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India-Russia Partnership (6 April 2021)

India-Russia Partnership (6 April 2021)

Context:

  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is in New Delhi on a two-day visit to India and held delegation level talks with his Indian counterpart.

Background:

  • In the years after its independence, India gained industrially from the USSR which provided a base for its future growth.

  • Starting in the 1950s, India received from the Soviet Union generous assistance for its industrialization.

  • A cordial relationship with India that began in the 1950s represented the most successful of the Soviet attempts to foster closer relations with Third World countries.

  • The relationship improved with a visit by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to the Soviet Union in June 1955 and Khrushchev’s return trip to India in the fall of 1955.

  • In India, Khrushchev announced that the Soviet Union supported Indian sovereignty over the disputed territory of the Kashmir region and over Portuguese coastal enclaves such as Goa.

  • During the Cold War, India and the Soviet Union (USSR) had a strong strategic, military, economic and diplomatic relationship.

Summary of the Debate

Key takeaways:

  • The COVID pandemic has gone nowhere, there are second waves not only in India but around the world and during this period Mr. Lavrov come to India signifies that it is a testimony to the importance that Russia attaches to the India-Russia partnership and relationship.

  • This is the 10th anniversary of the Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership. We signed the Strategic Partnership in 2000 and this was upgraded to Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership and that itself is a milestone.

  • Mr. Lavrov said that whatever fluctuations and changes have taken place in the world, they have not affected the strength and the depth of this relationship.

  • This was an opportunity to reaffirm the very strong ties the two countries have.

  • As far as India is concerned our relations with Russia are a key pillar of our foreign policy and this was mentioned by Mr. Jaishankar in his opening remarks.

  • He went through all the issues that were discussed whether it is furthering nuclear, space, defense partnership even as far as the economic partnership is concerned, going even to the connectivity projects both in terms of the International North-South Transport Corridor, also the Vladivostok-Chennai Maritime Corridor (VCMC).

  • Mr. Lavrov in his remarks mentioned about India's participation not only in the Russian far east but also as far as the Arctic is concerned.

  • He sought to give out the message that the positions of India and Russia are similar as far as Afghanistan is concerned because both of them want an independent, a prosperous, a sovereign and a democratic Afghanistan going forward.

Bilateral relation between India and Russia:

Politics:

  • United Nations Security Council (UNSC): Russia strongly supports India receiving a permanent seat on the UNSC.

  • Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG): Russia has been a long standing supporter of India’s membership of the NSG.

Trade:

  • In 2019, total bilateral trade between the two countries from January-September, 2019 stood at $ 7.55 billion.

Defence:

  • Russia continues to be one of India’s largest defence partner.

  • In October 2018, India had signed $ 5 billion deal with Russia to buy 5 units of the S-400 air defence missile systems.

  • The two countries also hold exchanges and training exercises between their armed forces annually.

Civil nuclear energy:

  • Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu is being built with Russian cooperation.

  • India’s cumulative oil and gas investment in Russia exceeds $15 billion.

Space:

  • India and Russia cooperate in the peaceful uses of outer space, including satellite launches, GLONASS navigation system, remote sensing and other societal applications of outer space.

  • Russia is supporting India’s space programme by providing training to 4 crew members of India and more recently, Russia has also trained two Indian doctors, for India’s Gaganyaan space mission.

Anti-terrorism:

  • Both countries strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms, stressing the need for an effective global effort in dealing with the terrorist menace.

Factors affecting India-Russia relationship:

  • India’s engagement with the USA.

  • Russia objected to India’s Quad initiative in the Indo Pacific. In the recent past some statements by Mr. Lavrov saying that ‘The Indo-Pacific and the QUAD is an attempt to take away India by the west and to position it against china’.

  • Russia’s strengthening ties with China.

  • Increasing closeness between Russia and Pakistan is the major concern for India.

    • Last year, both countries participated in joint military exercise.

Indo-Pacific issue and India's alignment as far as the quad is concerned:

  • India has been trying to tell the world but particularly the Russian federation that as far as the Indo-Pacific is concerned India does not view it as a grouping of countries to contain or to constrain china in any way.

  • This is exactly what the Prime Minister had also mentioned in the Shangri-La dialogue in 2018 in Singapore. Where he had said ‘It is not a strategy, it is not an initiative, it is a geographical construct and basically it is to ensure that there is a rule based International order, there is free and open Indo-Pacific and so on so forth and it is not a design against any particular country’, this is what India has been trying to tell the Russia .

  • The conversations at different levels, at think tanks amongst the different components of the society, on both sides have taken place but obviously Russia is not convinced so far.

  • A reference to this was made by Dr Jaishankar when he said that We are committed to ASEAN centrality and this is what he referred to when the Prime Minister had mentioned the Indo-Pacific Ocean initiative that he had given in November 2019 in Bangkok that We are committed to ASEAN centrality.

Way Forward:

  • Both countries must continue to share a common strategic rationale for their relationship.

  • India needs to deepen its scientific and technological relations with Russia.

  • India should increase its export to Russia from sectors like pharmaceuticals, IT, etc. while gaining from Russia’s expertise in nuclear technology, defence, energy and hydrocarbons.

  • The two countries can also hold more numbers of military exchanges, military personnel interactions and training exercises between their armed forces.

  • For India, the china factor is becoming so much more important, our engagement with China is now premised squarely on the fact that china will have to be more reciprocal if it wants a relationship with India.

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