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Putin visit to cement space ties
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 22
India and Russia are set to deepen their cooperation in space-related matters in a big way during Russian President Vladimir Putinís visit here later this weekend when India will formally join GLONASS, Russiaís radio satellite navigation system which is a fully operational alternative to the American Global Positioning System.

This Indo-Russian leap forward comes in the wake of January 11 successful testing by China of its satellite-destoryer missile ó a technology which hitherto was available only to the US and Russia. The Chinese test is a major cause of concern for India. GLONASS or Global Navigation Satellite System, counterpart to the United Statesí GPS and European Unionís embryonic Galileo systems, is operated for the Russian government by the Russian Space Forces. Like GPS, the complete nominal GLONASS constellation consists of 24 satellites, 21 operating and three on-orbit Ďsparesí placed in three orbital planes. The system is operational since 1982.

India will seek to take its relationship with Russia on a higher plane during President Putinís visit here (January 25-26) in the backdrop of rapidly changing global political spectrum wherein the two traditional strategic partners need to reaffirm their old ties. For the common man it will just be a routine interaction between the two countries, but for the two governments, it will mean reaffirmation of half a decade of close ties at the highest political level. This will be the seventh India-Russia annual summit.

Russia, which has been a reliable supplier of Indian strategic fuel reserves even in the face of international sanctions, is involved in building nuclear reactors in Kudankulam (Tamil Nadu). This will top the strategic agenda, from the Indian point of view.

On the political front, Talibanís resurgence in Afghanistan is very high on the agenda. Moscow is alarmed at the development and is well aware that a resurgent Taliban will be bound to have a cascading impact on the entire Central Asia, Russiaís own backyard. For India, Taliban is the biggest enemy. The two sides, which already have a Joint Working Group on counter terrorism, are expected to calibrate their response to the grave threat.

Close to 10 bilateral agreements are expected to be signed during Mr Putinís visit, including setting up a joint venture in the energy sector, purchase of a new generation MiG aircraft, joint production of a multi-role transport aircraft, joint launch of satellites and establishing a centre for technology transfer. Besides, the two sides are also expected to take measures to more than triple their bilateral trade to $ 10 billion by 2010.

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