Recent developments in India-Russia Relations – Explained, pointwise

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Recently, 21st India – Russia Annual summit took place. The Joint Statement titled ‘India-Russia: Partnership for Peace, Progress and Prosperity’ noted, “The completion of 5 decades of the 1971 Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation and 2 decades of Declaration on Strategic Partnership is proof for long-standing and time-tested India-Russia relations.”

Further, the first meeting of the 2+2 Dialogue of Foreign and Defence Ministers and the meeting of the Inter-Governmental Commission on Military & Military-Technical Cooperation also took place. These underline the development of India-Russia Relations.

Note: The tradition of the annual India-Russia summit was launched in 2000 during the Premiership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Until now, India has held a 2+2 format of meetings with member nations of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) — the US, Japan and Australia.
About the discussions of 21st India – Russia Annual summit

The leaders underscored the need for greater economic cooperation and emphasized on new drivers of growth for the long term, predictable and sustained economic cooperation.

The leader’s highlighted the role of connectivity through the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and the proposed Chennai – Vladivostok Eastern Maritime Corridor.

Regarding Afghanistan: The leaders discussed regional and global developments, including the post-pandemic global economic recovery, and the situation in Afghanistan. They agreed that both countries share common perspectives and concerns on Afghanistan and appreciated the bilateral roadmap charted out at the NSA level for consultation and cooperation on Afghanistan.

Regarding international cooperation: The summit noted that India and Russia share common positions on many international issues and agreed to further strengthen cooperation at multilateral fora, including at the UN Security Council.

Regarding defence: Both agreed on joint manufacturing in India of spare parts, components, aggregates and other products for the maintenance of Russian-origin arms and defence equipment under the Make-in-India program through the transfer of technology and setting up of joint ventures for meeting the needs of the Indian Armed Forces as well as subsequent export to mutually friendly third countries.

Both the Indian PM and Russian President expressed satisfaction at the sustained progress in the ‘Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership’ on India-Russia Relations, despite the challenges posed by the Covid pandemic.

Outcomes of recent India Russia Summit

Both sides concluded 28 agreements, including 9 government-to-government agreements. They spanned in areas of defence, space, finance, power, culture, scientific research, education and health among others.

The prominent ones are (1). Renewed the military-technical cooperation agreement for another 10 years till 2031, (2). India and Russia signed the deal for the manufacture of Ak-203 assault rifles manufacture of nearly 6 lakh AK-203 rifles under a joint venture in Amethi, Uttar Pradesh. Further, Russia dropped the royalty to be charged in the deal, 3. Fossil fuel imports from Russia, including coking coal for India’s steel industry, investments by Vostok Oil have been renewed and broadened.

Further, Russia has begun the deliveries of the S-400 long range air defence systems, the shipments will arrive in the next 10 days.

But a bilateral logistics support deal Reciprocal Exchange of Logistics Agreement (RELOS), as well as a Navy to Navy cooperation agreement, was put off.

Note: The 22nd India-Russia Annual Summit in 2022 will occur in Russia.
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Areas of cooperation in India-Russia Relations

On defence: Russia is the key and principal supplier of arms and armaments to the Indian armed forces, accounting for over 60% of weapons. It comprises the whole gamut covering the Indian Army, Indian Air Force and Indian Navy. India recently inducted the S-400 Triumf missile systems. BrahMos missile, Sukhoi Su-30 fighter aircraft, T-90 tanks, and the Talwar and the Krivak class stealth frigates are some prominent ones.

Bilateral trade: The two countries trade in diverse sectors from defence and energy to IT, pharmaceuticals, agro-industries, mineral and metallurgy, fertilizers, and infrastructure projects. India-Russia trade was valued at the U.S.$10.11 billion in 2019–20, but that is not a true reflection of the potential.

Civil nuclear energy relations: India and Russia jointly developed Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP). Both signed agreements on the construction of 12 nuclear power plants in India during the coming decades.

Space relations:  2015 marked the 40th Anniversary of the launch of India’s first satellite “Aryabhatt” on a Russian launch vehicle ‘Soyuz.’ Russia also signed an agreement to train Indian astronauts for India’s first manned space mission(Gaganyaan Project).

What are the challenges in India-Russia relationships?

The rapid expansion of India-US relations: This is one of the most cited reasons for strain in India-Russia relations. The development of India US defence cooperation has been rapid since 2008. For instance, India signed all the Foundational agreements with the US such as LEMOACOMCASABECA.

The closer proximity of Russia towards China: China-Russian ties are growing due to their shared interest in opposing the US. The intense geostrategic rivalry between China and the US in the region has brought Russia and China closer. This is evident as Russia joined the Chinese One Belt One Road initiative.

On the other hand, India is facing border tensions and geopolitical rivalry across the Asia region with China.

Russia’s increased engagement with Pakistan. Russia has been involved in a few projects in Pakistan, and has increased its military cooperation with Pakistan.

How to shape the India-Russia relationship further?

India and Russia need to work together in a trilateral manner (involving a third partner) or using other flexible frameworks, particularly in Southeast Asia and Central Asia. Their growing collaboration can be a force of stability and will bring more diversity to the region while strengthening multilateralism. The involvement of India and Russia in the Rooppur nuclear plant project in Bangladesh is one such example.

Focus on Eurasia: India and Russia have to explore their opportunities in the Eurasian region. India can study the possibility of expanding Russia’s idea of an “extensive Eurasian partnership” involving the EAEU (Eurasian Economic Union) and China, India, Pakistan, and Iran.

Need to look at peoples’ power: Both nations need to focus on youth exchanges and deeper links in various fields including sport, culture, spiritual and religious studies. For instance, Buddhism can be an area where both countries can expand their interaction.

CAATSA waiver: US Congress has created a “CAATSA waiver” for close partners.  The US president can determine whether to exercise that waiver or not. India should push the US to provide such waivers to India.

India has to utilise the scientific and technological base in Russia to address the problems it faces. Further, India must take advantage of Russia’s capacity in helping India to become self-sufficient in Defence.

In conclusion, India should pursue an independent foreign policy to balance its special global strategic partnership with the US and special and privileged strategic partnership with Russia.

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