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India-Russia Ties in a Changed World

Context:

The significance of the visit by External Affairs of India to Russia this week is underscored by the concerted effort made by New Delhi and Moscow to ensure the success and productivity of the meetings. This extended five-day visit holds particular weight for India, especially considering the culmination of a year marked by active diplomacy.

Relevance:

GS2- International Relations- Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Mains Question:          

The recent visit of the Indian External Affairs Minister to Russia signifies that India and Russia seem keen on renewing ties in a changed world. Comment. (15 Marks, 250 Words).

Indo- Russia Relations:

Historical Context:

  • The longstanding relationship between India and Russia has been defined by the “Declaration on the India-Russia Strategic Partnership,” signed in October 2000.
  • Since then, the ties have evolved significantly, encompassing various areas such as political, security, defense, trade, economy, science and technology, and culture.
  • During the Cold War, India and the Soviet Union maintained a robust strategic, military, economic, and diplomatic alliance.
  • Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia inherited this close association with India, leading to the development of a Special Strategic Relationship between the two nations.

Political Relations:

  • In 2019, President Putin awarded PM Narendra Modi Russia’s highest state decoration – The Order of St Andrew the Apostle – recognizing his distinguished contribution to the development of the privileged strategic partnership between Russia and India.
  • Two Inter-Governmental Commissions – one on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation (IRIGC-TEC), and another on Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC) – convene annually.

Trade Relations:

  • Both nations aspire to increase bilateral investment to US$50 billion and bilateral trade to US$30 billion by 2025. In FY 2020, bilateral trade amounted to USD 8.1 billion.
  • After a decline from 2013 to 2016, trade between the two countries showed a consistent increase from 2017 onwards, continuing through 2018 and 2019.

Defence and Security Relations:

  • India-Russia military-technical cooperation has progressed from a buyer-seller framework to joint research, development, and production of advanced defense technologies and systems. Regular Tri-Services exercises, such as ‘INDRA,’ are conducted.
  • Joint military programs include the BrahMos cruise missile program, 5th generation fighter jet program, Sukhoi Su-30MKI program, Ilyushin/HAL Tactical Transport Aircraft, KA-226T twin-engine utility helicopters, and certain frigates.
  • India has acquired military hardware from Russia, including the S-400 Triumf, Kamov Ka-226 under the Make in India initiative, T-90S Bhishma, INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier, and various submarines.
  • Russia plays a crucial role in supporting India’s submarine programs, and a significant portion of India’s conventional submarines is of Russian origin.

Significance of the Recent Meet:

  • The duration is noteworthy, especially since the Kremlin typically avoids high-level foreign visits in the period just before its holiday season.
  • Additionally, it is uncommon for Russian President Vladimir Putin to engage with lower-ranking foreign officials, as observed in his meeting with Mr. Jaishankar.
  • The warmth of the interaction carries significance, especially in light of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s absence from the annual leadership summit for the past two years, breaking a tradition dating back to 2000-21. This has led to speculation about the state of the India-Russia relationship post the Ukraine war.

Outcomes of the Meet:

  • The resulting agreements of the meet, focusing on enhancing collaboration in upcoming Kudankulam nuclear power projects, promoting connectivity and trade, resuming discussions for the Eurasian Economic Union-India free trade agreement, and joint military production, indicate that bilateral relations are moving in a positive direction.
  • It is evident that a significant aspect of Mr. Jaishankar’s mission was to address and alleviate the perceived differences.
  • This is also reflected in the realm of multilateral cooperation, particularly as Russia plans to host the expanded BRICS summit next year, and India and Russia continue to align their positions at the UN and SCO.
  • Mr. Jaishankar’s announcement that imports of Russian hydrocarbons will increase despite Western sanctions on Russia underscores the resilience of the ties that persist “regardless of political fluctuations.”
  • Mr. Jaishankar’s confirmation that the annual leadership summit will be reinstated in 2024 seems to indicate a joint effort to resolve any issues in the relationship.
  • His assertion that the India-Russia relationship has been the ‘only constant in world politics’ over the past six decades would likely have caught the attention of Washington and Beijing.

Challenges in India- Russia Relations:

  • While refraining from overtly criticizing Russia, concerns persist regarding the decline in defense supplies, ongoing challenges in paying Russia for imports using third currencies, and a general decrease in other bilateral engagements for India.
  • This is especially significant given some tensions in India-U.S. relations regarding the Pannun investigation and President Joseph Biden’s decision to decline Mr. Modi’s Republic Day invitation.
  • Meanwhile, India-China relations remain at an impasse over the military standoff. The extent to which this camaraderie will lead to tangible progress on the rupee-rouble payment mechanism or the expedited delivery of S-400 air system units remains to be seen.

Conclusion:

Nevertheless, the broader significance of his visit, particularly his mention of the “geopolitical and strategic convergence” between India and Russia in a rebalancing multipolar world, will be closely observed by both advocates and critics of the relationship.


February 2024
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