Economic Ties Top Medvedev's Trip to India

In his second trip to a fellow BRIC country in as many weeks, President Dmitry Medvedev will seek to bolster economic ties with India amid the financial crisis, the Kremlin said Tuesday.

Medvedev will discuss possibilities for expanded economic collaboration at an annual Russian-Indian summit during the three-day trip to New Delhi, which starts Thursday, a Kremlin spokesman said.

"The financial crisis is the No. 1 theme -- not only between Russia and India, but for all the other countries in the world," the spokesman added.

He said Medvedev's itinerary had not been finalized but terrorism would also be discussed after gunmen killed 183 people and took dozens hostage in Mumbai for several days last week. The attacks revived unpleasant memories for Russia of its struggle against Chechen militants.

Medvedev offered his support in light of the terrorist attacks during a telephone conversation with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday evening. They also discussed the upcoming visit.

India is the second of Russia's three BRIC counterparts -- Brazil, India and China -- that Medvedev has visited in the past two weeks. Less than a week ago in Brazil, Medvedev and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio da Silva called for the BRIC countries to hold a summit for the first time next year.

"The financial crisis, which we haven't started and we are not to blame for, affected the global economic situation, and we are forced to react," Medvedev told reporters after signing a joint declaration with the Brazilian leader.

Indian officials have said Medvedev's visit will also focus on a deal for Moscow to build four new nuclear reactors at Kudankulam. Moscow is already constructing two 1,000-megawatt light-water nuclear reactors at Kudankulam.

Relations with India have taken off in recent years as warm political ties and trade have fostered a wave of bilateral agreements. A joint study group was established between the two countries in 2006 with the goal of increasing trade to $10 billion by 2010, and from January to September of this year bilateral trade increased 41.6 percent to $3.8 billion, year on year, the Russian Economic Development Ministry said.

Medvedev will be accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov, who was part of the last official delegation visit in February as part of India's 2008 "Year of Russia" festivities, as agreed upon by then-President Vladimir Putin and Singh more than a year ago. In return, 2009 will be the "Year of India" in Russia.

Prime Minister Putin visited India four times during his presidency, strengthening relations especially in the energy and arms sectors. Since then, the cooperation has extended into a number of other economic areas. The visit in February of this year coincided with the opening of representative offices for Sistema and VTB in New Delhi.

Murli Deora, India's oil minister, traveled to Russia in early November, meeting Putin to discuss India's possible participation in the offshore Sakhalin-3 project. In return, India would invite Russian companies to participate in refinery and petrochemical projects in India, Deora said.