Impressing upon the need for both India and Russia to engage more in critical sectors including expanding economic cooperation in the high priority area, Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma on Friday said he had conveyed to the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that India’s relationship with other countries would not be at the cost of the strategic relationship with Moscow.

Mr. Sharma, who returned from a three-day trip to Russia, said that during his meeting with Mr. Putin, he reaffirmed the fact that Russia remains in the focus of the Indian radar. “I reiterated India’s abiding commitment to nurture and consolidate the strategic partnership with Russia. I also expressed the need to enhance cooperation in core and critical sectors like atomic energy, space sciences and defence apart from expanding partnership in the oil and gas sector,” he said. The importance Russia attached to Mr. Sharma’s visit could be gauged from the fact that he had a wide-ranging audience and consultations with Mr. Putin, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov, Economic Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina and Industry and Trade Minister Viktor Khristenko.

Mr. Sharma said that during his 20-minute meeting with Mr. Putin he had also taken up issues faced by Indian entrepreneurs in making investments in Russia and sought reduction of hurdles to pave the way for a smooth flow of investments at various levels. Both countries also agreed on high-level investments in energy, pharmaceuticals, information technology and agro-processing.

Mr. Sharma also co-chaired the Third India-Russia Forum on Trade and Investments that coincided with the inauguration of the international forum of foreign investors, “Russia Calling.”

The two countries agreed to increase bilateral trade to $15 billion by 2012, and diversifying the trade basket. The two-way trade was estimated at $7 billion in 2008.

Mr. Sharma said he had told nearly 350 CEOs from both countries that no country could substitute New Delhi’s relations with Russia as it was based on trust and friendship. “I underlined that some of the Indian space achievements, including the Chandrayaan-1 lunar mission and the recent launching of multiple satellites by ISRO, were possible due to consistent technological support from Russia.”

Mr. Putin welcomed the diversification of the Indian trade basket by moving to joint projects, ventures and investments in core sectors of the economy including space, defence, infrastructure, IT, telecom and in all forms of energy including non-conventional and nuclear.

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