India-Russia strengthen strategic relationship, sign 4 accords

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Moscow, Nov 12 (UNI) Putting their strategic relationship back on track after minor unhealthy incidents recently, India and Russia today expressed their determination to achieve the target of 10 billion dollars bilateral trade by 2010 as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared that his government was making every effort to evolve a national consensus on the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Dr Singh and Russian President Vladimir Putin today had a two-hour restricted meeting at the Kremlin here to discuss a wide range of issues, including bilateral matters and international developments, particularly in Pakistan and Iran. Later, the two leaders had lengthy delegation-level talks, Indian officials said.

''We are extremely satisfied with our fruitful discussions on matters of mutual interest as well as international issues,'' Dr Singh and President Putin said at a joint media interaction after their talks.

The two countries also signed four agreements, including one on cooperation in development and production of multi-role transport aircraft.

According to Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, the two leaders had established a ''personal chemistry' which was very much in evidence at the regular summit between them. ''This was the longest restricted meeting between the two leaders,'' he said, seeking to allay apprehensions of a chill in diplomatic ties between the two time-tested friends.

There were reports in the media that Russia was cold shouldering India in the wake of increasing ties between New Delhi and Washington. Last month, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee was frisked at the Moscow Airport during his visit to Russia and his Russian opposite number Sergei Lavrov also did not have a bilateral meeting with him as the latter was occupied with the visit of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the Russian capital.

Dr Singh was scheduled to pay a three-day visit to Moscow but the duration of his tour was reduced to two days later. However, the officials explained that the Prime Minister wanted to be back home early in view of the coming Winter Session of Parliament, beginning on November 15. They said he was anxiously waiting for the debate in Parliament on the Indo-US nuclear deal.

During his interaction with the media here along with President Putin, Dr Singh stated that the nuclear deal was a subject matter of discussions with coalition partners of the government. He was asked as to when the government proposed to approach the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on the deal. ''The process of evolving a national consensus (on the deal) is still on,'' he added.

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