NATIONAL

Indian trade fair in Moscow

MOSCOW DEC. 25. A major Indian trade fair will be held in Russia in February as the two countries strive to boost their sagging bilateral trade. About 200 Indian companies will display their goods and services, ranging from leather and jewellery to IT and biotechnology, at Moscow's premium exhibition grounds, Expo Centre, from February 17 to 21.

It will be the biggest Indian trade fair in Russia for nearly a decade and the first one to showcase India's progress in hi-tech industries.``Traditional Indian exports to Russia, like tea and coffee, will continue to be there, but we also look to Russia as a market for diamonds, IT and software, garments, textiles and tourism,'' said Mr. R.V. Deshpande, Minister for Large and Medium Industries, Government of Karnataka. He led a nine-member commercial delegation to Moscow this week to discuss arrangements for the exhibition.

During the Russian President, Vladimir Putin's visit to India earlier this month, both sides voiced concern over a wide gap between the high-level political and defence cooperation and the abysmally low volume of bilateral trade. This year, Indo-Russian trade is expected to post a modest growth from $1.4 billion to $1.8 billion, but there are fears it may crash after 2005, when India will have repaid its old Soviet debts.

Rupee funds generated by the debt repayment at a rate of $1 billion a year currently account for about 90 per cent of Indian exports to Russia. The 2003 Indian Trade Exhibition will give special prominence to Gujarat as the lead State and Karnataka as the partner State. The two have led the way in establishing direct ties with Russian regions. Gujarat has signed a cooperation agreement with Astrakhan and Karnataka has a similar accord with Samara.

``The main objective of the trade fair is to promote business-to-business contacts and explore opportunities for launching joint ventures in the manufacturing sector both in India and Russia,'' said Mr. J. Vasudevan, Chairman and Managing Director, IPTO.