for the 11th Indo-Russian Annual Summit on Tuesday (December 21).

Addressing the concerns expressed by both sides over the low level of economic exchange under the two-decades-old strategic bilateral partnership between India and Russia is high on the agenda for the summit.

According to diplomatic sources, business leaders in both countries have exhibited heightened interest in each others’ economies in light of success stories such as ONGC Videsh Ltd’s investment in the Sakhalin-1 and Imperial Energy projects in Russia and Russia’s Sistema entry into the Indian mobile communications space under the MTS brand in consortium with an Indian company, Shyam Teleservices.

The Joint Venture Agreement inked recently between Russia’s Severstal and India’s National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) for setting up a USD 5 billion steel plant in Karnataka and Reliance Industries’ JV agreement with Russian petrochemicals giant SIBUR for manufacturing synthetic rubber also demonstrate the growing interest of firms from both sides to take up long-term projects in either country.

In his November 30 State of the Nation Address to Parliament, Medvedev underscored that Russia’s foreign policy should not be “limited to missiles“.

“We have to develop our economic diplomacy, evaluating its results based on practical benefits it produces for modernisation, first and foremost — creating joint ventures in Russia, supplying high-quality, inexpensive goods to the Russian market,” Medvedev said, underscoring Moscow’s priorities in economic partnerships with countries like India.

Medvedev sees a “great potential for expanding the innovation aspect” in bilateral cooperation with India and was in favour of a “modernisation partnership” in five priority areas identified by his government, including energy efficiency, nuclear energy and pharmaceuticals and both ground-and space-based IT and IT-enabled services.

These are the sectors where India can contribute know-how, as well as learn from Russia.

In this regard, the governments of both countries have ratified the extension of the Indo-Russian Integrated Long-Term Programme (ILTP) of Scientific and Technological Cooperation for another 10 years in a new avatar — the Innovation Led Technology Programme — which will be signed on December 21 during Medvedev’s New Delhi visit.

Officials on both sides noted that the ILTP signed in the 1980s by then-Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev is the only bilateral programme that has survived and continued to develop even after fragmentation of the USSR, because it was based on direct personal contacts between scientists and labs of the two countries.

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