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Putin's Visit to India Aimed at Strengthening Bilateral Relations - 2002-12-03

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives in New Delhi Tuesday for a three-day visit to India. The visit is expected to strengthen relations between the two long-time allies.

India's foreign ministry said the Russian leader's visit will focus on consolidating a strategic partnership between the two countries.

Mr. Putin and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee hold a summit meeting Wednesday, to discuss important bilateral and international issues, such as terrorism and Iraq. The two leaders will sign what is being called a "Delhi Declaration," reflecting common positions on various issues.

India and Russia have been close allies since the Cold War years. Mr. Putin's visit is part of a decision made by both countries to hold annual summits.

Indian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Kanwal Sibal said India and Russia will set up a panel to coordinate the fight against terrorism. Mr. Sibal said one of the important items on the agenda will be what India calls Pakistani-sponsored terrorism in Kashmir.

"On this, [Pakistani-sponsored terrorism] I think we have a very good meeting of minds, and the [Delhi] declaration that will be issued will indicate the shared thinking that we have. The problems that Russia faces with regard to terrorism, fundamentalist terrorism, have made them increasingly and more acutely aware of similar problems we face," he said.

India and Russia will sign several other agreements to strengthen economic ties and enhance cooperation in technical sectors, including nuclear energy. Both countries want to boost trade from its current level of an annual $1.5 billion. Mr. Sibal said the two countries, both of which had socialist-style, closed economies until the early 90's, need to have a new look at each other.

"Russia, too, needs to look at India and the opportunities that now exist in India, in a new light. We also need to be more focused on what the prospects are in Russia and move away from the past, when the whole trade was conducted on the basis of state-to-state relationship and, effectively, some kind of a barter arrangement at times," he said.

The discussions between officials from the two countries are also expected to cover a package of arms deals. The two sides are locked in negotiations over the sale of a Russian aircraft carrier and the possible lease of a nuclear submarine to the Indian navy. India buys more than two-thirds of its military hardware from Russia.