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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kremlin Looks to Bolster India Defense Ties

Next week's visit to Moscow by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is an opportunity for Russia to take a fresh look at the country and smooth over problems in its defense relations with New Delhi, analysts said Thursday.

Singh is expected in Moscow for an annual summit with President Vladimir Putin on Monday. The talks are likely to focus on boosting political and economic relations and building on agreements reached during Putin's visit to New Delhi in January. Just a handful of deals will likely be signed this time around, a Russian Foreign Ministry official said.

Russia still lags behind in its ties with India after focusing almost entirely on the West in 1990s, while meager trade turnover with India is a particularly sore point.

"Many in Russia still view India as the land of elephants and snake charmers," said Tatyana Shaumyan, head of the Center of Indian Research at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Oriental Studies. "This is a mistake -- we need to take a fresh look."

Earlier this year, India and Russia agreed to boost bilateral trade to $10 billion by 2010, from $4 billion last year. The target still falls far short of the potential trade figure and Russia should shed its longstanding stereotypes to move beyond trade in tea and textiles, Shaumyan said.

Russia could learn much from India's experience in many areas, such as in the development of small and medium-sized businesses, hi-tech industries and in political federalism, she said.

Both nations have common positions on Iraq and nuclear nonproliferation, and Russia favors India's bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. While India appears to be keen to capitalize on its relations with Russia, its ties with Washington have also intensified recently. The United States is now India's top trading partner.

The Kremlin wants to keep India on its side as it tries to cement the proto-alliance of Russia, China and India as a counterweight to the United States and the West. Russia and India have held annual bilateral summits since 2000.

Analysts said that instead of fuming over New Delhi's intensifying relations with Washington, Russia should do its best to remove unnecessary irritants in its own ties with India. Delays in refitting the Admiral Gorshkov, an aircraft carrier India bought from Russia in 2004, as well as spiraling costs in defense deals, are raising eyebrows in New Delhi.

Both nations also want to jointly develop a fifth-generation fighter jet, and Singh will likely want to make sure India gets real access to Russian technologies, said Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Center of Analysis of Strategies and Technologies. "Relations with India are exceptionally important," Pukhov said.

The Foreign Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Russia and India next week would likely sign an anti-drugs cooperation accord and take further steps to settle India's debt. No political agreements will likely be signed, the official said, adding that more agreements might be signed if details are ironed out in time.

Vyacheslav Topchyan, a spokesman for the Russian Embassy in New Delhi, said deals struck in January for Russia to build four more nuclear reactors in India might be firmed up Monday.

Valentin Sobolev, the acting chairman of Russia's Security Council, discussed these issues as well as the prospects for reform of the UN on a recent visit to India, Topchyan said.

Ramesh Chandra, a spokesman for the Indian Embassy in Moscow, said he hoped Singh and Putin would have "very substantive talks."

"We are looking forward to a very successful visit," Chandra said.

On Monday, Singh will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, then meet with Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov and later with Putin in the Kremlin, Chandra said.

The visit is expected to also feature a meeting between Indian and Russian business leaders.