India, Russia set to expand ties
The high-level meeting on Thursday to prepare for next month's summit meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev saw progress in the expansion of ties beyond the traditional military, space and strategic spheres, said the government sources. Besides the civilian aircraft project, India and Russia have identified pharmaceuticals, diamonds, IT and petroleum that are prime for cooperation.
Called the Inter-governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technical, Economic and Cultural Cooperation, Thursday's session was chaired by External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov. As Mr. Ivanov said during the signing of a protocol by the two sides, the idea is to reach $20 billions in trade by 2015. This year the figure will almost touch $10 billions. While mentioning a new project civil aircraft the protocol; avoided naming the ill-fated Orissa Titanium project that is embroiled in court cases.
However, the presence of top Russian officials from the atomic energy and space sectors enabled talks on these aspects as well to tie up the loose ends before the summit meeting. Both sides also touched on the military Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft project for which a Cabinet note is being considered by the Central Ministries concerned.
Pharmaceuticals, a promising area for Indian exports, which could help offset the trade balance in future due to increasing imports of Russian oil, has seen concrete discussions over the past few months. India is in concurrence with Russia's vision document up to the year 2020 under which Moscow plans to reduce its import dependence from the present 80 per cent to 50 per cent through joint ventures.
India is aiming for a fast track registration process and argues that existing permissions to its companies by the U.S. Federal Drug Agency should suffice. Its internal studies have shown that Russian stand of Indian companies having to conduct clinical trials may not be correct and Moscow could be persuaded to waive this requirement provided it is in conformity with the existing laws. We are very keen to get into pharmaceuticals both in Russia and Kazakhstan because this is a high value low volume area and can be easily airlifted. Now the next stage is joint ventures, said the sources.
In petroleum, the ONGC Videsh is poised to invest five per cent equity in the bidding for gas in Yamal Peninsula and India hopes to use the political goodwill, accentuated by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's interest, to become a prominent stakeholder in this asset, said the sources. India was also hoping to participate in the development of Russia's recently openend strategic reserves in Timan-Pechora province Trebs and Titov oil deposits but suffered a setback.