Russia is last in series of major powers to seal valuable deals with India

By James Lamont
Wednesday, December 22, 2010; 12:29 AM

NEW DELHI - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has closed a remarkable chapter in Indian diplomacy in which five of the world's most powerful leaders have flocked in quick succession to New Delhi, seeking new business and closer political alignment.

The leaders of Britain, the United States, France and China preceded Medvedev's arrival Tuesday with acknowledgments of India's growing global stature and strong bids to take advantage of its booming economy.

Accompanied by large business delegations, they have struck deals to supply India with energy and military equipment. They have also sought ways to more fully integrate Asia's third-largest economy into the world economy and have promoted India's role in the governance of the global financial system.

President Obama left India with more than $10 billion worth of deals to help create jobs in the United States; Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, last week claimed $16 billion worth of new business during a three-day visit to New Delhi.

In return for such deals, the leaders of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council have offered recognition of India's standing as the world's largest democracy and pledged support for a greater role for New Delhi in multilateral institutions - in particular, a future seat on the Security Council.

Describing Russia as a "major energy power," Medvedev on Tuesday stressed his country's role as a key energy supplier. Among the 15 agreements that he and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed were a pact to align India's oil and gas companies with powerful Russian state-owned energy companies such as Gazprom and an agreement to cooperate in developing two nuclear reactors.

Like his peers, Medvedev spoke of the ways in which his country's economy complemented India's; he also pushed for "modern" engagement across sectors, including pharmaceuticals, defense and space technology.

"I believe that trade between us does not nearly reflect our privileged partnership," Medvedev said. "India is a comfortable partner, especially in energy."

He and Singh agreed to work toward doubling bilateral trade to $20 billion within five years to reenergize ties forged in the decades after India's independence. Those ties face stiff competition from India's warming relationships with Western powers and from the regional dominance of the Chinese economy.

Obama, in a genially received address to the Indian Parliament, described India as an "emerged" power and market rather than an emerging one.

The succession of visitors also addressed India's concerns about security in South Asia and the threats of extremism and terrorism emanating from Pakistan and Afghanistan. The top-level bilateral engagement was spearheaded by Singh, who enjoys a high international standing as a statesman and a development economist.

His reception of world leaders has left him looking more assured in the face of a raft of domestic graft scandals that have paralyzed Parliament and threatened to tarnish his clean image. The opposition has been in an uproar over the alleged mishandling of telecommunications licenses that an official audit claimed had cost $39 billion in potential state revenue.

"It's a shame that when India is doing so well in the world, we have this crisis at home," one top Indian diplomat said.

- Financial Times

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