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Monday 27 January 2020

To Russia with love: PM Modi’s next foreign tour

In Russia, Modi will attend the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok and hold the annual bilateral summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Russia on 4-5 September will open a “new chapter” in the already close ties between the two countries as both sides will aim to expand cooperation in a plethora of areas, including defence, trade, civil nuclear energy and hydrocarbons, Russian envoy in India Nikolay Kudashev said on Wednesday.

On the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, Kudashev said Russia is strongly backing India’s position on abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution and that New Delhi and Islamabad should resolve the outstanding issues through dialogue, based on the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration.

In Russia, Modi will attend the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok and hold the annual bilateral summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

At a press conference, Kudashev said the summit between Modi and Putin will lay a solid ground for exploration and promotion of a new dimension of the mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries.

Another Russian official said both sides are working towards finalisation of an agreement for setting up six more civil nuclear reactors in India, apart from the Kudankulam project.

Under the Kudankulam project, Russia is building six nuclear reactors in India. Kudankulam was in news for the wrong reason in July 2018, years after vested interests blocked the setting up of the civilian nuclear facility. Newspapers in south India alleged that the noisy activism was aimed at safeguarding American interests as its reactors were Russian. The plant has still not been able to make a permanent arrangement to dispose of radioactive waste.

There is a US-Russia Cold War of sorts happening on Battlefield India on another front. India was assured in October 2018 it will finally acquire the S-400 Triumf, the world’s most lethal surface-to-air missile, from Russia amid a threat of tough sanctions from the US. The deal was signed between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin. India signed the much-anticipated deal worth $5.43-billion to buy five Russian S-400 Triumf missile shield systems at the 19th India-Russia annual bilateral summit at the Hyderabad House. While the United States warned any such agreement between India and Russia could attract sanctions under the US law, the BJP-led government succeeded in getting a waiver for India.

The US is wary of this system as the Americans fear the S-400 Triumf software can gather sensitive information about the American military hardware that India uses. While Indian military hardware is largely Russian, Israeli, French and indigenous, with the American component restricted to transport aircraft and lately helicopters, the US has been trying to hard-sell its fighter planes to India for long. S-400 threatens to leak vital information of those planes, fearing which the US will, for the foreseeable future, lose that lucrative Indian market.

With inputs from Surajit Dasgupta

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