Moscow, Nov.13: Russian President Vladimir Putin is a man of few words. He isn't given to effusive sentimentality. He was very comfortable during his two-hour-long meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who like his host, has a sphinx like exterior but packs a deadly punch when needed.
So, while the Indian media and foreign office gushed about the Indo-US nuclear accord for the better part of two years, Putin waited and watched. And then delivered the 'solar plexus' blow yesterday when he pointedly remarked on Russia being a reliable partner for India, just in case the world's most populous country and chaotic democracy forgot how Russia has stood by it through the Pakistan wars and Kashmir and Punjab secessionist movements and provided fuel for Tarapore.
The question put to the Indian Prime Minister was whether there was any further movement on Russia building four additional nuclear reactors in Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu.
Manmohan Singh said "India and Russia enjoy extensive cooperation in the peaceful usage of atomic energy and have done so for many years. Russia is building two nuclear power reactors in Kundankulam in Tamil Nadu and has supplied fuel for the Tarapur nuclear power station. When President Putin visited India in 2007 we signed a memorandum of intent for the construction of four additional nuclear power reactors at Kundankulam and intergovernmental agreement to that work is in progress,"
For all practical purposes the question was answered but then the black belt Putin chipped in."I could only add that Russia has always been a reliable partner to India –and now India partners(knows?)—now that they confirmed that in the course of today's discussion we necessarily discussed this subject matter as well."
Whether the punch of his statement was lost in translation or deliberately so is any one's guess, but the fact remains that Putin was accommodating and understanding.
Officials say that when the Indian Prime Minister explained to him that due to non-completion of "certain internal processes", India cannot go to the IAEA, President Putin "did not demur...did not hesitate" in saying that he understood India's compulsions.
Now, here is a leader of a country which has embraced democracy just recently. He displayed not irritation about the pulls and pressures of parliamentary democracies. Contrast this reaction with the reaction from the 'world's greatest (?) democracy'. The reaction from there was churlish at best.
Putin has fast emerged as a leader of a nation that has eschewed democracy, renounced Communist ideology, integrated with the rest of
the world, opened its markets to foreign investors and castigated the US on international politics.
When he remits office next year, India will be sorry to lose a supporter who has had the maturity to wait and watch and the temerity to rap the knuckles when needed.