New Delhi, Moscow to make efforts to bridge gap during Krishna's visit

      As Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna heads to Russia on his maiden visit from today, Moscow is making an all out effort to rejuvenate its relationship with its all weather friend. Krishna will visit Moscow and Uzbek capital Tashkent between October 21 and 26 and return Bangalore to attend the fifth standalone meeting of the Russia-India-China (RIC) Forum on October 27. Source here believe that the appointment of Deputy Prime Minister and Head of the Government Sergey Sobyanin as the co-chair of India Russia Inter-Governmental Commission (IRIGC) signifies the importance Russia is attaching to its relationship with India. Heavyweight leader Sobyanin has replaced Aleksandr Zhukov who chaired the last session of the IRIGC. This reassignment and upgradation from the Russian side has been welcomed by New Delhi and is being seen as a positive step. Krishna will be chairing the 15th session of Inter-Governmental Joint Commission with Sobyanin. The commission will assess the progress made in meetings of the six joint working groups that deal with trade and economy; energy; metallurgy and mining; science and technology; information and communication technology; and culture and tourism. Krishna will also call on Russian President Dmitry Medvdev and Foerign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Issues like the overpricing of the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier, the as yet untapped level of India-Russia trade, which is currently pegged at a modest seven billion dollars per annum, defense cooperation and civil nuclear technology are likely to dominate bilateral deliberations this week. Sections of the Russian establishment see India's strentghening relationship with the US sceptically. Russia, which has traditionally remained major supplier of defence equipment to India, is today competing with Israel, the US and France among others for the 126 medium range multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) tender of the Indian Air Force in Bangalore. New Delhi maintains that despite few hiccups, the India-Russia relationship is flourishing and the Indian Prime Minister will be heading to Moscow later this year and is expected to seal two military pacts worth five billion dollars. Russia, which has already signed a civil nuclear deal with India and is building two reactors -- one in Haripur, West Bengal, and other in Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu, is also bidding for nuclear commerce with India. Analysts believe such gestures are expected to improve the bilateral relationship considerably. They also believe that with China's aggressive posturing, Russia's importance to India has increased further because it can keep a check on Beijing's growing influence in the region. Krishna will visit Uzbek capital Tashkent from Friday. Besides meeting his Uzbek counterpart, he will call on President Islam Karimov.

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