Modi to visit Russia, trade high on agenda

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will leave for Moscow on Wednesday to attend the 16th India-Russia annual summit meeting during which a number of bilateral agreements are expected to be signed, with trade being a major focus area.

This will be the first meeting between Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin since the two had a formal interaction at the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) summit in Ufa in July, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar said at a media briefing here on Tuesday.

“The visit will start with a private dinner hosted by President Putin on December 23. The actual summit will be held on December 24,” Jaishankar said.

He said Modi and Putin would also interact with Indian and Russian CEOs at the Kremlin.

“Then the prime minister would be addressing a gathering of the Friends of India and the Indian community at the Expo Centre in Moscow,” the foreign secretary said.

Modi will also visit the Russian Emercom agency, a centre for national disaster management forces, where he will be briefed on the real-time monitoring of civil emergencies.

“We have a very special strategic relationship with Russia and this spanned key sectors such as defence, nuclear cooperation and space,” Jaishankar said.

At the last summit held in New Delhi in December 2014, both Modi and Putin had given a lot of attention to expanding the economic pillars of the relationship between the two countries and that would continue to be a major issue in this summit as well.

In the New Delhi summit, the two countries also released a vision document called “Druzhba Dosti”.

Calling Russia an “old and trusted partner of India”, Jaishankar said the two countries’ approach to a lot of global and regional issues were very similar.

In the upcoming Moscow summit, he said, a number of agreements are expected to be signed covering a very range of fields.

“Our trade with Russia last year was a shade below $10 billion and we hope in the next 10 years to really take it up to $30 billion. So, expanding trade is a very big priority,” he said.

“Similarly, mutual investments are roughly around $11 billion of each other. We hope to take it up to $30 billion by 2025.”

According to Jaishankar, a lot of work has been done to facilitate trade and improve the investment climate.

“There have been discussions and understandings, for example, on the customs side, movement of goods,” he said.

Last year’s initiative to exhibit and promote the sale of diamonds has got off the ground and the Indian side was giving a lot of focus on agro-products.

“We had discussions with Russia on the Eurasian economic zone and the FTA (free trade agreement) with them. The study for that has been completed on our side,” the foreign secretary said.

He also said India has an understanding with Russia to build 12 nuclear power plants.

“That work is going on and the first plant at Kudankulam has been built and is in the process of getting connected to the grid,” Jaishankar said, adding that discussions were going on between the two sides on the rest of the plants.

On the defence side, he said Russia has been a very major military and strategic partner for India and there would be a lot of discussions in this connection.

“Similarly, on the energy and natural resources side, oil and even coal is an area in which we have a lot of interest in working with the Russians,” he said.

Stating that Russia has been historically an important technology partner of India, Jaishankar said: “Whether it is in super-computing, whether it is in heavy engineering, satellites on the space side and even in the area of renewable energy we think we can do a lot.”

He said a number of global issues with current relevance will come up for discussions between Modi and Putin.

Promotion of tourism and facilitating travel for people of the two countries will also come up for discussion.