Modi in Moscow: 3 key issues PM would want Putin to warm up to
Make in India, Netaji files and ISIS would be top on PM's wishlist.
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From putting the first Indian in space to providing cover during the Liberation War of 1971, Russia has remained a key ally of India. And when Prime Minister Narendra Modi lands in Moscow, he will surely have a lot on his plate to discuss and formalise in terms of deals and agreements.
PM Modi's discussions with Russian President Putin on various bilateral issues will be no less than the game of "Spin the Wheel", where the contender hopes to grab the best deal. So let's check out some of the pertinent questions/deals/issues that will or might be on top of the Indian PM's agenda as he prepares to spend winter in Moscow.
Will Vladimir put(in) more money in Make in India?
With India increasing FDI up to 49 per cent in the defence production, its economic ties with Russia are expected to witness a dramatic change with the prime minister's visit to Moscow. But with Russian economy at a very volatile stage with last year's debacle of the ruble and Putin fire-fighting single-handedly to revive the economy, it would be very brave of the ex-KGB spy to extend new sets of economic pacts with India.
Russia has been facing some levels of isolation and sanctions from the West and other European power blocs on issues pertaining to Crimea, the downing of the MH17 and many related issues and that has prompted Putin to shift focus towards the emerging economies, especially Asia.
When Putin visited India in December 2014, as many as 20 agreements which comprised of seven intergovernmental and 13 commercial deals. The list included a strategic cooperation in peaceful use of atomic energy as well as partnership in oil and natural gas. As for the Make In India initiative, the Russian president had offered to build one of Russia most advanced choppers in India on a joint cooperation basis and had even extended an offer of exporting the choppers to other nations as well. It's been a year, but not much of these plans (on paper) have transformed to even the first stage of proper action on ground.
On the list could also be further discussions and progress report on the 12 nuclear reactors that Russia had promised to build during Putin's December visit. Also pending, is the fifth-generation fighter jet project between the two nations and even PM Modi had proposed an Indian manufacturing facility for a multipurpose aircraft and transport planes which is yet to take off. Reports suggest that defence deals worth $1bn might be inked during PM's trip to Moscow which would surely boost the morale of the armed forces as call for upgrade and replacement of ageing choppers like Chetak and Cheetah gain steam, along with various other procurement issues.
The Netaji files
One of the versions regarding the disappearance of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose is that he either went to China or erstwhile Soviet Union and the plane crash was a mere smokescreen. Majority members of the Bose family as well as his fans are strong supporters of this version and would like PM Modi to discuss the same with Russian President Putin during his meeting. It would be interesting to note that, in August this year, the Centre had refused to divulge whether declassified archives of the erstwhile Soviet spy agency KGB were ever searched for any information on Netaji's death mystery. If PM Modi pushes Russia for the KGB's declassification of Netaji files (if any) and sharing of vital information with the government of India, it would be a huge boost for the overall declassification process which commences (phase one) from January 23, 2016.
War on ISIS and global terrorism
Though India has not joined the global coalition fighting the ISIS but the threat and vulnerability is something that we cannot afford to ignore. While Russia has intensified its offensive on the ISIS strongholds since the downing of the Metrojet, Indian PM Narendra Modi had stressed on the need to attack the financial arms of terrorist organisations on every global summit starting from the UN General Assembly meeting in New York this year. During Putin's 2014 India visit, both the nations had agreed to work together for the adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.
With the ever increasing menace of cyber terrorism, both India and Russia vowed to set up an expert group on cyber security and counterterrorism in order to share information and focus on specialised training and exchange of cyber experts to thwart cyber attacks and terrorist propaganda via social media. Though the idea might be a bit vague as of now and the prime target would be to counter the ISIS' venom online, the existence of such an expert group might prove to be a boon if strengths and technological know-how is shared in the right spirit and used in a judicious manner.
From smart cities to infrastructure development and space research to tourism, the possibility and scope of deals and agreements might be as vast as Russia's geographical area, with mutual benefits for the both the nations. So, in a freezing Moscow, PM Modi would love Putin to play Santa in order to freeze (lock) some deals that might prove to be the best New Year's gift for India, both strategically and economically. Till then, all eyes on Moscow to check out if Modi's trip leads to "Druzhba-Dosti 2.0" between India and Russia.