India and Russia will look to trade to boost the sagging ties between the two countries when Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives here for a brief visit this week. Mr. Putin will land on December 10 and fly out within 24 hours the next day.
Mr. Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are likely to unveil two “vision documents” on strategic, nuclear and economic issues, and could possibly make a joint appearance at the World Diamond Congress being held here on December 11 and 12.
Mr. Putin’s visit is part of the annual bilateral summits instituted by him during his earlier term as President in 2000. However, he will not address a joint session of Parliament as he did that year. Sources said though India had invited him to deliver the speech, his “tight schedule” will not permit him to do so.No Kudankulam visit
Mr. Putin will not visit the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, though Mr. Modi invited him when they met at the BRICS summit in Brazil in July.
Since July, the relationship between the two countries has been strained over India’s growing defence procurement from the U.S. even as Russia struggles with sanctions from the West. India is unhappy with Russia’s new defence cooperation agreement with Pakistan, which marks a significant shift from the past. In November, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu signed the agreement during a first-ever visit to Pakistan, and a Russian delegation took part for the first time in the Karachi Defence expo, which was held last week.
While officials refused to comment on the impact of these on Mr. Putin’s visit, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin called it “obviously significant,” adding “India has noted that Russia, like other countries, has chosen to improve defence cooperation with our neighbour,” thereby marking a shift from the “special” relationship with India. At a time when Mr. Putin is being isolated by the U.S. and its allies over operations in Ukraine, India’s surprise invitation to U.S. President Barack Obama to be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade in January has not gone unnoticed in Moscow.Free trade pact
In the run-up to this visit, Mr. Putin’s point person for India and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin visited Delhi to discuss ways of boosting bilateral trade. With just $10 billion in bilateral trade in 2013, India and Russia are not expected to meet their target of $15 billion by 2015, but both sides are talking about a free trade agreement with the Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus as well as join energy exploration in Russian gas fields.
Sources said the two sides were likely to announce a big partnership between Russian companies that were the biggest exporters of rough-cut diamonds and Indian diamond companies, the largest importers.
India and Russia are like to sign nearly 15 agreements in defence, nuclear energy, customs, banking and energy.