The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Gorshkov focus of Atal’s Russia tour

New Delhi, Nov. 9: Defence secretary Ajay Prasad leaves for Moscow today, two days ahead of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to try and work out an agreement that will help Delhi acquire the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov during the Prime Minister’s visit.

There are indications that at least seven agreements will be signed between the two countries during Vajpayee’s visit to Russia beginning November 11, with the focus on science and technology and space. Two centres of science — one on gas hydrates and the other on seismology — in Chennai and Hyderabad are also scheduled to be announced during the visit.

A business delegation of nearly 100 representatives of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Associated Chambers of Commerce, is also scheduled to be in Moscow during Vajpayee’s visit to take the opportunity to strengthen economic and trade ties with Russia.

Negotiations on the 40,000-tonne Admiral Gorshkov between the two sides have been on for several years. But an attempt is now being made to get the “contract for acquisition” ready so that it can be initialled during the Prime Minister’s visit.

The Gorshkov deal is worth nearly $1 billion. Details of what is on the plate will be known only after the two sides finalise the deal in the next few days. However, the package may contain nearly 29 MiG-29K vertical takeoff and landing aircraft and a squadron of Kamov-28 and Kamov-31 anti-submarine and early warning helicopters.

Vajpayee will arrive in Moscow in the afternoon of November 11. His main talks will start the next day and include a one-to-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at his dacha. This will be followed by a delegation-level meeting between the two sides and, in the evening, Putin will host a banquet for the Prime Minister at the Kremlin.

An announcement will also be made about linking Tartarstan — well known for Russian helicopters — with the Indian cyber city of Hyderabad.

On November 13, Vajpayee will inaugurate a meeting where captains of Indian business and their Russian counterparts will be present. The Prime Minister is also scheduled to deliver a lecture, later in the day, at the Russian Academy of Sciences where he is likely to focus on cooperation in science and technology and how it could be converted into commercial use.

From Moscow, Vajpayee will leave for Tajikistan and from there to Syria to complete his official tour.

Relations between India and Russia have been traditionally strong and this has continued even after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the post-Cold War period, Delhi and Moscow have been engaged with multiple partners in an attempt to widen their foreign policy. But this has not affected ties between the two sides, who continue to regard each other as a “close and time-tested ally”.

Developments in South Asia, particularly India-Pakistan relations, the regrouping of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the situation in Iraq and Iran and the status of the Organisation of Islamic Conference and Shanghai Co-operation Organisation are some areas on which Putin and Vajpayee will exchange views and information.

Co-operation in defence has always been a key component in India-Russia ties and even now more than 65 per cent of Indian military hardware is dependent on Moscow.

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