NEW DELHI: Russian President Vladimir Putin, who arrived in Delhi on Thursday, will get down to business with Prime Minister Narendra Modi today in a bilateral meeting that is expected to end with the signing of a number of big defence deals. Mr Putin was greeted by foreign minister Sushma Swaraj at the airport yesterday. Later in the evening, Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed him with a hug before the two sat down for a private meeting, followed by dinner, at the prime minister’s official residence. One of the highlights of Mr Putin’s visit is India’s interest in buying the S-400 air defence missile system worth $5 billion, amid threat by the US of tough sanctions.
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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.
The S-400 is one of the world’s most advanced long-range air defence systems. China was the first nation to buy the S-400 missile system in 2014. Russia has already started deliveries of an undisclosed number of the S-400 missile system to Beijing.
There have been indications by New Delhi that it will go ahead with the S-400 deal notwithstanding the US sanctions. As and when the government approves it, delivery (of the missiles) will be in 24 months,” Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa has told reporters.
Under a new law — Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act or CAATSA — the US imposes sanctions on any country that has “significant transactions” with Iran, North Korea or Russia.
Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will also discuss key regional and global issues, including US sanctions on import of Iranian crude oil. Mr Putin will also meet President Ram Nath Kovind today.
Mr Putin’s aide Yuri Ushakov was quoted by the Russian media as saying that Russia and India are planning to sign over 20 documents at the end of the bilateral meet, including the S-400 missile deal.
India is also planning to acquire 4 Krivak-class frigates from Russia, two of which will be built in India. Under the $2.5 billion deal, two ships will be built at the Goa shipyard and two others will be acquired from Russia. India already operates six similar frigates.
Russia is one of only two countries with which India holds annual bilateral summits, the other being Japan.
This is the third meeting between PM Modi and Mr Putin this year after the informal meeting in the Russian resort city of Sochi in May and a bilateral on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in South Africa.
“India has maintained its sovereignty as regards to its relationship with countries. We shall maintain it in all earnestness,” Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said when asked whether the US sanctions will hit India’s defence ties with Russia.