Russian President arrives in New Delhi this evening

Russian President arrives in New Delhi this evening


New Delhi: President Dmitry Medvedev arrives in New Delhi today for a visit that will see Russia agreeing to build India’s new nuclear reactors and give its backing to the anti-terror fight post Mumbai attacks.

A cornerstone of his visit would be to strengthen ties with Moscow and sign a new accord for Russia to build four new nuclear reactors that can o generate energy in southern India.

Defence ties will also be discussed during the two-day visit, with Moscow keen to retain its position as India’s main supplier of weaponry amid increasing competition from the United States and Israel.

Tight security

The visit is taking place under the tight security. The credentials of staff at the Sheraton Hotel where Medvedev is staying have been checked and Russian secret agents are already in the city, according to news reports.

The Russian leader, whose visit was planned well before the attacks, is set to be the first foreign head of state to visit the country after the Mumbai attacks. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited on Wednesday.

Medvedev will arrive in India at around 7:30 pm (1400 GMT) this evening and will meet President Pratibha Patel, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the head of the ruling Congress party Sonia Gandhi.

“We are planning on Friday to sign a bilateral agreement foreseeing the construction of four new reactors at Kudankulam and also cooperation in new areas," said Russia’s nuclear agency chief Sergei Kiriyenko, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.

Building nuclear reactors

Moscow is already building two 1,000-megawatt light water nuclear reactors at Kudankulam and can now construct more after a group of nuclear supplier states in September lifted a ban on India shopping for nuclear technology.

Russia is the only foreign country working in India to expand the country’s nuclear energy programme. The continued strength of ties between Moscow and New Delhi contrasts with the sometimes prickly relationship between Russia and India’s longtime foe Pakistan.

Step up trade

Trade is also strengthening, with the two countries increasing trade volumes by a third each year and on course to reach a 2010 target of trade worth $10 billion, according to the Kremlin.

But Russia, which accounts for some 70% of Indian military hardware, has been concerned that its slice of the defence market risks becoming leaner amid disputes over costs and late deliveries.

The sale by Russia to India of a refurbished Soviet-era aircraft carrier, the 44,570-tonne Admiral Gorshkov, which has been marred by a price dispute, is set to be discussed on the visit.