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BW Businessworld

Putin, Modi Seek To Revive Historic Russia-India Ties

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Russian President Vladimir Putin is visiting India in an attempt to revive a historic friendship that has faded over the years, seeking to improve cooperation in energy, defence and nuclear power.
He is in New Delhi for his first summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday at a time when Russia is at odds with the West over Ukraine, and its economy is stalling as oil prices tumble to their lowest point in five years.
Putin, who is accompanied by a high-level delegation that includes business tycoons, was received on his arrival on Wednesday by Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan among other dignitaries.
Ahead of his visit, Putin termed ties with India as "privileged strategic partnership" and said construction of new nuclear plants besides military and technical cooperation was high on the agenda for talks.
He said Russia was keen to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) to India and involve ONGC in oil and gas hunt in the Arctic.
Energy-starved India, which is the third largest oil importer after the US and China, has been pushing for greater involvement in major gas and oil exploration projects in Russia and both the leaders are set to discuss the issue.
"It is good for a rich fiancee to have a beautiful bridegroom," Russia's ambassador to New Delhi, Alexander Kadakin, said before the visit. "But they should not promise you a marriage and then betray you."
Soviet-era Romance
Yet Moscow's eye has wandered too since its Soviet-era romance with New Delhi. Bilateral trade, at $10 billion, is now one-ninth of that between Russia and China - the focus of Putin's pivot away from an increasingly critical Europe.
"Russia is a tried and trusted friend - a country that has helped us in times of trouble," an Indian official said. "But that friendship hasn't delivered in terms of its economic potential."
The two leaders, who will hold a one-on-one meeting followed by intergovernmental talks, will also preside over the signing of a broad "vision" document laying out a roadmap for cooperation over an extended period, officials on both sides say.
Strategic deals will cover oil exploration and supply, infrastructure and an increase in direct diamond sales to India by Russian state monopoly Alrosa.
On defence, the two sides will seek to move ahead with long-delayed projects to develop a joint fifth-generation fighter jet and a multi-role transport aircraft.
Possibly the most ambitious area for cooperation will be in nuclear energy, where Putin is pushing for state-owned Rosatom to increase the number of nuclear reactors it could supply to as many as 25.
A 1,000-megawatt reactor is operating at the Russian-built Kudankulam power station in India's Tamil Nadu province, with a second due to come onstream in 2015. Final documents to build reactors three and four should be signed at the summit, diplomats said.