Health reasons restrict Putin’s Indian itinerary

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Summary“Though he will be here for about 17 hours, he will have official engagements for only about four hours,” a senior minister said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will spend about a day in India when he visits Monday but will actually interact with the leadership for just a few hours, thanks to a bad back that has imposed health restrictions on his routine.

“Though he will be here for about 17 hours, he will have official engagements for only about four hours,” a senior minister said.

Sources said Putin’s official programme will begin 11.30 am Monday and end when he leaves for Moscow at 4.30 pm. The touch and go visit will be packed with delegation-level talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and meetings with President Pranab Mukherjee, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj.

Putin, a judo black belt with a penchant for adventure sports and hard exercising, hurt his back during a judo practice session last month. International media reports had said he was limping at an Asia-Pacific summit. He, in fact, skipped foreign travel in November, including the visit to India.

Government sources said Putin’s team had requested for an even shorter programme in New Delhi. “They had wanted the meetings to start only after noon Monday but we had to request them for more time since there were a number of engagements,” a government functionary said. He added that Putin wanted to spend a good part of the morning to have therapy for his back.

India has also had to cancel the customary lunch hosted by the prime minister for the visiting dignitary as well as the dinner hosted by the President. Mukherjee will now host a lunch instead.

This is the 13th annual summit between India and Russia, a mechanism set up in 2000 to push bilateral relations in the political, strategic and economic spheres. Putin as President earlier came for summit meetings in 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2007.

Putin last visited India in March 2010 as prime minister on a working visit. The two sides are expected to sign about a dozen bilateral agreements on energy and defence.

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