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Monday, October 21, 2013

Indian PM in Moscow to strike deals, talk Afghanistan, Syria

Indian PM in Moscow to strike deals, talk Afghanistan, Syria
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh walks past a honor guard formation upon arrival to Moscow's Vnukovo airport. (RIA Novosti/Vitaliy Belousov)
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh walks past a honor guard formation upon arrival to Moscow's Vnukovo airport. (RIA Novosti/Vitaliy Belousov)
India’s prime minister is in Moscow to sign multi-million cooperation contracts and to discuss Afghanistan and Syria. The visit comes as BRICS economies seek ways of challenging US hegemony in world affairs.
Manmohan Singh has arrived in Moscow as part of his four-day trip to Russia and China. The tour comes in the wake of the last week’s US debt ceiling crisis, which provoked an anti-Washington outcry from Beijing. It appeared in the form of the now much-cited call for “de-Americanization” in a Xinhua editorial, which blamed Washington for abusing “its superpower status” and “introducing even more chaos into the world by shifting financial risks overseas.”

The BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – have already put some effort into shifting the global economy from the dominance of the US dollar and “establishing new architecture of multi-polar world order,” according to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Much of the trade inside the BRICS nations is done using local currencies and the countries have decided upon their own $100 billion development bank, which would challenge the dominance of the World Bank and the IMF.

Singh’s tour is seen by analysts as something which could contribute to the BRICS nations’ efforts to move away from the US dollar’s dominance.

As far as the Russian part of the Indian PM’s trip is concerned, it’s mostly about further boosting trade relations which have already been upscale. Russia Indian bilateral trade amounted to $11 billion in 2012, that’s 24 percent up from a year earlier.

India has long been Russia's chief weapons buyer. Singh’s visit is just ahead of the November handover of the  Vikramaditya aircraft carrier to India. 
Vikramaditya aircraft carrier (Photo from wikipedia.org)
Vikramaditya aircraft carrier (Photo from wikipedia.org)

Joint projects on the development of a fifth-generation fighter jet, a multi-purpose transport aircraft and BrahMos cruise missiles are being implemented successfully,” the Kremlin said as cited by RIA Novosti.

Energy is another vital aspect of cooperation. India’s mass media anticipate the Moscow talks to culminate in striking a deal on acquisition of a third and fourth reactors for the Russian-designed Kudankulam nuclear power plant.

The countries are also to discuss cooperation in exploring Russia’s vast reserves of hydro-carbons. Indian firms already have their investments in the Sakhalin oil fields and in Tomsk and they are looking into a possibility of partnership in projects for oil and gas exploration in Russia’s Far East and the Arctic.

As for the political agenda of the Singh and Putin meeting it will be dominated by the issue of Afghanistan. The withdrawal of international security forces from the country next year are an acute issue for both India and Russia, fearing it would mean the rise of drug trafficking and terrorism in the region. Joint efforts to counter the threats will thus be discussed.
 
The latest developments in Syria are expected to be touched upon as well, according to what Singh told journalists before leaving for Russia. The PM believes there can be co military solution to the conflict and praises Russia for its role in an attempted political settlement.

I applaud the efforts of President Putin and the Russian government in promoting a political settlement to the conflict and fully support the framework that Russia has worked out with the United States for a time-bound elimination of chemical weapons in Syria,” Singh said.

The prime minister urged for an earlier Geneva-II peace conference and warned that conflict in Syria threatened “the stability and security of the region” and could have “broader economic and security consequences beyond the region.”