NEW DELHI: Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in New Delhi on Thursday evening for the annual summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Putin, who was received at the airport by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and senior Indian and Russian officials, went to the PM’s residence for an informal dinner, where he was greeted with a hug by Modi before they went in to exchange views on various bilateral and international issues.
New Delhi has pulled out all stops to allay Russian concerns over India’s growing strategic relationship with the US.
The Russian President is accompanied by a high-level delegation comprising Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Trade and Industry Minister Denis Manturov among others during his two-day visit.
Ahead of his meeting, Modi tweeted, "Welcome to India, President Putin. Looking forward to our deliberations, which will further enhance India-Russia friendship."
The tweet was also posted in the Russian language.
On Friday, after a ceremonial reception, the two leaders will meet at Hyderabad House for one-on-one and expanded talks and sign a number of bilateral contracts, including a $5 billion contract to deliver four S-400 air defense missile systems to India in defiance of US sanctions.
While most of the pacts would be defence related, including licensed production of the latest AK Series assault rifles and Kamov light utility helicopters in India, sources said the focus would be on “broadening and deepening the relationship” through more economic and cultural exchanges, as well as cooperation in space and nuclear energy.
The Russian leader will also be gifted three MiG 21s built in India in a flyaway condition, symbolising “the long, time tested friendship” between the two nations.
They will then participate in a Russian-Indian business forum and meet students of Russia’s Sirius educational centre and a group of talented Indian children. He will also call on President Ram Nath Kovind before leaving for Moscow.
Ahead of the visit, the Russian President's aide Yuri Ushakov was quoted by media as saying that Russia and India are planning to sign more than 20 documents at the end of the Putin-Modi talks and that Putin will oversee the signing of the USD 5 billion deal.
The agreements to be signed are likely to boost cooperation in keys sectors such as defence, space, trade, energy and tourism, among others.
The spotlight will be on the S-400 missile defence system deal as, if signed, it could violate US sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) instituted by the US Congress on arms purchases from Russia.
The US has urged its allies to forgo transactions with Russia, warning that the S-400 missile defence system that India intends to buy would be a "focus area" for it to implement punitive sanctions against a nation undertaking "significant" business deals with the Russians.
American lawmakers, however, have allowed the possibility of a presidential waiver.
India has already given indications that it will go ahead with the deal notwithstanding the US sanctions.
"India has maintained its sovereignty as regards to its relationship with countries. We shall maintain it in all earnestness," Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told PTI recently when asked whether the US sanctions will hit India's defence ties with Russia, especially after the signing of the S-400 missile deal.
India wants to procure the long-range missile systems to tighten its air defence mechanism, particularly along the nearly 4,000-km-long Sino-India border.
S-400 is known as Russia's most advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defence system.
China was the first foreign buyer to seal a government-to-government deal with Russia in 2014 to procure the lethal missile system and Moscow has already started delivery of an undisclosed number of the S-400 missile systems to Beijing.
The S-400 is an upgraded version of the S-300 systems. The missile system, manufactured by Almaz-Antey, has been in service in Russia since 2007.
Russia has been one of India's key suppliers of arms and ammunition.
Sources had earlier said Modi and Putin would also deliberate on impact of US sanctions on import of crude oil from Iran.
Besides holding talks with Modi, the Russian leader will also have a meeting with President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday.
He will also interact with a group of talented children and address an India-Russia business meet.
The last annual summit was held on June 1, 2017, during the visit of the prime minister to Russia.
In May, Modi had travelled to Russian coastal city of Sochi for an informal summit with Putin during which they discussed a range of crucial issues.
(With PTI inputs)