New Delhi plays balancing act between US, Russia

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Ahead of the visit, the Russian president's aide Yuri Ushakov was quoted by media as saying that Russia and India are planning to sign more than 20 documents at the end of the Putin-Modi talks and that Putin will oversee the signing of the $5 billion deal. "Looking forward to our deliberations, which will further enhance India-Russia friendship", the PM tweeted in Russian and English. The Russian president is leading a high-level delegation comprising Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Trade and Industry Minister Denis Manturov.

Putin's visit though is not all about defence deals.

Putin arrived in Delhi on Thursday evening and he and Modi were due to have dinner before the main talks on Friday. China signed a deal for six battalions of the S-400 in 2015 and countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iraq are in line.

The focus is likely to be on the three key deals. China was the first foreign buyer to seal a government-to-government deal with Russian Federation in 2014 to procure the lethal missile system and Moscow has already started delivery of an undisclosed number of the S-400 missile systems to Beijing. India also has intensified its defense ties with the U.S.in recent years with joint military drills and defense sales. During his visit to New Delhi past year, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov had publicly called on India to join China's Belt and Road initiative and hoped that New Delhi will find a way out to benefit from the mega connectivity project without sacrificing its position on the issues flagged by it. China has also perturbed India by loaning vast amounts of money to countries such as Sri Lanka where it has long held sway.

The Putin-Modi meeting will also be closely watched by two of the biggest powers - the USA and China. Moscow is now expanding India s biggest nuclear power plant in Kudankulam.

Russian Federation building its second nuclear power plant in India is on the table too, as is the training of Indian astronauts in Russian Federation for New Delhi's first crewed space mission in 2022.

Rakesh Sharma, the only Indian to travel in space, did so on a Soviet spacecraft in 1984. "The value of the contract will be more than Dollars 5 billion".

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Russian Federation and India have had warm ties since Stalin died in 1953.

India and Russian Federation have a close relationship that dates back to the Cold War, when the USA tilted toward Pakistan, India's neighbor and archrival.

Sources said the two leaders spent a lot of time in Sochi, and there is a broad understanding between them that this is "not a transactional relationship".

Moscow is also pushing for India s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group of countries controlling access to nuclear technology.

India wants to procure the long-range missile systems to tighten its air defence mechanism, particularly along the almost 4,000-kilometre-long Sino-India border.

Afghanistan though has been a sticking point, experts say, where Moscow wants to engage Taliban in the peace process - a prospect unacceptable to India.

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