Like the curate’s egg, the prime minister’s visit to Russia is good in parts. It has not been an overwhelming success in the sense that the Indian side would have wanted it to be, but it also cannot be written off as a wasted trip. One reason why the trip cannot be seen as a total success is the fact that the deal to have Russia set up two more nuclear reactors was deferred. What stood in the way was the legal green signal after the lawyers on both sides had cleared the final draft. That such clearance could be a complicated issue is indicated by the absence of a specified time frame. Thus a commercial agreement between the Nuclear Power Corporation of India and Russia’s Rosatom remains a possibility on the horizon. There are good reasons to sound a note of pessimism on this issue. Negotiations on two fresh nuclear reactors have to overcome the serious roadblock created by India’s new liability. It is obvious that the Russians have grave concerns on this score. One particular clause of this law is at the root of these concerns. This clause says that the operator has “a right to recourse’’ against the supplier in case of a nuclear accident. Russians, like any other potential supplier, have worries about this clause and it will be some time, if ever, before the fears are removed.
The disappointment on the reactor front is balanced by the general agreement arrived at between Manmohan Singh and Vladimir Putin. It was obvious that the two leaders agreed that India and Russia could — and should — act together on a range of international issues. Two of these issues were Syria and Iran. This visit to Russia negated the accusation often levelled at Mr Singh that under his leadership India had moved too close for comfort to the United States of America. If Mr Singh succeeds in striking a similar accord with his counterpart in Beijing in the next few days, he would open up the possibility of a new era in diplomacy in which Russia, China and India could move together in concert. In domestic politics, Mr Singh is no stranger to the handling of contradictions; he appears to have extended this art to international affairs. One thing is evident: India’s role in global affairs has increased perceptibly. Mr Singh’s personality and the respect his scholarship draws have contributed to this rise in India’s stature. Leaders of powerful nations take India seriously because of its economic size, because of its responsibility and because of the role of its present prime minister in international affairs.