Carrying forward the spirit of the special and privileged strategic partnership, President Putin has just completed another successful visit to India from 4-5 October 2018. This Summit meeting has taken place against the backdrop of an uncertain world situation, which major players are all hedging to maximize their gains and forging alliances for enhancing self-interest.
This meeting has put to rest any doubts about Indian and Russian time-tested friendship and has reinforced the personal chemistry between PM Modi and President Putin. Despite the threat of CAATSA sanctions, India and Russia went ahead and inked the much talked about agreement for supply of 5 batteries of S400 missile defence systems. Also signed were eight agreements in varied fields between the two sides. These include an MoU between ISRO and ROSCOSMOS for joint activities in the field of Human Spaceflight programme, an MOU between Indian and Russian railways, an action plan for prioritization of cooperation in the nuclear field, an MOU between the Indian Railways and Ministry of economy of Russia for transport education, an MOU between small scale industries , cooperation in fertilizers, and cooperation agreements between NITI Ayog and Ministry of Economc Development of Russia and Protocol for Consultations between the foreign minsitries between 2019 and 2023. Besides, there were a host of economic agreements signed on the margins of the business Summit which was attended by the two leaders.
Diversification and expansion are taking place in trade and investments between the two sides, who both realize that a relationship of such magnitude cannot survive on defence sales from Russia to India alone. Trade turnover has reached US$ 10.7 billion. India and Russia have committed to reach US$ 30 billion in trade by 2025. Since the investment target of US$ 30 billion by 2025 has already been reached, the two sides have set a new target of reaching US$ 50 billion in trade by the same date. Prominent areas in the trade and investment field are nuclear reactors and energy, oil and gas investments and sourcing of gas by India from Russian pipelines, enhanced imports of fertilizer by India, investments by Indian Diamond companies in Russian Far East, and “joint collaboration in precious metals, minerals, natural resources and forest produce, including timber, through joint investments, production processing and skilled labour”. The review of priority investment projects in the spheres of mining, metallurgy, power, oil and gas, railways, pharmaceuticals information technology, chemicals, infrastructure, automobiles, space, shipbuilding and manufacturing of different equipment reflected a focus of the desire for diversification. The emphasis on the North South corridor, gems and jewellery, opening up of Russian north east for Indian investments, and the invitation to Russia by PM Modi to set up industrial parks in India for defence manufacturing are all far reaching initiatives aimed at expanding the economic cooperation between the two countries.
India will be pleased with a clear Russian endorsement of a place for India in the reformed UN security council and as a member of the Nuclear Suppliers group. Although the comprehensive joint statement issued after the visit reflected convergence of views on Syria and Iran, and a condemnation of cross border terrorism and denouncement of terror in very clear terms, Russian position on a dialogue with Taliban for a role in Afghanistan, and collaboration with Pakistan in the military field are areas of divergences which will need to be bridged, and the discussions during the Summit must have helped. The Indo Russian relationship is time tested, and needs to be nurtured by both sides, Economic diversification will strengthen these bonds, and people to people ties, especially among the young generation, will sustain this relationship.
(The author is a former Secretary of MEA and also headed the Russia Desk.Views expressed are personal)