BENALIM, GOA: The thick fog that enveloped Goa overnight served as the metaphor for Indo-Russian relations as Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Russian President Vladimir Putin today.
Currently eye-to-eye with Pakistan, India is wary of the growing warmth between Russia and its sub-continental neighbor. The Indian side would be keen to protect the country’s ‘privileged partnership’ with Russia in defence and nuclear energy, where it has several plum contracts for armaments purchases on offer.
Putin’s arrival in Goa was delayed by nine hours due to the fog over Goa, making it difficult for his plane to land in the coastal state.
He was scheduled to land here at 1.30 am and with visibility low around the INS Hansa naval base, his plane was diverted to Mumbai. INS Hansa is a naval base near Goa’s Dabolim airport, and is home to several fighter plane squadrons of the Indian Navy.
Putin landed finally at 10.20 am today.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Goa last night. As has been his style lately, the Indian PM tweeted his welcome to Putin in the Russian language.
Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup confirmed that the main points on the agenda are defence and security related. "We expect a very fruitful discussion on various issues. Defence and security issues to dominate," he tweeted.
There are a dozen agreements on the table for talks later in the afternoon, mostly in defence and energy.
Being a major defence supplier, Russia would be keen to make progress on several defence deals, which offers India some leverage on charming the once superpower away from Pakistan’s allure.
Three defence deals in particular are of interest: One, joint production of 200 Kamoc helicopters; two, deal for four naval frigates; three, purchase of five S400 Triumf air defence systems.
Pakistan is clearly going to be the elephant in the room as Putin and Modi begin talking. And so being his snarky self, Congress leader Digvijaya Singh prodded the PM to charm the Russians away from Pakistan.
"Mr Modi would you be able to convince them with your Oratorial Skills? I sincerely hope you would. Best wishes to you!," he said on Twitter.