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Millennium Post

Putin and India’s changing system

Till about a little more than two decades ago, any visit by a Soviet Premier would cause ripples in the geopolitical eco-system in this region. During the whole Cold War era, the value of Indo-Soviet relations were not just political but also social and emotional and the Indian political life would then seriously hover around the relations India would share with USSR or the visit by high level dignitaries of either country to each other. Times have really changed. It has been more than two decades that the mighty Soviet has fallen. India has grown into stature. The geopolitics of the region has changed. What was once about the sharing socialist values and earning political guardianship is now merely about making some money through defence pacts and shares in mutual energy interests. Putin, the controversial Russian President visited India for a day, met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, held comprehensive talks on major bilateral issues - defence, space, trade and investment, science and technology, education, tourism and inked about 10 pacts, mostly defense deals, worth around $4 billion. Clearly, is a visit not as much of a head of state as the head of a business conglomerate who came to see through a few deals and he did.

The major areas of interest for the quick buck-hungry Russian establishment are of course energy and defense, two areas where big bucks can be earned. No wonder the Russians are keen to see the controversial Kudankulam Nuclear plant completed and has business interest there, just like it has expressed its interest to back the Systema Group in its difficulties in doing business in the telecom industry in India. In similar vein, a $2-billion consortium to promote investment has been signed between the Russian Sovereign Wealth Fund and State Bank of India (SBI). Clearly, Putin is talking big money here. But the biggest came in defence. The defence deals include contract for delivery of 71 Mi -17V-5 helicopters and for delivery of 42 technological kits for SU-30MKI aircraft licensed production. Some regular talks about Afghanistan, science and technology partnerships and cultural exchange did take place, as is customary. But Putin evidently did not come here for mutual expression of admiration and cultural bonhomie, if any. Gone are the days when Russian circus, ballet or festivals use to regale Indian audiences. They are fine but they are not, strictly, business. His bit taken care of, now the Indian foreign affairs  establishment may want to decide how it plans to engage with Russia politically and if at all India looks forward to any cooperation from Russia outside quick business deals. Putin has a rather abominable record home as far as rights and free elections are concerned. To what extent India may want to engage him politically, if at all, is a matter to watch out for.
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