Russian PM's two-day India visit starts Tuesday

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Moscow, Feb 10 (UNI) Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov will arrive in India on Tuesday on a two-day visit to hold talks with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh to boost trade, economic and defence ties through further cementing cultural relations between the two countries.

During his maiden visit as Prime Minister to India, Mr Zubkov will inaugurate the ''Year of Russia in India'' on February 12 and lead a large delegation of Russian businessmen to the second Trade and Investment Forum in New Delhi.

This will be the second high-level meeting between Mr Zubkov and Dr Singh. During his summit talks with President Vladimir Putin here last November, the two leaders held talks for the first time, vowing to strengthen bilateral trade and economic ties, especially through setting up joint ventures and direct contacts between the business commmunity of the two countries.

About 500 delegates from Russia and India are expected to participate in the Forum, at which special attention will be paid to developing partnership in such fields as power engineering and energy resources, transport and infrastructure, high tech and also issues of strengthening international partnership by small and medium-size business representatives.

Mr Zubkov is leading a large cultural and business delegation which includes Deputy Prime Minister and Cochairman of Organising Committee of the India-Russia Year-long Festivals Alexander Zhukov, Economic Development and Trade Minister Elvira Nabiulla, CEO Sberbank German Geref, President of Rosneft Oil Company S Bogdanchikov, CEO Aeroflot Russian Airlines V Okulov and President of Russian National Insurance Company (Rosstrakh) D Khachaturov.

The Forum is also expected to create the opportunity for a long-standing cooperation of the representatives of Russian and Indian companies, aiming at new joint projects and increasing the effectiveness of the already existing ties between various companies and regions of the two countries.

Bilateral trade turnover currently stands at 5-6 billion dollar, but the two sides have plans to expand it to 10 billion dollar by 2010.

However, the plans have been held back by Russia's recent ban on the import of Indian plants, including sesame, groundnuts, rice, Indian tea, coffee and spices allowed only through the Leningrad and Kaliningrad regions in northwest Russia.

On the eve of the Forum in New Delhi, Russia agreed to lift the ban on the import of tobacco and vegetable mixes from February 6.

During the talks between Mr Zubkov and Dr Singh, the bilateral defence issues, in particular, the problem of delivery and price escalation of heavy aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, are expected to be high on agenda.

The talks between the two Prime Ministers also assumes importance as a high level delegation, led by Indian Defence Secretary Vijay Singh, is to arrive here on February 19 to inspect the carrier at the Sevmash shipyard and find a way to resolve the deadlock over price escalation, threatening to delay the delivery of the ship to India.

Mr Zubkov is expected to visit Agra on February 13 and return the same day to Moscow.

UNI XC KD VC1901

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