As Russian President Vladimir Putin landed in India on Wednesday night for his much-anticipated visit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi wasted no time in getting in on the act. "Delighted to welcome President Putin to India. Looking forward to a productive visit that will take India, Russia ties to newer heights." Modi tweeted in Russian.
"Times have changed, our friendship has not. Now we want to take this relation to the next level and this visit is a step in that direction," The Indian PM added, reports NDTV.
At a time when Russia is at loggerheads with the West, Putin has embarked upon his first summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Russian economy is in the doldrums as oil prices slid to its lowest point in five years. Modi and Putin had met on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Brazil in July and during the G-20 summit in Australia last month.
Apart from engaging in a one-to-one dialogue, the two will take part in intergovernmental talks and will also preside over the signing of a broad "vision" document laying out a roadmap for cooperation over an extended period, officials on both sides said.
Amongst talk of the Indo-Russian friendship taking a bit of a backseat in recent times, Putin described India as a "reliable and time-tested partner" and termed ties with New Delhi as a "privileged strategic partnership."
The Russian president is looking to seek more economic engagement with India in an effort to soften the blow of sanctions on his country by the US and its Western allies over the Ukraine issue.
"It is good for a rich fiancée to have a beautiful bridegroom," Alexander Kadakin, Russia's ambassador to New Delhi, said before Putin's visit, adding, "But they should not promise you a marriage and then betray you."
There is no doubt about the fact that trade ties between the two countries have dipped after the fall of the Soviet Union. Bilateral trade, at $10 billion, is now one-ninth of that between Russia and China - something that Putin has been focusing on to deal with European hostility.
"Russia is a tried and trusted friend - a country that has helped us in times of trouble," an Indian official said. "But that friendship hasn't delivered in terms of its economic potential."
Other than covering oil exploration and supply, infrastructure and an increase in direct diamond sales to India by Russian state monopoly Alrosa, will be the focus of the landmark deals.
As far as defence is concerned, the two sides will seek to move ahead with long-delayed projects to develop a joint fifth-generation fighter jet and a multi-role transport aircraft.
The most crucial area for cooperation between the two nations will be nuclear energy, where Putin is pushing for state-owned Rosatom to increase the number of nuclear reactors it could supply to as many as 25.
A 1,000-megawatt reactor is operating at the Kudankulam power station (built by Russia) in Tamil Nadu, with a second due to come on-stream in 2015. Final documents to build reactors three and four should be signed at the summit, said diplomats.