Friday, September 29, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Putin’s Pak visit raises eyebrows
From Satish Misra
Tribune News Service

MOSCOW, Sept 28 — The announcement of an official visit of Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin to Pakistan has taken diplomatic circles here by surprise. The timing of breaking such a news has baffled both friends and foes of India.

First, the announcement was made by Mr Putin’s special envoy Sergey Vladimirovich during a two-day visit to Islamabad. Second, it comes barely four days before the much-awaited official visit of the Russian President to India. The timing has indeed raised many eyebrows.

Foreign policy experts in Moscow observe that sending Mr Vladimirovich to Islamabad virtually on the eve of Mr Putin’s visit to New Delhi is a clear signal of Russia’s new foreign policy priorities.

Mr Vladimirovich was very effusive towards not only to Gen Pervez Musharraf’s military regime in Islamabad but was also very positive about Pakistan’s chief executive saying that it was a “pleasure to deal with someone like him.” Unlike the previous governments, the present regime in Pakistan in Mr Vladimirovich’s view had a better appreciation of Russia’s concerns and hopes in the region. Mr Vladimirovich has been Mr Putin’s chosen man not only for Pakistan but has also been his adviser on Chechnya which is in the grip of cross-border terrorism.

While these words would be music to the ears of the Pakistani ruling military elite which has been desperately looking for international recognition, it is a serious setback to the National Democratic Alliance government of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee which has been working overtime to isolate Islamabad internationally.

The discernible shift in the Russian foreign policy has been taking place for quiet some time now. A meeting between Mr Putin and General Musharraf took place in New York on the sidelines of the UN millennium summit which went relatively unnoticed.

While Mr Vajpayee did not meet Mr Putin in New York, the Pakistan ruler was successful in having a meeting with the Russian President. Even the South Block did not consider it wise to highlight it.

During an interaction with Russian foreign policy experts and strategic thinkers in Moscow, it is becoming increasingly evident that the Kremlin has been keeping a close tab on the growing Indo-US ties and has been interpreting every nuance in shift in India’s foreign policy.

Mr Vajpayee’s statement in Washington DC that “India and the USA are natural allies” has obviously not gone down very well here.

The new Russian administration under Mr Putin has been busy redefining its role in the emerging global order which Russia along with China is keen to shape on its own terms and based on its national priorities. Indo-Russian ties, in Moscow’s redrawn scheme of international priorities have to be determined by Russia’s vital national interests, an official said.

While Russia is prepared to cooperate with New Delhi in economic, defence and other fields and is also ready to engage New Delhi for evolving a common strategy to counter the growing menace of cross-border terrorism, Moscow is against putting all its eggs in the Indian basket.


Defence deal with Russia on cards
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Sept 28 — India has been assured by the Russian Federation that the armaments being supplied to China will not find their way to Pakistan which is desperately looking beyond its borders for replenishment of its military hardware.

Moscow has had a strategic arrangement with Beijing over the past four years under which the Russian Federation is selling sophisticated defence equipment to China. Considering the Islamabad-Beijing axis, New Delhi has apprehensions that some of these armaments might find their way to Pakistan.

This assumes importance as western intelligence agencies have issued an alert that the United Arab Emirates or more specifically Dubai is being used as a staging ground for clandestine shipment of armaments to Pakistan.

New Delhi is concerned about Moscow trying to build bridges with Pakistan but is quick in observing that “New Delhi and Moscow have a mature relationship which does not preclude having close ties with others.”

Even as New Delhi has been trying to isolate Pakistan internationally for encouraging cross border terrorism, the President of the Russian Federation, Mr Vladimir Putin, has accepted an invitation from Gen Pervez Musharraf to pay an official visit to Islamabad.

For all outward appearances, New Delhi does not find it disconcerting that Mr Putin, for whom the red carpet is being rolled here during his four-day official visit beginning on October 3, will be hosted by General Musharraf, Pakistan’s self appointed chief executive. The mutually convenient dates for Mr Putin’s sojourn to Islamabad will be worked out through diplomatic channels, according to an announcement made in Islamabad yesterday.

Briefing mediapersons here today about Mr Putin’s visit, foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh said Indo-Russian relationship “is time tested and built on trust and mutual understanding. There is national consensus on having close bilateral ties with the Russian Federation.”

Such a high level visit from the Russian Federation is taking place after seven and a half years. The highlight of the multi-faceted relationship between the two countries will be the signing of a declaration on “strategic partnership” by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Mr Putin. The declaration will encompass the entire gamut of bilateral ties as well as a review of the regional and international issues of mutual concern.

India and the Russian Federation enjoy a long-standing defence relationship which will be enlarged. Deals pertaining to the purchase of fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force and submarines and an aircraft carrier or an air defence ship for the Indian Navy at an estimated cost of $ 2 billion are expected to be clinched during Mr Putin’s stay here.

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