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Putin sending envoy Yuri Trutnev to India to boost ties

Ashok Tuteja | New Delhi |

With wrinkles appearing in the time-tested Indo-Russia relationship over a host of issues, Russian President Vladimir Putin is sending Deputy Prime Minister and his envoy to the Far East Region Yuri Trutnev to India on Wednesday

During his four-day visit, Trutnev is scheduled to visit Mumbai and Delhi and hold talks with senior Indian officials as well as top executives of Indian corporations to attract investments from India in the Far East Region of Russia. Indications are that Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar would also be soon flying to Moscow.

Trutnev’s is the first high-level visit from Russia to India in recent months following certain unhealthy developments in ties between the two nations. Indian officials say the visit would provide the two sides an opportunity to hold free and frank discussions on all issues of mutual concern.

India has not taken kindly to Russia holding  joint military exercises with Pakistan in September and subsequently hosting a trilateral meeting with China and Pakistan on Afghanistan in December last year. Russia had also upset India by giving broad hints that it was more inclined towards Pakistan’s policy on Afghanistan to court the Taliban for bringing about a rapprochement between the Afghan regime and the militant outfit. However, the rapidly changing global situation, particularly after the inauguration of President Donald Trump in the United States, has apparently influenced Moscow to realise that it could not take its traditional friendship with New Delhi for granted, especially while crafting its policy on India’s neighbourhood.

Senior Russian officials have gone on record to say that Russia would not conduct military exercises with Pakistan again. Also, after keeping New Delhi out of the meeting on Afghanistan in December, Russia invited India to the six-nation talks it hosted in February to take stock of the situation in the trouble-torn nation.

Last week, Moscow gave signs of a change in its position on the Taliban when the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a strong statement, rejecting all accusations that Moscow was supporting the militant outfit. The accusations were part of the attempts to discredit Russia and were made by forces which were not interested in stabilising the situation in Afghanistan, it said.

Trutnev is likely to court Indian investment and participation of Indian businesses in special economic zones in the Russian Far East which offers tax concessions and other incentives to foreign investors. The visit is being seen as a major exercise to exploit the untapped potential of the Indo-Russian economic cooperation.