Wednesday, December 4, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Putin arrives to forge new axis
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee with Russian President Vladimir Putin in New Delhi, on Tuesday.
Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee (L) with Russian President Vladimir Putin in New Delhi, on Tuesday. India and Russia will discuss joint anti-terrorism efforts during Putin's visit. — Reuters photo

New Delhi, December 3
Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived here this evening on a crucial three-day state visit which is going to catapult Indo-Russian relations to newer heights and during which the India-Russia-China trilateral strategic relationship is going to come for serious discussion.

As a demonstration of the growing political climate for an India-Russia-China axis — which Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal so eloquently downplayed yesterday at his news conference — India is going to tell Mr Putin that it is keen on the membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

Well-placed sources in South Block told The Tribune today that Mr Putin is expected to use his good offices with Beijing to push India’s case for membership of the SCO which has recently emerged as a premier world forum for fighting terrorism. China, being close to Pakistan, may also include Islamabad in the expanded SCO despite the dubious track-record of Islamabad.

SCO, previously known as Shanghai 5, was last year rechristened in its present name and has China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrghyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as the member countries. It insists that it is not a military bloc or a closed alliance and its activities are not aimed against third countries.

After Mr Putin landed at Delhi airport at 7 pm, he was driven straight to the Maurya Sheraton hotel where he is staying. He reached Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s official residence at 7, Race Course Road for a “private dinner” at 8.30 pm.

At the dinner, there were 12 Russian guests, including Mr and Mrs Putin. The Indian guests were also 12. These were Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha, Defence Minister George Fernandes, former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, PM’s Principal Secretary and National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra, Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal, Indian Ambassador in Moscow K Raghunath and his wife, and former top diplomat S K Lambah and his wife. Congress President and Leader of Opposition Sonia Gandhi, who was also invited, excused herself as she was in Gujarat today where she kicked off the Congress election campaign.

Union Minister Vasundhara Raje, who has been appointed Minister-in-waiting for Mr Putin, was also present at the dinner.

Meanwhile, in another development, India and Russia have agreed in principle to set up a Joint Working Group (JWG) on terrorism for closer and more effective coordination on an issue which is plaguing both countries.

Sources said once this JWG is signed New Delhi and Moscow will not only begin a serious exchange of intelligence inputs focussing on Islamic terrorists, including Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaida, but will also explore the possibilities of thrashing out strategies to counter the menace.



Informal talks held

New Delhi, December 3
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee tonight held informal discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin on a plethora of issues, including Pakistan’s continued support to cross-border terrorism, as Moscow expressed its readiness to cooperate with New Delhi in nuclear energy and meet its defence requirements.

Soon after his arrival from Beijing on a three-day state visit as the head of a high-level delegation, Mr Putin held talks with Mr Vajpayee, ahead of a private dinner which the Prime Minister hosted in honour of the visiting leader. UNI



Russian minister meets George
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 3
A day ahead of the Putin-Vajpayee summit here tomorrow Russian Industry Minister Illya Klebanov today held a crucial meeting with Defence Minister George Fernandes apparently to discuss the status of various pending deals of the defence sector.

The meeting — second in the course of a week — was scheduled on a request from the Russian side. It came at a time when the Russians are trying hard to sell aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov and the deal has been struck over the price of various equipment to be added onto the vessel.

Officials from both sides were tightlipped, but sources said the meeting was scheduled to carry forward what they described as “unfinished business”.

Mr Klebanov leading a high-powered three-member delegation was closeted with Mr Fernandes for one-to-one meeting for the major part of the talks, apparently giving final touches to parts of Delhi declaration on military cooperation. Mr Klebanov also holds the portfolio of science and technology.

At the end of two rounds of meeting last week between defence officials of the two sides, Mr Klebanov had told newspersons that some agreements on the further strengthening of the defence strategic cooperation during President Putin’s visit was also on the anvil.


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