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Indian Press Ponder What Issues Will Dominate Modi-Putin Talks

© REUTERS / Dmitri Lovetsky/PoolRussian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a meeting on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a meeting on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), Russia - Sputnik International, 1920, 06.12.2021
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During the 21st annual summit and the first ever 2+2 format ministerial dialogue, India and Russia will discuss key bilateral, regional, and international issues, including Afghanistan, Indo-Pacific, and Syria.
Media in India have been focused on the keenly anticipated in-person meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin as part of the 21st annual India-Russia summit.
A number of experts have penned op-eds, suggesting that the upcoming talks between the two leaders will be dominated by such topics as the situation in the Asia-Pacific, the Afghan crisis, the coronavirus pandemic, and more.
Gleb Ivashentsov, former Ambassador and Vice-President of the Russian International Affairs Council, said during a webinar hosted by Sputnik that the Indian prime minister and the Russian president will discuss a wide range of issues, but will focus more on the coronavirus pandemic and the Afghan crisis - two issues that have disrupted international relations.
According to him, the summit will focus on “how we should act post-COVID and how we should promote security in the Eurasian and Asia-Pacific areas and what should be done in the bilateral relations so that our co-operation will have a positive impact on international relations."
Earlier on Monday, the two countries signed a deal on military technical cooperation for the next decade and a $698 million deal for production of the Russian-designed AK-203 assault rifles at an Indian facility.
In a column in the Indian Express on Monday, Chilamkuri Raja Mohan, director of the institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, reckoned that the success of Monday's summit lies not in squeezing more out of bilateral defence ties, but in laying out a clear path for expansive economic cooperation, and generating a better understanding of each other's imperatives concerning Afghanistan and the Indo-Pacific.
The foreign policy analyst pointed out that the two sides have repeatedly affirmed the importance of enhancing trade and investment ties, but progress has been hard to achieve.
The last summit was two years ago and in completely different circumstances: bilateral ties between India and China have soured over an ongoing border row.

In an opinion piece for the Hindustan Times, Harsh V Pant, Director and Head of Strategic Studies at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in New Delhi, emphasised that New Delhi would like to invest in a stable relationship with Moscow. At the same time, he claims, it is important for Russia to maintain "strong ties with India ... to signal to China that Beijing is not the only game in town".

India's and Russia's foreign ministers have emphasised that bilateral ties are unique in nature and they have vowed to deepen the relationship further.
Manoj Joshi, a distinguished fellow at the ORF, pointed out in news website The Quint, that New Delhi would seek greater clarity on the China-Russia relationship, and the Russians would undoubtedly like a clearer idea of the Indo-US interaction.
He also suggested that an all new defence collaboration for "secretive strategic projects such as the Brahmos-2, which is a ramjet-powered hypersonic cruise missile", might be possible.
Almost all the experts have reckoned that the two countries will take steps to provide further impetus to the "privileged strategic" relationships.
Uttam Sinha, a fellow at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, said that although defence deals and military-technical agreements will be high on the agenda of Russian President Putin, there is a need to focus on the drivers of the future bilateral trajectory.

"Russia's Arctic and its Far East region offer an area of convergence and the potential to scale up relations," he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "Act Far East Policy", which includes investments in Russia's Far East and Arctic, is a step in the direction of enhancing India's role in the north-east Asian economies.
India has also set its eye on the Eurasian economy and seeks early trade deals for the bloc, which has the more significant influence of Russia.
In a Kakar Firstpost article, Delhi-based security expert Major-General Harsha Kakar (Retd) stressed that Putin's visit would only draw the two nations closer.
"Minor differences (mainly Indo-Pacific), which cropped up because of India's strategic shift and closer alliance with the US, would be put to rest," he wrote.
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In an article for the Financial Express, Rajan Kumar, an associate professor at the school of international studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, has explained the bilateral ties in changed circumstances.

"India and Russia are caught in a paradox of having befriended each other's arch-enemy while remaining close friends. However, Putin's visit will offer opportunities to iron out differences and enhance the partnership to a new level," he said.

The Monday talks come two years after a previous Putin-Modi meeting held on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in Brazilian capital city of Brasilia.
The previous India-Russia annual summit was held in September 2019 in Vladivostok, a major Pacific port in Russia overlooking Golden Horn Bay. The 2020 summit was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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