Stepping up economic engagement and further expanding ties in strategic areas are likely to be the centrepiece of the 16th India-Russia annual summit talks between Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inspecting a guard of honour on his arrival at Vnukovo-2 Airport in Moscow on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Moscow on Wednesday to a red carpet welcome on his first bilateral visit to Russia during which both countries are set to seal a raft of deals in key sectors like defence, nuclear energy and hydrocarbons to boost their robust and close partnership. On his arrival, the Prime Minister was accorded a guard of honour at the Vnukova II airport amid light drizzle and overcast conditions.”Reached Moscow. A series of programmes await in this short but very important visit,” Modi tweeted both in English and Russian.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Stepping up economic engagement and further expanding ties in strategic areas are likely to be the centrepiece of the 16th India-Russia annual summit talks between Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.The two leaders are set to deliberate on various global issues such as the situation in Syria and tackling the threat of terrorism as well. It is expected that a number of major pacts including to ramp up cooperation in defence and nuclear energy sectors will be finalised. Russia has been India’s biggest supplier of arms though New Delhi has started buying more military hardware from the US in the last few years.Last week, India’s Defence Ministry’s top acquisition council had cleared the purchase of Russian S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems at an estimated cost of Rs 40,000 crore and there may be an announcement of the deal tomorrow besides a few others.In the nuclear energy sector, India is expected to offer a site in Andhra Pradesh to set up units five and six of Kudankulam nuclear power plant. The new plants will be in sync with broad principles of ‘Make in India’ initiative and a decision in this regard is likely to be finalised on Thursday.Setting the tone for the visit, the Prime Minister, before his departure for Moscow, said Russia remained one of India’s “most valued” friends in the world and that he was “very optimistic” about outcomes of the talks with Putin on Thursday.”Our relation with Russia is unique, covering almost every field of human endeavour,” Modi said.The talks between the two countries, bound by “special and privileged strategic ties”, have been taking place alternately in Moscow and New Delhi since 2000.”I am very optimistic about the outcome of this visit. History is witness to the close ties India and Russia have had over the decades. Russia remains one of India’s most valued friends in the world,” Modi said.He said, “My visit will deepen the cooperation between India and Russia in the economic, energy and security spheres.We also want to increase cooperation in science and technology, mining among other sectors. Trade ties between India and Russia can increase even further, to benefit not only our two nations but also the world.” Tomorrow Modi and Putin will interact with a group of Indian and Russian CEOs in Kremlin. With Russia’s economy badly hit by the Western sanctions in the wake of the Ukraine crisis, Putin is keen to expand economic ties with India which, on the other hand, has been expressing keen interest in participating in oil and gas exploration projects in the Eurasian country.Energy-starved India, the third largest oil importer after the US and China, has been pushing for greater involvement in major gas and oil exploration projects in Russia. Russia is one of the top oil producers globally and has huge reserves of natural gas. The volume of current bilateral trade between the two countries is around USD 10 billion and both sides are aiming to take it to USD 30 billion over the next 10 years. The Prime Minister’s engagement in Moscow also includes addressing a gathering of ‘Friends of India’ and around 3,000 people are expected to attend the event tomorrow.At the event, Modi will be greeted by cultural programmes, ‘Abhinandan’ and ‘Abhivyakti’. ‘Abhinandan’ envisages performance of Indian art forms by Russian artists. It will display the popularity of Indian cultural traditions in Russia and its importance of inter-cultural understanding.’Abhinandan’ will commence with a Shloka recital and a creative rendering of Vande Mataram by Russian Brahmakumaris, followed by continuing sequence of brief Kuchipudi, Kathak and Dandiya Raas. The programme will conclude with all artistes coming on stage for a musical enactment of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s poem ‘Geet Naya Gata Hoon’ rendered by Lata Mangeshkar.’Abhivyakti’ will be an attempt to articulate and convey an authentic image of Indian traditions, history and culture by Russian artistes and enthusiast. The event, organisers said, will be a reflection of the feeling of brotherhood and amity that exists between the people of India and Russia.The Prime Minister will visit Russia’s National Crisis Management Centre (NCMC) here tomorrow. The NCMC is a multi-level coordination centre designed to provide inter-agency coordination and alert the people about the threat of emergency situations.Besides bilateral issues, Modi and Putin are likely to deliberate on a number of global issues having political dimensions including the situation in Syria and ways to tackle terrorism. It will be Modi’s second summit meeting with Putin who had travelled to New last year for the 15th India-Russia Summit.India is also likely to push for a Free Trade Agreement with the Eurasian Economic Zone and is sharing details of study it conducted in this regard. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, without giving specific details, had said yesterday that both Modi and Putin will deliberate on enhancing cooperation in defence and nuclear energy speheres.On whether India will request Russia to share details on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, he had said the issue had figured during External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s recent visit to Moscow. “Let’s wait and see what happens. I do not prejudge the Russian response till we get it,” he said.

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Modi in Russia: Prime Minister gets red carpet welcome in Moscow; key deals to be sealed