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Medvedev visit: Nuclear, defence, economy key issues on agenda

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Indian Prime Minister Manmoham Singh. A PTI file photo.

NEW DELHI (PTI): India and Russia are set to push their relations in nuclear, defence and various other areas to newer levels during the upcoming visit of President Dmitry Medvedev when the two sides are expected to sign at least eight agreements.

Enhancing economic component of bilateral relations, which has remained well below the potential, will be the focus of the two-day visit beginning on December 21.

Medvedev, who will be here for the annual India-Russia Summit, will hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on a range of issues covering bilateral and regional matters like situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan and global issues of mutual interest.

During the visit, the two sides are expected to sign eight agreements in various areas, including civil nuclear, defence, space and trade.

In the civil nuclear field, the two leaders are expected to discuss ways to carry forward their cooperation beyond the building of atomic plants in India.

In this context, cooperation in research and other aspects would be on the agenda and a couple of agreements are likely to be signed in this regard, sources told PTI.

Earlier, the first unit of Kudankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu was expected to be commissioned during Medvedev's visit but that is not going to happen as certain procedural matters are yet to be worked out, the sources said.

The 1000 MW unit, being constructed for the last three years, is one of the four such units in Kudankulam to be built through collaboration with Russia.

India has also earmarked a site in Haripur in West Bengal for a nuclear plant to be constructed with Russian collaboration. This project, however, is facing stiff resistance from the local people.

As a result, an alternate site, including in Orissa, is being identified where Russian nuclear plant could be built.

In the military field, the two sides are at an advanced stage of negotiations for a contract for joint production of 5th generation fighters and it could be signed during the visit. First of such fighters, to be designed in India, could roll out by 2018.

During the visit, the two sides are also expected to discuss the upgradation of MiG-29 and Sukhoi fighter aircraft.

The main focus of the visit will, however, be economy.

Despite healthy political relations, bilateral trade between India and Russia is still as low as USD 8 billion and both sides are determined to push it to USD 20 billion by 2015.

The sources said the reason for low bilateral trade is that the private sector on both sides has not been engaging much.

Realising this, the two sides have identified IT, pharma, diamonds and investments as the sectors in which the private sector could be involved to much greater extent.

The two countries are also discussing greater engagement in the hydrocarbon sector.

In this area, India has invested five billion dollars in Sakhalin-I and is now eyeing the Sakhalin-III oil and gas project in eastern Siberia.

India has conveyed its interest for exploration and development of Sakhalin-III and the two sides have been discussing the possibility of forming a joint venture between ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) and Russia's Rosneft.

Singh and Medvedev are also expected to discuss ways to counter the threat of terrorism, emanating from Pakistan and Afghanistan and of which both the countries are victims.

Reform of the United Nations, including the Security Council, and other global institutions would also be on the agenda of talks between the two leaders.

Medvedev will also travel to Mumbai. He last visited India in December 2008.

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