Medvedev abroad: cooperation with India and a Russian church in Italy
President Dmitri Medvedev’s first official visit to India begins today. He will meet with government ministers and opposition leaders, holding talks in restricted and expanded formats, and signing a number of agreements. After leaving India, Medvedev will make a one-day visit to Italy.
President Dmitri Medvedev’s first official visit to India begins today. He will spend one-and-a-half days there – meeting with government ministers and opposition leaders, holding talks in restricted and expanded formats, and signing a number of agreements. At a press conference the day before the visit, presidential aide Sergei Prikhodko said that the two heads of state intend to discuss efforts by the world’s largest states to overcome the financial crisis. Russia and India are cooperating within the BRIC bloc (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and the G20. Moreover, Medvedev will be the first head of state to visit India since the terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
A cooperation agreement for building additional reactors at the Kudankulam nuclear power plant is scheduled to be signed in the course of Medvedev’s visit. Russia is extremely interested in working in the Indian market. India’s debt to the Soviet Union, nominated in non-convertible rubles, is supposed to be paid off by attracting Russian investment to India; but this inflow has been negligible so far. According to Federal State Statistics Service (RosStat) figures for the first half of 2008, Indian investment in Russia amounted to $821 million (mostly for the Sakhalin-1 project), while Russian investment in India was only $18 million. The closing ceremony for the Year of Russia in India will be held during Medvedev’s visit. The Year of Russia in India was opened in February by then-Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov.
Medvedev will then make a one-day working visit to Italy: to Bari, famous as a pilgrimage destination for wealthy Russian Orthodox Christians. Bari has a Russian church, the church of St. Nicholas. The decision to build a church in Italy for Russian pilgrims was made by Grand Duchess Elizaveta Fedorovna. In 1937, all of the church’s land and buildings were handed over to the Bari municipal government. In March 2007, the Italian government decided to return the church of St. Nicholas to Russia. President Medvedev and his wife will attend the handover ceremony.
Medvedev’s visit to Italy will be shorter than initially expected. Only yesterday morning, Italian Ambassador Vittorio Claudio told Echo of Moscow Radio that Medvedev would move on from Bari to visit La Scala in Milan. According to Claudio, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was planning to meet Medvedev in Milan. “I have every reason to believe that they will discuss some important issues during their La Scala meeting,” said Claudio.
But it turns out that Medvedev won’t go to Milan after all. He will fly back to Moscow after the visit to Bari. And there is no meeting with Berlusconi on his schedule. During his visit to Italy, he will hold talks with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.