PM Modi Welcomes Putin in India With a Warm Embrace, US Sanctions Threat Casts Cloud Over Missile Deal
Putin, who was received by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on his arrival, went straight to Modi's official Lok Kalyan Marg residence where the two leaders had a one-on-one meeting.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi greet each other prior to their talks in New Delhi on Thursday. (AP Photo)
New Delhi: Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived Thursday for the annual summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi after which Russia and India are expected to sign the S-400 air defence system deal and a number of other pacts in key sectors such as space and energy.
Putin, who was received by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on his arrival, went straight to Modi's official Lok Kalyan Marg residence where the two leaders had a one-on-one meeting after sharing a warm embrace. The route of Putin's convoy was lined with placards welcoming him in Russian and Hindi.
Later, Modi hosted a private dinner for the visiting dignitary.
The dinner meeting comes a day ahead of the 19th India-Russia annual summit during which the two leaders will hold comprehensive discussions on wide-ranging bilateral, regional and international issues, including US sanctions against Moscow and counter-terrorism cooperation.
The Russian President is accompanied by a high-level delegation comprising Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Trade and Industry Minister Denis Manturov among others during his two-day visit.
Ahead of his meeting, Modi tweeted, "Welcome to India, President Putin. Looking forward to our deliberations, which will further enhance India-Russia friendship." The tweet was also posted in the Russian language.
As Putin landed in New Delhi, the Russian news agency TASS reported that on Friday, a number of bilateral agreements will be signed, including the USD 5 billion contract to deliver the S-400 air defence missile systems to India.
Ahead of the visit, the Russian President's aide Yuri Ushakov was quoted by media as saying that Russia and India are planning to sign more than 20 documents at the end of the Putin-Modi talks and that Putin will oversee the signing of the USD 5 billion deal.
The agreements to be signed are likely to boost cooperation in keys sectors such as defence, space, trade, energy and tourism, among others.
The spotlight will be on the S-400 missile defence system deal as, if signed, it could violate US sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) instituted by the US Congress on arms purchases from Russia.
The US has urged its allies to forgo transactions with Russia, warning that the S-400 missile defence system that India intends to buy would be a "focus area" for it to implement punitive sanctions against a nation undertaking "significant" business deals with the Russians. On Wednesday, the United States poured cold water on India's efforts to obtain a waiver to avoid sanctions.
Last month Washington slapped financial sanctions on the Chinese military for buying Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets - and the S-400.
However, the US is in a difficult position when it comes to India. It wants to bolster ties with New Delhi to counter China's growing assertiveness, something that has also rattled India.
Washington and New Delhi announced plans last month for joint military drills in 2019, and agreed on the exchange of sensitive military information. The US is now India's second biggest arms supplier.
But Russia remains number one, and a string of new deals with the India would be a major win for Moscow - and a big snub to the US. It would also be a big win for India and is likely to irk both China and Pakistan.
Putin and Modi, who appear to enjoy a personal rapport, are also likely to discuss a deal for four Krivak-class frigates worth $2 billion and 200 light utility Ka-226 helicopters pegged at $1 billion.
Putin, 65, and Modi, 68, are also set to discuss a possible second Russian-built nuclear power plant. Moscow is currently expanding India's biggest nuclear power plant in Kudankulam.
Also on the agenda is Russian training for Indian astronauts as New Delhi aims to launch its first crewed space mission in 2022. But military kit is the main focus.
India wants to procure the long-range missile systems to tighten its air defence mechanism, particularly along the nearly 4,000-km-long Sino-India border. S-400 is known as Russia's most advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defence system.
"India has maintained its sovereignty as regards to its relationship with countries. We shall maintain it in all earnestness," Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said recently when asked whether the US sanctions will hit India's defence ties with Russia, especially after the signing of the S-400 missile deal.
Russia has been one of India's key suppliers of arms and ammunition.
Sources had earlier said Modi and Putin would also deliberate on impact of US sanctions on import of crude oil from Iran.
Besides holding talks with Modi, the Russian leader will also have a meeting with President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday. He will also interact with a group of talented children and address an India-Russia business meet.
(With inputs from AFP and PTI)
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