Bolstering counter-terror cooperation and highlighting India’s economic reforms to woo investment will be high on the agenda of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s six-day visit to Germany, Spain, Russia and France beginning May 29. In Russia, Modi is likely to take up with President Vladimir Putin India’s concerns over China’s ambitious Belt and Road initiative, esides exploring ways to further boost ties in defence and civil nuclear sectors. Asked whether India and Russia will be able to finalise the General Framework Agreement (GFA) for units 5 and 6 of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant, Joint Secretary in the External Affairs Ministry’s Eurasia division G V Srinivas only said it is “work in progress” and added, “I do not want to steal the thunder of the meeting.”
On whether Indo-Russia ties are losing warmth, Srinivas cited the strategic partnership between the two countries and holding of annual Summit between their leadership in the last 18 years, besides signing of pacts in March for long-term
maintenance for Russian origin Su-30MKI fighter jets of the Indian Air Force. In the Summit talks to be held in St Petersburg, Modi and Putin are expected to review the entire gamut of India-Russia bilateral relations and the progress made since the last Summit held in Goa on October 15, 2016.It is the first time that the annual Summit will be heldin Russia outside Moscow.
The Summit is also likely to focus on strengthen of trade ties. Exploring ways to strengthen counter-terror cooperation and projecting India as an attractive investment destination, will be a major focus area of the prime minister’s visit to the four countries, external affairs ministry officials said. Modi will arrive in Berlin on May 29 where he will hold extensive talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on range of key issues, besides a series of other engagements including meeting CEOs of leading German companies. The issue of an Indo-EU free trade agreement (FTA) is likely to figure in Modi’s talks with leadership in Germany, Spain and France — three key Europeans countries, the ministry officials said.
The talks on FTA, launched in June 2007, have been stalled since May 2013, when India and the EU failed to bridge substantial gaps on crucial issues, including data security status in the IT sector. A number of MoUs are expected to be signed during Modi’s visit to Germany. Union ministers Harsh Vardhan, Piyush Goyal, Nirmala Sitharaman and M J Akbar will be part of the PM’s delegation in Germany. From Berlin, Modi will travel to Spain on the evening of May 30. This will be first visit by an Indian prime minister since 1988. Modi will discuss with his Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy ways to deepen bilateral engagement, including in the high-tech sector.
Modi will travel to St Petersburg in Russia on June 1 where he will hold the 18th India-Russia annual Summit with Putin and attend the St Petersburg International Economic Forum the next day. The prime minister will be in Paris on June 2 and 3 where he will hold official talks with French President Emmanuel Macron with a view to further strengthening India-France
strategic ties. This is Modi’s first meeting with Macron, who was elected as the French president earlier this month.