Khurshid’s agenda for IRIGC’s delegation-level talks include several issues connected with trade and investment, nuclear energy, hydrocarbons, space, science and technology, infrastructure, culture and people-to-people contacts. Source: Itar-Tass
Unexpected and fast-paced political developments in the wake of an ongoing row over a controversial ordinance on convicted legislators in India, threaten to overshadow a planned visit of Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid to Moscow to co-chair a crucial meeting.
Khurshid is expected in Moscow on October 2 for the 19th meeting of the Indo-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technical and Cultural Cooperation (IRIGC-TEC). The meeting aims to fine tune the agenda for the 14th regular annual summit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
According to the Indian media reports, the Union Cabinet is likely to meet on October 3 or 4 to take a call on possible withdrawal of the ordinance, following its condemnation last week by the Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. The developments back home took place when Khurshid was accompanying Singh during his week-long visit to the United States.
This is Khurshid’s second visit to Moscow, after he was appointed External Affairs Minister, in October last year. He paid his maiden working visit to Russia, earlier this year in April, to cochair the first intersession meeting of the annual IRIGC-TEC meeting, held alternately in New Delhi and Moscow.
According to sources, currently, the two sides are already in the deep process of drafting the bilateral summit’s agenda at the highest level and Khurshid is to finalize it with his Russian counterpart, Russian Deputy Prime Minister, in charge of defence industries, Dmitry Rogozin, at the IRIGC-TEC meeting.
Khurshid’s agenda for IRIGC’s delegation-level talks include several issues connected with trade and investment, nuclear energy, hydrocarbons, space, science and technology, infrastructure, culture and people-to-people contacts. A number of big-ticket agreements are on the cards to be signed during Singh-Putin summit.
The annual summit meeting between the Indian Prime Minister and Russian President is the highest institutionalized dialogue mechanism under the Strategic Partnership. In a way, October marks the start of a season of intense India-Russia engagement in the coming weeks in the run up to Singh’s visit for the summit. Following Khurshid, Defence Minister A.K. Antony will also arrive in Moscow, for military-technical cooperation talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu.
The IRIGC-TEC is one of the largest and most elaborate mechanisms India and Russia have with any country in the world and during the meeting Khurshid and Rogozin are expected to mainly focus on increasing the bilateral investment, in particular, the private investment and annual trade turnover which was $11 billion in 2012. The two countries have set a target of $20 billion to be achieved by 2015.
At the meeting, the sides are set to review the entire spectrum of multifaceted bilateral cooperation, in order to make Singh-Putin summit, reportedly to take place on October 21, more fruitful in the form of a number of agreements and contracts between the two countries. “This of course requires addressing some of the contentious issues including differences between the two sides over the application of civil nuclear liability law in relation to Units III and IV of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) in Tamil Nadu,” an official said on the condition of anonymity.
Now in the wake of signing of the first Indo-US commercial agreement on civilian nuclear power, last week in Washington, five years after a landmark deal between the two countries, sources said that at the meeting of IRIGC-TEC, India and Russia are also expected to vigorously push for finally clinching the deal on the price for Units III and IV of the KNPP. It will pave the way for inking the general framework agreement (GFA) during Singh-Putin summit.
They also stressed that the two countries have so far been unable to use the vast potential to scale up the bilateral trade and investment in practical terms and new avenues for giving a substantial thrust to increase the trade turnover will have to be found for speedy implementation.
In this connection, one of the items on IRIGC meeting agenda will be the Indian government-sponsored Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC). The Indian side is set to make yet another strong pitch for the Russian participation in the $90 billion DMIC project to create 1,483 kilometre-long zone of advanced infrastructure and investment between the political and commercial capitals of the country.
Recently, at the 7th meeting of the bilateral trade and investment forum in St Petersburg, co-chaired by Sharma and Rogozin, India and Russia identified core areas to boost manufacturing in high-tech fields to increase trade and investment.
During his stay in Moscow, Khurshid will also take the opportunity to meet with other senior members of the Russian leadership, including Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. During his talks with Lavrov, he is expected to exchange opinions on wide-ranging subjects, including bilateral relations, and international and regional issues, with the main focus on the preparations for Russia-India summit high on the agenda.
Dadan Upadhyay is a senior Indian journalist based in Moscow.
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