The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Russian minister set for India trip

New Delhi, June 7: Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov will come here on June 16 for a day-long meeting with Yashwant Sinha, his Indian counterpart. The meeting is part of an arrangement the two sides have agreed on.

The two met in Moscow last month during Sinhaís visit there.

The recent attacks in Chechnya will come up for discussion as the two sides have been coordinating with each other on ways to combat terrorism. The meeting will also give them a chance to review the gamut of bilateral relations and discuss developments in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The foreign ministers are also scheduled to attend the Asean regional forum in Cambodia later this month. During their meeting, Ivanov and Sinha will be able to coordinate their positions on key issues.

The ground was prepared last week in St. Petersburg during the one-to-one meeting between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and President Vladimir Putin. An area in which Russia has shown interest is cooperation in the field of nuclear energy for civilian use. Moscow has supplied Delhi two nuclear reactors for the Kudamkulam power plant in south India.

Both Russia and France, another country keen to work with Delhi in this field, fear that if the US also enters the fray there will be little space for them in the potentially large Indian market. Delhi and Washington are considering nuclear cooperation.

But a South Block source said this issue may not come up during Ivanovís talks with Sinha as their focus will be on other areas.

Progress on the peace initiative with Pakistan may be discussed. Delhi has made it clear that while it is keen to improve relations with Islamabad, the terror apparatus has to be dismantled first. Sinha will stress that Pakistan has to take urgent and visible steps to stop cross-border militancy.

The situation in Iraq, particularly speculation on whether India will send peacekeeping troops under US command, is also likely to be discussed.

Russia is not keen that India send forces to help the US maintain law and order in Iraq. Vajpayee has indicated that Delhi will not send its troops in a hurry.

Sinha may take the opportunity to explain Indiaís rationale and its concerns in working under American supervision.

Russia and India have been co-ordinating closely on Afghanistan since the time when the Taliban was in power. After the militia was ousted, the two countries have come even closer to play a meaningful role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

The Taliban is reported to be re-grouping along Afghanistanís border with Pakistan and the Hamid Karzai government is thought to be finding it difficult to extend its influence beyond Kabul.

Sinha and Ivanov are bound to discuss how their countries can maintain political stability in the country.

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