It was a state visit that wasn’t. At the specific request of the Russian side, India dispensed with the ceremonial formalities for President Vladimir Putin’s 24-hour visit, ensuring more time for discussion. So Putin and Narendra Modi had an exchange of views over three hours at dinner last night, followed by more than an hour of talks without aides this morning.
That appeared to set the stage for the quiet signing of the agreement on the $5 billion S-400 missile defence system in the morning. It was buried deep in the joint statement, figuring in paragraph 45. Sources underscored that “S-400 is in our national interest, it fulfils our national defence requirement”.
The sources said negotiations on making the AK-103 assault rifle in India are still on, as also talks on the Kamov 226T helicopter and four Krivak class frigates. India sought Russia’s support for make in India in defence, and Putin was positive.
The Russians want bilateral trade to move up, and suggested a target of $30 billion by 2025. They have promised to help stabilise oil prices, boosting production when required. They were keen on Indian private sector companies investing in Arctic gas and sought more Indian investment in Russia’s oil sector.
The Russians have promised to support India’s manned space programme including the Moon mission. Details are being worked out but reports have indicated training of Indian astronauts in Russia’s space facilities.
Sources said Putin was keen on India buying Russian-made civil passenger aircraft and river craft including ferries. They said Russia sounded positive on opening its market for Indian pharma formulations and tapping into India’s IT expertise.
The Russians wanted India’s Look East policy to include its own far east region where there are vast mining opportunities. There was discussion of trade in own national currencies.
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