Russia and India attempt to ‘polish’ ties during Vladimir Putin’s visit

New Delhi, Iftikhar Gilani: As Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives here on Wednesday on a two-day visit to lift sagging Indo-Russian relations, on the table also is to declare India’s commercial capital Mumbai an international diamond hub. This could catapult their bilateral trade in diamonds from a paltry $611 million to a whopping $5 billion, senior government sources associated with the visit told dna.

Russia and India attempt to ‘polish’ ties during Vladimir Putin’s visit

Even as Russian President’s address to a joint session of Parliament on Thursday was cancelled citing “his tight schedule and pressing engagements,” he will supervise signing of 15 bilateral agreements on varied issues in n Hyderabad House on Wednesday.

Putin, who will head the 15th Annual India-Russia Summit along with prime minister Narendra Modi may discuss among other key issues the proposed Russia-India gas pipeline, besides the issues in the fields of defence, nuclear energy, customs and banking. His visit may also coincide with talks on construction of third and fourth units for the Kudankulam nuclear power plant as part of a comprehensive review of the Indo-Russia nuclear cooperation. In the defence sector, the two countries will review the progress on the joint production of Fifth-Generation Fighter Aircraft Programme. India is already using 60 to 70 per cent of the Russian military hardware and Putin’s prime goal is to persuade the Modi government not to engage with other countries like the United States in any big way in the defence purchases. And vice-verse India will also impress upon Russia, not to warm up its defence ties with arch rival Pakistan.

Sources here said both countries were working quietly to place an agreement on diamond trade to boost diamond market to help more than a million workers engaged in trade in Surat and Mumbai. There is also a possibility that Modi and Putin attend opening of a World Diamond Conference here on December 11. Russia is the world’s biggest producer of diamonds. India is the world’s biggest cutter and polisher of diamonds with Surat as the hub of this industry. The bulk of Russia’s exports of diamonds to Europe have been threatened by the sanctions imposed against it due to Ukrainian crises. Officials here have made it clear that, “India clearly cannot be party to any sanctions against Russia”, keeping hopes of diamond trade alive in Moscow. Off late, India’s exports of cut and polished diamonds have been steadily declining, with its impact directly on Gujarat. According to figures available exports have down by 37 per cent last year.

Over past few years, Moscow’s big shift towards Beijing and Pakistan has caused worries in India. Moscow is also alarmed that its tested customer of defence equipment have moved to the US and Israel. “Reviving the defence bilateral will be a key topic on the agenda for President Putin’s visit to India,” says Sameer Patil, associate national security fellow at the Gateway House.