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India-Russia 2 Plus 2 dialogue (29 April 2021)

India-Russia 2 Plus 2 dialogue (29 April 2021)

Context:

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for extending help and support to India in its fight against COVID-19. In a telephonic conversation with the Russian President, PM Modi said the prompt Russian support to India was a symbol of our enduring partnership.

Background:

  • India approved Russia’s Sputnik V. It is the third vaccine to be approved in the country after COVAXIN and COVISHIELD.

  • Indian companies will be producing 850 million doses of the vaccine, which not only be used in India, Russia but also third countries.

Summary of the Debate

Key takeaways:PM Modi speaks to Russian president Vladimir Putin, says 'our cooperation on Sputnik-V vaccine will assist humanity'

  • Russia has sent more than 22 tons of humanitarian aid to India, which include oxygen-producing equipment, artificial lung ventilation devices, medical monitors and medicine packages.

  • In his conversation with the Prime Minister, President Putin expressed solidarity with the people of India and assured that Russia would extend all possible support to respond to the crisis.

  • Besides, the two leaders also reviewed the diverse bilateral cooperation between both countries and agreed to establish a 2+2 ministerial dialogue between foreign ministers and defence ministers to add further momentum to the bilateral strategic partnership.

  • The two leaders also recalled important decisions taken during their last summit meeting in Vladivostok in September 2019.

About 2+2 dialogue:

  • A ‘two plus two dialogue’ is a highest-level institutional mechanism between the two countries.

  • It is a format of dialogue where two countries’ defence and external affairs ministries meet to discuss the two countries’ strategic and security interests.

  • The goal is to establish a diplomatic and fruitful conversation between the two countries’ respective heads of defence and external affairs.

  • Russia will only be the fourth country with which India has such a mechanism of a 2+2 dialogue - the others being the US, Japan and Australia.

Need of 2+2 dialogue with Russia:

  • There are geopolitical changes, there are realignments, India is having major security concerns and there is a kind of churning happening in geopolitics.

  • We have a mechanism of annual summit level meeting which has been happening for the last 20 years. Russia was the first country with which we started this summit, but by instituting a 2+2 dialogue, we will qualitatively enhance the scope, the timing and the focus and it will help in building momentum.

  • 2+2 bring a confluence of the civilian and the military leadership of both countries.

  • 2+2 dialogue practically cover the entire gamut of important aspects of the relationships.

  • The kind of engagements will help think about a greater degree, especially on geostrategic matters.

  • 2+2 will help also convey a message to other countries and most of all China because when Sergei Lavrov came to India, he said that we don't have a military alliance with China and that was important for us.

Impact on the India-US relations:

  • India is an independent power, it a very large country and in different geographies, India have different security concerns.

  • The US forges relations with any country according to its enlightened national interest and we have a similar right to do that.

  • They have tried to pressurize India on not importing arms and equipment from Russia but and also CAATSA has been introduced but we have already pushed back and pointed out that we have a very strong India-US relationship.

  • In the first 50 years of our independence, we had barely imported $450 million worth of defense equipment from the US, in the last 10 years we have imported more than $20 billion and we have a very robust relationship with the US and similarly we would like to have relationship with Russia because it is in our interest.

  • We are certainly not going to allow one relationship to impact on the other but nor are we going to be told as to whom to have relationship with and whom we should not have one.

  • They will have to understand because they need us as much as we need them for Indo-Pacific, so they can't impose their will on us.

  • It's a very complex multi-polar world, there are 6-7 players and everyone has to deal with the other side and there are no clear camps per se which are water tight, so the Russia-India relationship as maneuvering in that fluid space.

Other sectors in which both countries have increased or enhanced cooperation in the past few years?

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

  • Russia continues to be one of India’s largest defence partner. The S-400, the anti-surface anti-missile system is going to be delivered in November 2021 notwithstanding the hanging democracy sort of American sanctions.

  • India-Russia has agreements for AK-203 Assault Rifles, Kamov helicopters, all these we are now co-manufacturing with the Russians.

  • The BRAHMOS Supersonic Cruise Missile which we developed with the Russians jointly, it's now being asked for purchase by many countries, the Philippines has said that we are acquiring it and Vietnam is also in line to get it. Some Gulf countries have apparently also asked for Brahmos.

  • it's not just a buyer seller relationship anymore, with Russia, we have become co-developers and export to third countries.

  • The vaccine development is a new area where we are forging ahead.

  • There's going to be also Chennai to Vladivostok maritime commerce route that we are opening.

  • One of the interesting things we are asking for the Russians is to include the Chabahar Project that we have in Iran to include it in the International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC) so that there is a kind of a greater alignment between our partners in West Asia, in Central Asia and Russia and Russia wants us there because Eurasia is a region is where they are losing influence to China.

  • The Russians will help us launch our manned mission and it's a historic step. The 4 Indian astronauts were training since February 2020 at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre (GCTC) of Russia.

  • They are more willing to share technology unlike the US or anybody else and that's because they don't have huge producers and big companies who want to monopolize the world market.

  • Russia relationship is not just a buyer seller, there's a lot of technology transfers.

What are the issues on which there is divergence and it's in the interest of both countries to address them?

  • Russia is moving closer to China, the west has been trying to squeeze Russia and there is a perception that Russia has been more conscious of the Chinese concerns than sensitive to India's concerns.

  • Russia objected to India’s Quad initiative in the Indo-Pacific. Russian Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov a few months ago went to the extent of saying that India is being weaned away by the western world and he has described Quad indirectly as Asian NATO.

  • When he was in Pakistan on the 7th of April along with Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, he said that there was a similar or identical views on current international affairs between Pakistan and Russia and then he said that we have had an in-depth discussion on the situation of Asia-Pacific.

  • There is a sense that Russia has not been as mindful of India's security concerns.

  • Russia tried to keep India out of the Afghanistan dialogue at the behest of Pakistan.

  • We have come down from 72 percent of our weapons purchases used to be from Russia, now only 49 percent is from Russia and we are buying more from France and from Israel.

Which are the significant areas in the bilateral relationship which both countries must take care of?

  • Russia is one of the broader suppliers of diamonds, they produce some of the best diamonds in the world and that is yet another area which has potential, work is being done but much more can be done.

  • Joint research and development can become yet another area where we have our core strengths and they have core strengths especially in a number of critical sectors.

  • Russia bothers more about NATO and NATO activity in eastern Europe or Ukraine where they are having a face-to-face confrontation with the west and India need to explain to the Russia that Quad should not bother Russia because Quad has nothing which is anti-Russian, in no way does it hurt Russia's national interest because Quad is an Indo-Pacific initiative and it is not at all aimed at counter balancing.

  • We traditionally had a sizable number of Indian students going to Russia for engineering and medicine that number has come down but it's still continuing.

  • There is a lot of people-to-people bonds, goodwill and convergence of interest that makes for a very good combination and after all we have a legacy, we will uphold that legacy and we will stay in regular touch we will communicate more so that if there are any gaps that can be bridged.

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