Indo-Russia relations to get fillip with Zubkov's visit

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New Delhi, Feb 11 (UNI) After a brief hiatus, relations between India and Russia are slated to get a fillip with Russian Prime Minister Victor Zubkov's two-day visit here beginning tomorrow, and his talks with Indian leaders on crucial matters of bilateral interest.

Mr Zubkov, who is to arrive here at 0100 hrs tomorrow, will inaugurate the 'Year of Russia in India' and hold official-level talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other Indian leaders tomorrow.

Sources said the much-delayed Admiral Gorshkov deal will be high on the agenda of the talks.

Mr Zubkov, who will be in India on his maiden visit, will be heading a large business delegation. He will also attend the second bilateral Business Forum.

The visit of Mr Zubkov follows that of Dr Singh to Moscow in November last year. Russian President Vladimir Putin was Chief Guest at the Republic day Parade in 2007. During Mr Putin's visit, the two countries had decided to broaden co-operation in the areas of civil nuclear energy, defence, space and trade.

During Mr Zubkov's visit, the two countries are expected to enter into collaboration in the areas of telecommunication, mining, pharmaceuticals and heavy engineering.

The sources, while admitting that the Gorshkov deal was a ''difficult problem'' for both countries, said it was signed when the Russian ship building industry was in an ''awful'' position as the country was moving from a centralised economy to market economy.

The prices fixed for the aircraft carrier were low and ''unrealistic''. Moreover, the ship was built in Ukraine and Russian shipbuilders did not have enough documentation to go there.

''The problems accumulated to a situation where we were not able to supply,'' he said, but asserted that ''Russia has not given up its obligation''.

In a setback to the Indian Navy plan to acquire Admiral Gorshkov after phasing out the INS Viraat, Russia last year demanded an additional 1.2 billion US dollars for the retrofitting process on the aircraft carrier, rechristened INS Vikramaditya.

The Russian Prime Minister, who arrives here tomorrow, will begin the official visit on the same day. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee will call on him at 0930 hrs, which will be followed by a call on by Finance Minister P Chidambaram. Leader of the Opposition L K Advani will also meet him tomorrow.

The meetings will be followed by official-level talks with Dr Manmohan Singh, who will host a lunch for the visiting dignitary.

In the evening, Mr Zubkov will call on Vice-President Hamid Ansari and later on President Pratibha Patil.

At 1900 hrs, the Russian Prime Minister will attend the Opening Ceremony of the 'Year of Russia in India' at Purana Qila. He will visit Agra the next day and leave for Moscow the same afternoon.

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