New Delhi, Nov.17 : India is looking forward to strengthening its energy cooperation with Russia, especially in the nuclear field, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said here today.
"Both India and Russia are keen to expand nuclear cooperation. All the preparatory work has been done", Menon said, inaugurating an international conference on "Changing Patterns of Indo-Russian Cooperation" at Observer Research Foundation.
Saying that India and Russia already have an "excellent relationship" and India considers relations with Russia very important, a press release of the foundation quoted Menon as saying that the bilateral trade, however, was not commensurate with the potential.
"Trade still remains a challenge," he said, adding "though it is positive, that is not enough".
Bilateral trade last year was around five billion dollars, the press release further quoted the Indian Foreign Secretary, as saying.
Explaining the increasing importance of India-Russia relations in a developing multi-polar world, Menon pointed to the meeting of the Finance Ministers of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries before the G-20 summit which played an important role.
Saying India-Russia bilateral complementarities would only grow in future, the release quoted Menon as saying that he believed BRIC countries could play an important role in combating the global economic slowdown.
Menon hoped that the two-day conference, attended by experts from both the countries, would come up with recommendations about the future path of Indo-Russian relations.
The conference, which will discus various aspects of Indo-Russian relations, including future prospects of India-Russia-China trilateral cooperation and the role of BRIC in international affairs, is being organised by Observer Research Foundation, a Delhi-headquartered public policy think tank, and Moscow based "Unity for Russia" Foundation.
The conference precedes the first-ever state visit of new Russian President Mr. Dmitry Medvedev to India in the first week of next month.
Dr. Vyacheslav Nikonov, the president of the "Unity for Russia" Foundation, was quoted by the press release as saying that both Russia and India are growing at a fast pace of round 7 per cent despite hardships.
"There were neither any confrontations nor big problems between Russia and India. Russia supported India whether it is Kashmir or the Pakistan issue," he said, stressing the potential for improving bilateral cooperation.
Pointing out the importance of the role of BRIC in international relations, Dr. Nikonov suggested that the triangle of Russia, India and China could emerge as a strong force.
Similarly, the Russian Ambassador, Mr. V. Trbnikov, also said that India and Russia together could play an important role in shaping the new emerging world.
This conference is a part of the strategic dialogue initiated by Observer Research Foundation and the "Unity for Russia" Foundation in October 2007 at Moscow. The purpose of the conference is to address issues affecting bilateral relations and suggest measures to further strengthen cooperation between the two sides.