View from New Delhi: Bilateral relations strengthened. Source: Press Photo
The 13th India-Russia Annual Summit concluded successfully in New Delhi on December 24, after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
During the meetings the leaders of the two countries discussed and signed a number of important bilateral agreements, reviewed the entire range of bilateral relations and also laid down a broad agenda to be followed for the coming year.
This year is being celebrated as the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relationship between the two countries. Both the countries are going to witness number of significant developments during the coming years.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his speech mentioned that President Putin is a valued friend of India. He is the original architect of the India-Russia strategic partnership. He conveyed to Putin the deep appreciation for his long-standing and personal commitment to maintain this partnership.
Putin has also appreciated the long-standing friendship and cooperation with India. He mentioned that the deepening of friendship and cooperation with India is among the top priorities of Russia’s foreign policy. When the Russian President came to power for the first time in the year 2000, he spoke of maintaining a close relationship with India and initiated the development of a strategic partnership between the countries.
Putin appreciated the fact that, unlike the West, India had no intention to putdown Russia when Russia was in a difficult situation immediately after the break-up of the Soviet Union. The Russian leader had developed the policies that helped to revive the relationship after a slowdown during the Yeltsin period and steered it in the right direction in the new millennium. Russia was the first country with which India established a strategic partnership and in the year 2010 during the 11th Summit, India and Russia elevated their relationship to a “Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership” status, indicating a mutual desire to emphasise the exceptional closeness of ties even though both India and Russia have developed new external relationships with various other countries.
Today, both Moscow and New Delhi have acquired a new self-confidence arising out of their rapid economic growth. As rising powers, both countries are likely to play an increasingly larger role on the world stage. In the coming decades the two countries share the goal of creating multi-polar world. India values the political and diplomatic support it continues to get from Russia on vital issues. India is also happy to note that Russia is recovering economically and militarily both and is reasserting itself on the international arena. In today’s complicated and fast changing geopolitical situation, both countries have wisely diversified their foreign policy options, yet have been careful not to abandon a mutually beneficial partnership of trust built up over decades.
During the discussion both the leaders undertook an extensive review of the multi-faceted bilateral cooperation, especially in the defence sector, in energy sector, in space technology, in bilateral trade and investment sectors, in science and technology sector, in education, in the sphere of culture and tourism.
Russia is a key partner in India’s efforts to modernise Indian armed forces and enhance the defence preparedness. A number of joint design, development and production projects are underway in high technology areas. Cooperation in the defence sector is going on strong. India is cooperating with Russia on major defence projects such as indigenously developed nuclear submarine Arihant and the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft.
During the December 24 summit, Russia and India signed new defence deals. Under the accords, India will buy 42 Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets and 71 Mil Mi-17 helicopters. Apparently, keeping in mind Putin’s visit, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) also cleared proposals for procuring military hardware from Russia. The proposals include procuring around 10,000 ‘Invar’ missiles from Russia for Indian Arm Forces T-90 tanks and over 200 air-launched versions of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles for the Indian Air Force. Russia remains India’s largest supplier of military equipment despite the entry of US and Israel for supply of military hardware to India. Even today around 60 percent of the defence equipment used by the Indian armed forces is of Russian origin.
Manmohan Singh during his speech mentioned that the development of the nuclear energy programme has been a key pillar of the two countries strategic partnership. Russia has completed the construction of a unit of a nuclear power plant at Kudankulam under the Indo-Russian Nuclear cooperation programme. Completion of Unit 2 is expected to take place next year and power generation will commence shortly. Negotiations for 2 additional units on the same site are also going on and have made good progress. Both the countries intends to continue implementing the roadmap for cooperation in the nuclear energy sector that was signed during President Putin’s visit in 2010 as the then Prime Minister of Russia.
India-Russia cooperation in the energy sector also extends to the oil and natural gas sectors. India’s showed interest in deepening cooperation in this area, through mutual investments and joint projects in third countries.
During the Annual meeting in New Delhi, Indian Prime minister congratulated Russian President for his achievement in getting membership to World Trade Organization. The WTO membership will increase the opportunities for the business communities in both the countries to enhance trade and economic cooperation. India-Russia bilateral trade has grown by over 30 percent in 2012. The trade turnover has overcome the consequences of the global crisis and reached record numbers over $10 billion this year. The next goal is to reach $20 billion by 2015. There is still untapped potential in areas such as in the pharmaceuticals sectors, in fertilizers, in mining, in steel industry, in information technology sector, in civil aviation sector, in telecommunication sector, in infrastructure, in food processing sector, in innovation and services, which needs to be explored for enhancing bilateral trade and investment flows.
Indo-Russian science and technology cooperation remains robust. Putin and Sigh welcomed the operationalization of the India-Russia Joint Science and Technology Centres in India and Russia, which can assist the development and commercialisation of modern technologies, including in nano-technology, bio-medicine and super-computing. The agreement on cooperation in using the GLONASS satellite navigation system has also been signed during the meeting. Under the agreement India is slated to get Russian Technology in tracking satellites and to have a collaborative Chandrayaan II, project involving space probes to the moon.
Prime Minister Singh also congratulated President Putin on Russia’s assumption of the Chair of G-20. India is looking forward to work closely with Russia in promoting reform of global economic and international structures of governance. The discussions between the two leaders were also conducted on many regional and global issues that showed convergence in the approach. The consultations in international fora, such as in the UN Security Council and BRICS have deepened. Russia considers India as one of the most deserving and strongest candidate for the permanent member of the expanded UN Security Council and supports its decision to become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
India and Russia agree that both nations must appreciate the importance of creating wider public interest and understanding for developing their relationship, particularly among the increasingly influential younger generation. Without such public support, it will be difficult to provide greater depth, a sound foundation and long-term stability to this mutually beneficial strategic partnership that has served both the countries well for a long time.
There is no substitute for spontaneous and natural people-to people exchanges. However, both India and Russia need to build direct contacts with the entire spectrum of stakeholders and interest groups in the political, economic, military and other spheres not only in Moscow and in St. Petersburg but also throughout Russia & India.
The 13th Annual Summit reflected that India values Russia’s steadfast friendship and that Moscow’s support for New Delhi is unaffected by global developments. This relationship has a special place in the hearts and minds of Indians and India remains committed deepening it further. The meeting and discussions that took place in New Delhi between both the leaders will further strengthen the framework for cooperation between Russia and India.
Dr Nivedita Das Kundu is Assistant Director, Indian Council for Social Science Research, New Delhi & Research Associate, York University, Toronto, Canada.
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