New Delhi, Feb 12: Russian Prime Minister Victor A Zubkov will meet External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee here today to explore ways for further strengthening bilateral ties between the two countries. Zubkov arrived here late last night on a three-day visit that is expected to focus on enhancing existing bilateral ties, especially economic. Later, Russian PM will meet Finance Minster P. Chidambaram and Leader of Opposition L K Advani. A delegation talks will be held between the visiting Prime Minister and his Indian counterpart Dr. Manmohan Singh this afternoon.
India and Russia are expected to sign five agreements, including one each relating to cooperation in the telecom and aviation sectors. When Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh visited Moscow in November 2007, he pointed out to the extremely small volume of bilateral trade between the two countries. "Trade and investment relations between India and Russia have lagged far behind our excellent political understanding and our joint commitment to strategic partnership," Dr. Singh had said then.
Presently, bilateral trade is pegged at four billion dollars, which is far less than the Russia-China and Russia-European Union bilateral trade volumes, which are 35 billion dollars and 200 billion Euros respectively. The two sides will seek to enhance the bilateral trade volume to 10 billion US dollars by 2010. The issue of civil nuclear cooperation may also figure in the talks.
India was expected to sign a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Russia during Prime Minister Singh's visit, but the pact did not materialize. The pact was expected to have a separate component for the construction of four additional nuclear power generation units in Kundankulam, Tamil Nadu.
It was not signed due to a lack of India-specific safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). India and Russia are working towards a possible collaboration on uranium mining in Jharkhand. The two sides are also likely to work together on a titanium project in Gopalpur, Orissa.
The Russian Prime Minister is also scheduled to address at the second India-Russia Forum on Trade and Investment along with Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath. He will call on President Pratibha Patil and Vice President Hamid Ansari in the evening. On Tuesday, he will attend the opening ceremony of the "Year of Russia" at Purana Qila in Delhi. Before leaving for Moscow on Wednesday from Delhi, Zubkov will pay a visit to Agra.