Russian President arrives today: Modi, Putin to focus on terror as common threat

With the security situation emanating out of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan a “shared concern”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday will focus on terrorism as a common threat to both countries and the region.

Putin will arrive in New Delhi on Monday, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu were scheduled to arrive on Sunday night.

Top government sources told The Indian Express on Sunday that the two sides have worked “very closely” on the issue of threats of terrorism, terrorist financing and the flow of arms and drugs trade, and that these issues are expected to be reflected in the joint statement after Putin meets Modi.

The top government source pointed out that New Delhi and Moscow have worked together on at least three major multilateral groupings — Russia-India-China (RIC), BRICS and SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) — and the conversation will be carried forward at the bilateral meetings as well.

In fact, to strengthen the bilateral mechanism — a new format, the 2+2 ministerial meeting between the Foreign and Defence ministers of both sides will also take place on Monday, ahead of the Putin-Modi bilateral summit in the evening. So far, India has 2+2 ministerial formats with only the Quad countries — US, Japan and Australia.

Officials said that at the recent RIC meeting, India had negotiated hard on including references to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). While there is no mention of any terrorist entities — from India-focused groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba or the Jaish-e-Mohammed, or any other group, including the ETIM (East Turkestan Islamic Movement) — a top government source told The Indian Express, “In the last 10-15 years of RIC statements, terrorist entities have not been mentioned in the RIC joint document.”

Ahead of Putin’s visit, India has cleared the long-pending AK-203 Kalashnikov rifles deal worth nearly Rs 5,000 crore for the production of over 5 lakh rifles at Korwa in Amethi by an Indo-Russian joint venture. The two sides are also negotiating to wrap up the final phase of negotiations for a logistics support agreement, which is likely to be signed either during the 2+2 talks or at the summit.

Explained

India’s key concern

From the RIC to bilateral conversations, India has pushed for references to concerns on terrorism to be reflected in the joint documents. In fact, after the fall of Kabul, Putin and Modi spoke and Russian NSA Nikolai Patrushev was sent to New Delhi to carry forward the conversation. While both sides have shared concerns and objectives, their ways to achieve those goals are somewhat different. That is reflected in their engagements with the Taliban and Pakistan.

In reflection of their time-tested defence ties, India and Russia are also set to renew for the next decade a framework for military-technical cooperation, besides announcing a joint commission on technology and science. The two sides are also likely to finalise a number of defence procurement proposals, besides deliberating on the long-pending project for joint production of 200 twin-engine Kamov-226T light helicopters for the Indian armed forces.

The pacts to be signed will cover a wide range of areas including trade, energy, culture, defence and technology, sources said.

On cooperation in areas of defence, sources said the two sides are set to focus on co-production and co-development of military equipment and platforms. Referring to investment ties, they said the target of $30 billion has already been met in 2018 and now the focus is on raising it to $50 billion by 2025.

Sources said India is also keen on boosting trade relations with the Russian Far East and 11 governors from the region have been invited for the upcoming Vibrant Gujarat conclave.

According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), the day will begin with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s talks with his Russian counterpart Shoygu under the framework of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation. Separately, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will hold talks with his Russian counterpart Lavrov. Then the Foreign and Defence Ministers of the two sides will hold the ‘2+2’ dialogue at 11:30 am.

Modi and Putin will then hold a one-on-meeting before the 21st India-Russia summit at 5.30 pm. A dinner will also be hosted for the Russian leader, before he departs from New Delhi at 9:30 pm.

According to sources, India is likely to apprise the Russian side about its position on the eastern Ladakh border row as well as its concerns over various regional developments.

Both India and Russia have a mechanism under which India’s prime minister and the Russian president hold a summit meeting annually to review the entire gamut of ties. The last India-Russia Annual Summit was held in September 2019 during the visit of Modi to Vladivostok. The annual summit could not take place in 2020 due to the pandemic.

So far 20 annual summit meetings have taken place alternatively in India and Russia.

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