Impasse still stands over nuclear liability provisions, other civil issues

India and Russia have put off their high-level engagement planned for November 1 by almost two months in order to reach an agreement on some contentious military and civil issues.

The announcement about the meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian President Vladimir Putin was first made by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) here in a statement and later by the Russian government.

While the MEA indirectly hinted at the stalemate or lack of clarity over some mega projects, the Russian side was more forthright about the reason behind the postponement.

“All details of the bilateral agenda must be finalised by that time [December 24], so that the visit gets maximum substance,” Mr. Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said while announcing the new dates.

India and Russia are yet to break the impasse over liability provisions for units three and four of the Kudankulam power project and are locked in a row over the revoked 2G spectrum licences, which hit Sistema Shyam TeleServices Limited, a subsidiary of Russia’s AFK Sistema group. Russia is also still to say how much time it will need to eliminate major deficiencies that emerged during the recent sea trials of INS Vikramaditya.

In India, asked why Mr. Putin’s visit was announced so much in advance, official sources said it was to dampen speculation about him about going to Pakistan and not planning to come here. They said the declaration would also quell conjecture arising from the stalemate on three India-Russia projects — units 3 & 4 at Kudankulam, Sistema’s investment in the telecom sector and Severstal being dragged into arbitration.

Not odd: Russia

But sources in Moscow said it was not unusual for an announcement to be made months in advance. They pointed out that Mr. Putin was planning to visit Turkey and India during the beginning of November — officials here had been talking about October 31 and December as the dates of Mr. Putin’s visit.

Both visits have been put off and the trip to Turkey will now take place in early December while Mr. Putin will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on December 24.

Although no official announcement of Mr. Putin’s visit was made, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, during his visit to India this month, said the annual summit would take place on November 1.

Many pending projects

Both sides have much to sort out but on the flipside, they have much common business to transact, including a raft of projects and orders on the military side as well as initiatives to improve trade, connectivity and energy ties.

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