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Narendra Modi concludes day-long visit to Russia: PM discusses bilateral cooperation on boat ride with 'friend Vladimir Putin'

Prime Minister Narendra Modi concluded his day-long visit to Russia on Monday, a trip where he held an informal summit with Russian president Vladimir Putin. During the visit to the sea-side city of Sochi, the two leaders also held discussions on a range of bilateral issues, including defence cooperation, as well as global issues of mutual concern.

Modi and Putin also undertook a boat ride from Bocharev Creek to Olympic Park in Sochi, during which they held further talks regarding the bilateral relationship between the two countries. The duo also visited the Sirius Educational Centre.

Putin and Modi had "very intense" discussions on bilateral and global issues that would provide guidelines for the further development of India-Russia special privileged strategic ties, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday.

Modi said during his first informal summit with Putin that the strategic partnership between the two countries has now been elevated to a "special privileged strategic partnership", and called it a "very big achievement".

Narendra Modi with Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia. Image courtesy: Twitter @MEAIndia

Narendra Modi with Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia. Courtesy: Twitter/@MEAIndia

He said the seeds of the "strategic partnership" sown by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and President Putin have now grown into a "special privileged strategic partnership" which is a "very big achievement" in itself.

"I am grateful to President Putin who invited me for an informal meeting, and hence, in the long friendship of ours, this is a new aspect that has been attached to our relationship," Modi said.

"You have added a new aspect of informal summit in the bilateral relationship which I think is a great occasion and creates trust," he said.

"The Monday talks were very intense," Russia's official Tass news agency quoted Lavrov as saying.

"I am confident that the ongoing informal contacts between the leaders of Russia and India will be useful and will help define the further guidelines for our development and strategic partnership," he said.

"There was a discussion of various areas of our specific cooperation at the regional and global level," Lavrov said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid special attention to the economic talks, he said.

"We discussed the whole spectrum of our particularly privileged strategic partnership, paid special attention to the economy, noted the steady growth of trade turnover," the minister said.

Ahead of their summit, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin will discuss India-Russia military cooperation with Modi, amid US sanctions on Russia. "It can be supposed that the military-technical cooperation issue will be discussed (at the meeting between Putin and Modi)," Tass news agency quoted Peskov as saying.

Earlier, official sources said the possible impact of the US sanctions against Russia under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) on Indo-Russia defence cooperation might also figure during the talks between Modi and Putin.

CAATSA is a US federal law that imposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Russia. It includes sanctions against countries that engage in significant transactions with Russia's defence and intelligence sectors.

India is allowing its defence engagement with Russia to be dictated by any other country, the sources said, adding that New Delhi has been lobbying with the Trump administration on the issue.

India could face US sanctions for purchasing high-value military defence items, in particular state-of-the-art S-400 Triumf missile defence system from Russia under the act.

In his opening remarks, Modi also thanked Russia for playing a major role in helping India get a permanent membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). India and Pakistan were admitted last year into the organisation. "We are working together on the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and BRICS," Modi said.

He also congratulated Putin for becoming president for the fourth time with overwhelming majority. "Starting from the year 2000 when you took office, our relation has been historic...," Modi said.

Welcoming Modi to Sochi, Putin said his visit would give a fresh impetus to bilateral ties. He said the two countries maintain a high strategic level of partnership, with close cooperation between the two countries' defense ministries. "Our defence ministries maintain very close contacts and cooperation. It speaks about a very high strategic level of our partnership," Putin said.

He also hailed joint activities of the two countries in the area of foreign politics, in particular within the United Nations, BRICS and the SCO. Putin also said that last year there was a considerable increase in mutual trade, and this year, for the first several months, it saw an increase of more than 17 percent.

The Russian foreign minister also said that Moscow and New Delhi will strongly oppose attempts to politicise the work of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

He pointed out that "we have seen" such attempts "recently". His comments came after the OPCW, last month, said it had confirmed Britain's findings on the military-grade nerve agent used in the attack on ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the UK, which London said came from Russia.

Russia last month convened a meeting of the OPCW and made a bid for a joint investigation into the attempted murder, but the request was rejected.

Britain blames Russia for the nerve agent attack on 4 March, which has sparked an international diplomatic crisis and expulsion of scores of diplomats from London and Moscow.

Following their informal summit, Modi and Putin embarked on a boat ride from Bocharev Creek to Olympic Park in Sochi so they could have more time to discuss bilateral ties. The talks between the two leaders in Putin's Bocharov Ruchei residence lasted for more than three hours. After the official part, the two leaders continued informal talks. Putin invited Modi for a boat ride, Russia's official news agency Tass reported.

"Boat ride on the Black Sea! PM @narendramodi and Russian President #Putin had plenty to discuss as they sail together from Bocharev Creek to Olympic Park in #Sochi," external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted.

During the sea trip, they spoke in English without the support of an interpreter. The leaders continued negotiations at lunch, going out on the deck from time to time to breathe in the fresh sea air and marvel at the Sochi coastline that had been refurbished before the Winter Olympic Games in 2014.

Modi and Putin also visited the Sirius Educational Centre, a unique educational centre set up on the initiative of the Russian President, and interacted with over 700 students.

The prime minister Narendra Modi said he saw a different Vladimir Putin, who got emotional while talking about the students of Sirius Educational Centre. Talking to the students, Modi said he was thankful to "his friend, President Putin" who provided him with an opportunity to meet the bright stars of Russia, referring to the students of the centre.

"I was with my friend for the whole day today. When he spoke about the kids (of the centre), he was emotionally involved. I saw dreams in his eyes. I saw a different person. I saw a Putin who was different from the president," Modi said as he held the hand of Putin who was smiling.

He asked the students how many of them were willing to visit India. In response, all the students raised their hands, bringing a smile on Modi's face. The prime minister invited them to visit India and interact with Indian students. He also promised to spend time with them in India. Later, the students took autographs of the two leaders.

The Sirius Educational Centre is a unique educational centre set up by the Talent and Success Educational Fund in 2015 on the initiative of President Putin and based at the Sochi Olympic facilities.

The main purpose of the project is to identify, develop and provide professional support for children demonstrating gifts in technical creativity, art, the natural sciences and sport.

Concluding his one-day visit, Modi departed for India on Monday. The Russian president personally bid farewell to the Indian prime minister at the airport.

The meeting between the prime minister and the Russian president in Sochi came after Modi held a similar informal summit with Chinese president Xi Jinping in China last month.


Updated Date: May 22, 2018 09:21 AM

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