Relations with Russia key priority: India
Barely a month before Russian President Valdimir Putin's visit, India has sought to dispel doubts about any stress in bilateral ties, saying Russia remained a key priority for India's foreign policy and sought greater economic ties with Moscow.
Speaking at the sixth India-Russia dialogue earlier this week, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai described relations with Russia as "perhaps the most vital, most decisive" of India's strategic partnerships despite changes in the global political landscape.
"Even today, in this dramatically re-defined post-Cold War world, our relations with Russia remain a key priority for India's foreign policy, and one which adds decisive value to our national capacities," Mathai said at the dialogue, which was organised by the Observer Research Foundation, a think tank.
"We also like to believe that India continues to be as relevant to Russia. Our special and privileged strategic partnership today rests on a strong edifice built upon traditional pillars of cooperation," he said.
Despite differences in perception over India's civil nuclear liability law, Mathai said Russia was "a valuable partner in India's national civilian nuclear energy programme".
He added: "Despite the challenging events in recent times when the safety of nuclear technology has globally come in for extra scrutiny, Unit 1 at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) will be commissioned shortly and will be a tangible first milestone of our nuclear cooperation,"
"Enough scientific studies have been undertaken and experts have given us credible assurances on the high safety and security parameters of this plant," he said.
The commissioning of Unit 1 of KNPP would be a major confidence building measure as this vital project has been delayed due to public agitation over safety related to the nuclear power plant.
Putin was expected to come to India for the 13th India-Russia annual summit Nov 1, but postponed his visit to Dec 24.
Although officially both sides have maintained that the visit was postponed due to scheduling issues, reliable sources have indicated that the trip was deferred as both sides needed more time to resolve some contentious issues relating to civil nuclear cooperation so that there could be concrete deliverables during the visit.