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Delhi strengthens Russia bond...
- Defence, IT on plate

Moscow, May 8: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will join the gathering of more than 50 other world leaders tomorrow to watch a grand ceremonial parade at the historic Red Square to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Victory Day when the Allies defeated Nazi Germany in 1945.

On a day ' the Russians call it the anniversary of the Great Patriotic War ' when President Vladimir Putin, would be hosting 56 world leaders, he has found time for a select few for a bilateral dialogue. Prime Minister Singh is one of them. India has a special relationship with Russia and this would be recognition of that.

Singh is here essentially to show solidarity with the Russians in remembering the sacrifices made by them ' 27 million Russians died in World War II, more than all the Allies put together.

'This is an opportunity for India to pay homage to Russia’s martyrs. The gathering of so many heads of state and heads of government here shows how much the world values Russia’s contribution. This is also an opportunity to pay tribute to Russia for helping us become an industrialised nation,' said foreign secretary Shyam Saran.

Singh and Putin, however, will also find time to review Indo-Russian bilateral ties and the progress made since Putin’s visit to India last December.

According to India’s ambassador to Russia, Kanwal Sibal, the key areas of defence, energy and information technology co-operation were likely to figure in the discussion.

The defence co-operation between the two countries has moved over time from being a buyer-seller relationship to one of joint production and joint research and development.

The BrahMos cruise missile is a co-production project of the two countries. The first Indo-Russian joint venture company for servicing Russian defence equipment has already been set up in India.

Because of the changing nature of the defence co-operation, Russia has been insisting that India sign an intellectual property rights (IPR) pact with it. This issue is likely to figure prominently in the Putin-Singh meeting tomorrow. Sibal said that two rounds of discussions on the IPR pact had already been held and that India had also given a draft agreement to the Russians.

The three key issues in the proposed IPR agreement relate to the retrospective application of its provisions to equipment already supplied; to the modification and upgradation of the Russian defence equipment purchased by India; and to the supply of spares. Sibal, however, pointed out that Russia had dropped its insistence on retrospective application of IPR provisions.

The Indian ambassador said that in the field of energy co-operation, India wanted to situate it in a 'strategic context'. India, he pointed out, had already invested $1.7 billion in the Sakhalin-1 oilfield and was also looking forward to joint investments in the Sakhalin-3, Kurmangazi (Kazakhstan), Vankor and Timanpechora oilfields.

The total Indian investment in the oil sector in Russia was expected to be 'a few billion dollars', Sibal claimed, refusing to be more specific.

India, Sibal claimed, was also exploring the possibility of providing Russia with oil and gas sector software. Putin apparently had been enthused by his Bangalore visit and India’s capabilities in the IT sector and the two sides had already set up a joint working group on IT. Infosys and a Russian company were also co-operating in the field of banking software.

Earlier, officials pointed out that there were no contentious issues in the India-Russia relationship and that this visit was primarily aimed at strengthening the ties further.

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