India

Indian media: Putin's visit revives ties

Mr Putin (left) and Mr Modi have pledged to further boost India-Russia partnership Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Putin (left) and Mr Modi have pledged to further boost India-Russia partnership

Papers in India say Russian President Vladimir Putin's Delhi visit has given fresh impetus to the "old friendship" between the two countries.

Mr Putin held summit talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday.

The two countries signed a series of major energy, defence and trade agreements reaffirming the importance of the India-Russia friendship that dates back to the Soviet-era.

Papers say the summit talks helped India boost trade with Russia, which currently stands significantly lower than its trade with the US.

"For the past four years, bilateral trade between them (India-Russia) has hovered around $10bn, about a tenth of India's trade with the US," The Telegraph says.

The paper adds that the failure to "expand economic ties" had "stalled" the India-Russia relationship in recent years.

The Hindustan Times says that the summit talks "afforded an opportunity to begin the process of addressing the problem of underachieving India-Russia bilateral trade".

The paper also points out that the "agreements reflect Russia's need for allies in the face of Western sanctions over Moscow's annexation of Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine".

It warns India "has to be careful to not extend ties in a direction that will get it into the crosshairs of the West."

Experts, meanwhile, feel the agreements, which include Russia's promise to develop helicopters in India, suit Mr Modi's "Make in India" campaign to boost manufacturing.

"Russia is going to calibrate its projects in India in such a way that it fits in with the Make In India campaign…The relationship has become more business-like, that is good," the Mint newspaper quotes former Indian diplomat M.K. Bhadrakumar as saying.

Mr Bhadrakumar adds that the agreements "put India in a better position to bargain and wrest a better deal" when US President Barack Obama visits India in January.

The First Post website says "Mr Putin's highly successful India visit will inevitably exert pressure on US President Barack Obama who visits India six weeks from now".

'Minority-hating agenda'

In some domestic news, papers are expressing concern over a recent conversion of at least 200 people to Hinduism in the northern city of Agra.

Media reports said that most of the people who adopted Hinduism were Muslims.

Opposition parties, including the Congress, have alleged that the ruling Hindu nationalist BJP-led government and right-wing group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) are behind the conversions, the paper says.

The government has dismissed the allegation, saying the "centre has no role" in such conversions.

The Indian Express, however, notes a growing "dissonance" between the government's "reform" pledge and the "regressive, minority-hating agenda" of such groups linked to the ruling party.

The paper says "the Modi government needs to acknowledge the contradiction that has built up on its watch".

The Hindustan Times says "right-wing fringe groups have done more to damage this government than any of its political opponents".

"The BJP came to power on the plank of development, but the right-wing groups associated with it seem singularly focused on religion and culture," the paper adds.

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