India-Russia Relations: Significance of Moscow

India-Russia Relations: Significance of Moscow

India-Russia Relations: Significance of Moscow

Russia’s supply of S-400 air defence systems to India and Putin’s visit to India next month speaks volumes about the strong ties between the two countries.

India’s relations with China have deteriorated in recent years. In such a situation, the importance of Moscow to India is understandable.

India, unlike generally happy with its ties with the US, is set to strengthen its relatively low-key diplomacy with Russia.

There should be no confusion about the return of India and Russia to the old fraternal relations.

There are many areas, such as regional and global diplomacy, defence cooperation, working together on security issues, counter-terrorism and energy, that need urgent work.

In this context, the next fortnight is important, when Russian President Vladimir Putin will be in New Delhi on 6 December.

Usually, every December the summit leaders of both the countries meet in Delhi or Moscow. Only last year was an exception due to Kovid.

The pandemic has rapidly returned to Russia and Putin appears to be returning after spending only a few hours in India.

Significantly, he has yet to cancel or postpone the conference, as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was forced to do.

Every Indian prime minister has had a good relationship with Putin and a few hours with Modi is enough.

This means that most of the work will be completed before the summit. Both sides are currently working out issues that will probably only be discussed so that they can be agreed upon during Putin’s visit.

Importantly, even before the summit, the supply of S-400 air defence systems to India from Russia has started.

It will boost our military capabilities to target enemy fighter jets and cruise missiles at long range. India had signed a contract for five S-400 missiles worth $5.43 billion in 2018, ignoring US sanctions.

The US wanted to implement the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) against India on this.

But India seems to have settled the issue with the Joe Biden administration, which has shown a remarkable understanding of India’s security concerns.

Given its close strategic ties, the US could not even stop India from procuring these systems. Not more so when China already has this, which it has deployed in Tibet and which threatens India.

Before the summit, there will be (2+2) talks between the Foreign and Defense Ministers of India and Russia on 5 December.

Earlier, India has held such talks with the US, Japan and Australia, which have made the Quad. Its urgent need has arisen especially concerning China’s stand on the Indian border.

Such talks with Russia assume significance because of the enduring India-Russia ties, as Moscow has recently forged an alliance with Beijing instead of Delhi on regional issues, especially Afghanistan.

Russia also participated in the recent security talks organized by India and Pakistan. China stayed away from the meeting organized by the Indian government to give importance to its ally Pakistan.

But in this region, one cannot ignore the threat posed by Afghanistan and the uncontrolled tribal region of Afghanistan-Pakistan (which has been a haven for terrorist groups).

The Taliban themselves are threatened by the Islamic State-Khorasan. This threat is so serious that due to this the National Security Advisors of five Central Asian countries came to meet in Delhi.

India-Russia bilateral trade has reached $8.1 billion, which is undoubtedly well below potential. But Russia is India’s biggest partner in the defence sector under ‘Make in India’.

Construction and co-production of four Project 1135.6 frigates; Manufacture in India the world’s most advanced assault rifle – AK-203 through 100% indigenization; Additional supplies of Su-30MKI and MiG-29S fighters; Additional supplies of Mango ammunition and VSHORAD system are on the agenda.

Over the past three years, the two countries have increased cooperation in the fields of oil, natural gas, energy and petrochemicals.

All of these will need to be strengthened. Financial assistance is no longer one-way from Moscow to Delhi. For the first time, India announced a $1 billion soft credit line to Russia to boost domestic trade partnerships in its development, especially in the Far East. India does not see Russia in isolation – it is Eurasia.

Apart from geopolitics, geoeconomics is also working. Both countries are promoting the Chennai-Vladivostok Eastern Maritime Corridor to complement the North-South Corridor through Iran.

They are also working on the Northern Sea Route, including the Arctic region, in which India and Russia are in special consultation.

India’s envoy to Russia V.B. Venkatesh Varma says, “If we look at the three big geopolitical trends in different parts of the vast Eurasian continent, then India’s participation is in line with Russia’s interests and India’s interests.

We have opened new avenues of engagement whose impact will not be measured in months or years but decades.

This is the correct chronological unit to measure our strategic partnership. He insists that India-Russia relations do not affect India’s relations with the US, China or anyone else.

India’s relations with China have deteriorated in recent years. In such a situation, the importance of Moscow to India is understandable.

Last year, it made a quiet attempt to mediate between New Delhi and Beijing when both the countries sought a solution to the Ladakh standoff on their terms.

This is the gist of a lesser-known, but important part of India-Russia relations.

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AUTHORDeepa Chandravanshi

Deepa Chandravanshi is the founder of The Magadha Times & Chandravanshi. Deepa Chandravanshi is a writer, Social Activist & Political Commentator.

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