PM likely to discuss bi­lat­eral is­sues with Putin at Sochi meet

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) - - TIMES NATION - In­drani.Bagchi @times­

New Delhi: Play­ing out a now­fa­mil­iar script, pm Naren­dra Modi will spend Mon­day with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin at the sea­side re­sort of Sochi in his sec­ond in­for­mal sum­mit. The day-long pro­gramme will con­sist of both lead­ers en­gag­ing mainly in one-on-one dis­cus­sions with aides be­ing present dur­ing only a cou­ple. Modi will re­turn the same night, said sources.

Modi is step­ping up a new kind of per­son­alised diplo­macy, of en­gag­ing di­rectly at the high­est level in an in­for­mal at­mos­phere, free from pro­to­col, of­fi­cial agen­das and out­come doc­u­ments, even if there are some agree­ments that may be reached. While of­fi­cials had ear­lier said that no bi­lat­eral is­sues would be dis­cussed be­tween the two lead­ers, it ap­pears that bi­lat­eral is­sues may well make an ap­pear­ance.

On Wed­nes­day, Modi called Shinzo Abe, Ja­pan’s PM for a longish chat where he briefed Abe on the Wuhan sum­mit. The Modi-Xi sum­mit in Wuhan went a long way in dis­pelling the mis­trust that had built up. But of­fi­cials in­sist that the In­dia-Rus­sia re­la­tion­ship is of deep trust.

Since Modi and Putin will be meet­ing again in June (SCO sum­mit), July (BRICS sum­mit in South Africa) and dur­ing the Rus­sian Pres­i­dent’s visit to In­dia in Oc­to­ber, out­comes are ex­pected to be pushed back to later this year.

The Modi-Putin sum­mit is ex­pected to raise sev­eral is­sues in­clud­ing Rus­sia’s new­found re­la­tion­ship with Pakistan and its flir­ta­tions with the Tal­iban in Afghanistan.

If de­fence dom­i­nated the In­dia-Rus­sia re­la­tions ear­lier, the new fo­cus is en­ergy. In­dia has in­vested al­most $5 bil­lion in Rus­sia’s en­ergy sec­tor. A re­cent de­ci­sion has seen both coun­tries join forces with the in­ten­tion of pro­mot­ing civil nu­clear en­ergy in third coun­tries. This is ex­pected to be fur­ther fleshed out in the talks.

The sum­mit comes at a time when Moscow is looked upon with sus­pi­cion in the US, UK and large parts of the west­ern world. That has raised a slew of ques­tions among In­dia’s west­ern part­ners. How­ever, as In­dian of­fi­cials point out, Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel will be hold­ing her own sum­mit with Putin this week, a sign that this may now be­come the norm.

Naren­dra Modi and Vladimir Putin

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