Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Putin to address joint session of Parliament.........

Vladimir Putin may be the reigning bad guy in much of the western world, but next week India will signal to him that he remains a friend. Coming to India on his annual sojourn, Putin has been invited to address a joint session of Parliament, an honour last given to US President Barack Obama in 2010. Coming a month before Obama is scheduled to travel here as chief guest for Republic Day, the government is keen to give the Putin visit top billing.

During his first meeting with Putin, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had invited him to visit Kudankulam in south India, where a Russia-made nuclear reactor has finally gone online. But Putin is unlikely to make that trip. Instead, on his single-day summit here, Putin is planning to pack in a rash of appointments and sign a predictable number of agreements with India.

On top of that list would be energy and diamonds. ONGC might invest in more oilfields in Russia, while India and Russia may rewrite an older agreement for direct diamond trade. According to industry reports, 80 per cent of the world's diamond cutting happens in India, and there is a proposal to set up a diamond hub in Mumbai. Russian diamond company, Alrosa, may be looking to tie up long-term deals, particularly as western sanctions hit Russia.

India will be particularly keen to tie up energy and other economic deals with Russia because New Delhi does not want Moscow to be isolated in the world so that it is driven to Beijing's sphere of influence. Russia signed a $400 billion energy deal with China in May, and may even break the informal arms blockade to Pakistan.

India will have to find creative ways of keeping Russia on its side, even as it moves westwards to acquire weapons and weapons systems.