Context: On the side-lines of Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit, the Prime Minister of India and the President of Russia discussed about defence cooperation amid the ongoing Russia – Ukraine war.
Let us discuss the Bilateral Relations between the two countries
- During that, Russia has mentioned the support of the Soviet Union for India’s sovereignty over the disputed territories of Kashmir and Portuguese coastal enclaves such as Goa. Even after the abrogation of Article 370 Russia still supports India’s claim over Kashmir.
- The USSR agreed to transfer technology to co-produce the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 jet fighter in India in 1962. But the USSR rejected a similar move to China.
- India signed the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation in 1971 during the Bangladesh liberation war.
- The Annual Summit meeting between the Prime Minister of India and the President of the Russian Federation is the highest institutionalised dialogue mechanism in the strategic partnership between India and Russia. As of 2020, 20 Annual Summit meetings have taken place alternatively in India and Russia.
- In 2019, President Putin signed the Executive Order on awarding PM of India with Russia’s highest state decoration – The order of St Andrew the Apostle.
- Two Inter-Governmental Commissions – one on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation (IRIGC-TEC), and another on Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC- MTC), meet annually.
Defence and Security Relations
- India-Russia military-technical cooperation has evolved from a buyer-seller framework to one involving joint research, development and production of advanced defence technologies and systems
- Joint Tri-Services Exercise ‘INDRA 2019’ between India and Russia was carried out simultaneously in Babina, Pune, and Goa in 2019.
The joint military programmes between India and Russia include:
- BrahMos cruise missile programme
- 5th generation fighter jet programme
- Sukhoi Su-30MKI programme
- Ilyushin/HAL Tactical Transport Aircraft
- KA-226T twin-engine utility helicopters
The military hardware purchased/leased by India from Russia includes:
- S-400 TRIUMF
- Kamov Ka-226 200 to be made in India under the Make in India initiative
- T-90S Bhishma
- INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier programme
- S-400 air defence system
Russia also plays a very important role in assisting the Indian Navy with its submarine programmes:
- Indian Navy’s first submarine, ‘Foxtrot Class’ came from Russia
- India is dependent on Russia for its nuclear submarine programme
- INS Vikramaditya, the sole aircraft carrier operated by India, is also Russian in origin
- Nine of the fourteen conventional submarines operated by India are Russian
India Russia Trade Relations:
- The two countries intend to increase bilateral investment to US$50 billion and bilateral trade to US$30 billion by 2025
- In 2019, total bilateral trade between the two countries from January-September, 2019 stood at USD 7.55 billion
- From 2013 to 2016 there was a major decline in the trade percentage between the two countries. However, it increased from 2017 onwards and a constant increase was noticed in 2018 and 2019 as well
- About 20 Russian Institutions, including leading universities and schools, regularly teach Hindi to about 1500 Russian students.
- Apart from Hindi, languages such as Tamil, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, Urdu, Sanskrit and Pali are taught in Russian Institutions.
- Indian dance, music, yoga, and Ayurveda are among few other interests that people of Russia enjoy.
Why is Russia Important for India?
- Russia’s status in international sphere: Russia remains, and will remain a pre-eminent nuclear and energy power and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council
- Multipolar World Politics: Since the world is becoming increasingly multipolar, maintaining close and strategic relations with Russia and the US at the same time is indispensable for India. Strong partnership with Russia provides India leverages to deal with other countries.
- Support for UNSC seat: Russia has stated publicly that it supports India receiving a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
- Counterbalance to China Aggression: India has no option but to have a close relationship both with the US and Russia and to manage its difficult relationship with China. So long as Russia’s relationship with the West remains strained, Russia will look towards China. So long as Sino-Indian relations remain troubled, Russia’s going into the Chinese sphere of influence will not suit India.
- India’s energy security: Russia has huge reserves of oil. India to look towards Russia as an alternative source of energy supplies as the situation in the Middle East is escalating with threats to essential oil trade routes
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 is rapid since 2008.
- In 2014 US emerged as the top arms supplier to India by overtaking Russia.
- Further, India also signed all the Foundational agreements with the US. Such as LEMOA, COMCASA, BECA.
- Due to these developments, Russia changed their decades-old policy and start supplying China with weapon systems like Sukhoi 35 and the S-400 missile defence system.
- Closer proximity of Russia towards China:
- Russia already proposed a Russia-India-China (RIC) forum of foreign ministers. But there is no major diplomatic success of RIC due to India’s unresolved issues with 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. Russia which opposes the US joined hands with China. This is evident as Russia joined the Chinese One Belt One Road initiative.
Conclusion: India and Russia continue to share a common strategic rationale for their relationship: apart from bilateral synergies, the two are members of various multilateral organisations including BRICS, RIC, G20, East Asia Summit and SCO—where avenues for cooperation on issues of mutual importance exist.
On the whole, Both India and Russia will have to learn to navigate their relationship amidst challenges emerging not just from bilateral factors but also regional and global ones, as both countries seek to strengthen their position at a time of flux in the international order.
Source: Indian Express