Mounting security concerns, owing to the massive protests against the brutal gangrape of a young girl in the national capital, forced the authorities to effect a last minute change in the venue of the annual summit-level talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin here on Monday.
As a result, the discussions took place at the fortified environs of Prime Minister’s residence at 7, Race Course Road. Earlier, the dialogue was to have taken place at the Hyderabad House, the usual location for important talks with foreign dignitaries.
The Russians, meanwhile, were not too happy with the change in the venue since it meant that the 50-member media entourage accompanying Putin would not get access to the high-security RCR 7.
Finally, around 30 Russian journalists witnessed the signing of 10 agreements as well as the reading out of the statements. In contrast, there were barely 10-15 reporters from the Indian media organisations.
The Russian President who arrived here at 1.30 a m on Monday remained here for less than 24 hours--his usual range for a foreign visit-- which is normally all business. Even in his previous four trips to India, he had not stayed for more than a quick overnight visit.
It was during his maiden visit to the country in 2000 after becoming President that the former KGB operative-turned-politico managed to squeeze in some sightseeing. He had visited the Taj Mahal along with his wife Lyudmila, where they posed for an iconic photograph.
The Indo-Russian talks, meanwhile, began almost an hour late at noon. According to sources, the Russians had informed that Putin would arrive a tad late for the talks due to his late night arrival.
The Russian leader’s schedule went haywire as the one-to-one with Manmohan exceeded the scheduled 30 minutes. “He spent around 90 minutes in the restricted meeting, while they planned for only about 30 minutes,” said a senior government official.
According to sources, the main takeaway from India was that the “dissonance” which had crept into the bilateral ties seem to have been swept away.
For the last four years during Dmitry Medvedev’s Presidential reign, there had been a number of irritants which had periodically crept in, from the inability to deliver Admiral Gorshkov on time, the cancellation of 122 telecom licences of Indo-Russian joint venture and disagreement over implementation of nuclear liability law for future two units at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant.
The Sistema issue did not figure in the joint statement released at the end of Putin’s visit, but sources said that it was raised by the Russian side during the talks.
On the regional front, Afghanistan featured prominently, with both the sides resolving to jointly combat extremist ideologies and drug trafficking. Sources indicated that India was keen on Russia donning a more pro-active role in Afghanistan, especially in the post-2014 scenario after the withdrawal of the US-led International Security Assistance Force(ISAF).