Indo-Russian Relations

The intricate tapestry of India-Russia relations, woven since the 1971 ‘Treaty of Peace, Friendship, and Cooperation,’ reveals a rich and enduring partnership that spans political, strategic, and military spheres. This robust collaboration, born during the Cold War, has not only weathered geopolitical shifts but has also evolved into a multifaceted alliance that remains relevant in contemporary times.

Indo-Russian Relations

Historical Background:

The relationship between India and Russia, formerly the Soviet Union, has evolved through a complex historical trajectory marked by geopolitical shifts, ideological alignments, and strategic imperatives.

In the aftermath of India’s independence from British colonial rule in 1947, the country’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, sought to establish a foreign policy framework based on the principles of non-alignment. This approach aimed to maintain independence from the Cold War blocs led by the United States and the Soviet Union. Despite this stance, Nehru recognized the potential benefits of cultivating a relationship with the Soviet Union, given its status as a major global power and its shared socialist ideology.

The Indo-Soviet relationship gained momentum during the 1950s and 1960s, as both countries found common ground on various international issues. Nehru’s personal friendship with Soviet leaders such as Joseph Stalin and later Nikita Khrushchev helped foster diplomatic ties and cooperation in diverse areas.

One of the defining moments in Indo-Soviet relations occurred in 1971 when India signed the Treaty of Peace, Friendship, and Cooperation with the Soviet Union. This treaty solidified the strategic partnership between the two nations and laid the foundation for extensive cooperation in defense, technology, trade, and cultural exchanges.

During the Cold War era, India benefited significantly from Soviet military and economic assistance, which included the supply of advanced weaponry, technology transfers, and support for India’s industrialization efforts. The Indo-Soviet relationship was particularly crucial for India’s defense establishment, with the Soviet Union emerging as one of its primary arms suppliers.

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, India and Russia navigated through a period of transition in their bilateral ties. Despite the geopolitical upheavals of the post-Cold War era, both countries remained committed to maintaining and strengthening their strategic partnership.

In recent years, Indo-Russian relations have witnessed renewed momentum, characterized by frequent high-level exchanges, joint military exercises, and cooperation in various sectors such as defense, energy, space, and science. India’s acquisition of defense equipment from Russia, including advanced fighter jets, submarines, and missile systems, underscores the enduring nature of their defense collaboration.

Moreover, both countries have prioritized economic cooperation, with initiatives such as the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological, and Cultural Cooperation (IRIGC-TEC) aimed at enhancing bilateral trade and investment.

Culturally, India and Russia share strong historical ties, with cultural exchanges, educational collaborations, and people-to-people contacts contributing to the deepening of mutual understanding and friendship between the two nations.

Overall, the Indo-Russian relationship continues to be characterized by mutual respect, trust, and shared interests, making it a cornerstone of India’s foreign policy in the Eurasian region and beyond.

Key Milestones:

The dissolution of the USSR in 1991 did not diminish the camaraderie between India and Russia; instead, it marked a new chapter. In 2000, President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India led to the signing of the ‘India-Russia Strategic Partnership Agreement.’ Annual Summits, a tradition since then, alternate between the two nations, fostering continued dialogue. The formalization of a ‘Special and Privileged Partnership’ in 2010 and the ‘Strategic Vision Document’ in 2014 marked significant milestones, culminating in the 70th-anniversary celebration of diplomatic relations in April 2018.

Challenges in the Relationship:

  • India’s deepening ties with the USA are evident through increased defense and strategic cooperation. The collaboration extends to India’s participation in the QUAD group, alongside the USA, Japan, and Australia. However, this shift has implications for India’s long standing relationship with Russia.
  • On the other side, Russia has been strengthening its connections with Pakistan and China. This is demonstrated by Russia’s endorsement of China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative, military exercises with Pakistan, and China’s support during the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
  • In terms of defense partnerships, India has been diversifying its collaborations with countries like France, Israel, and the USA. Despite this, there has been a decline in Russia’s share of arm imports to India, falling from 69% in 2012-17 to 46% in 2017-21, according to a report by the Stockholm-based defense think-tank SIPRI. Despite this reduction, Russia has consistently fulfilled over 46% of India’s defense needs in the last five years.

Areas of Cooperation:

Defense Cooperation:

  • The joint projects include the development and deployment of strategic assets such as the Brahmos Missile, the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, the Akula Class Submarine, the advanced S-400 Missile Defense System, and the Sukhoi Su30MKI program.
  • Tri Lateral Exercises, specifically the INDRA exercise, aimed at enhancing interoperability and coordination between their armed forces. This robust defense cooperation is indicative of the strong strategic ties between the two nations.

Nuclear Energy Cooperation:

  • Kudankulam Nuclear Plant, Tamil Nadu.
  • Various Indian oil companies are exploring various oil fields in Russia’s Far East

Connectivity Projects:

  • International North South Transport Corridor – a multimodal connectivity project, initiated by Russia, India and Iran.

Political Cooperation:

  • Russia backs India’s permanent candidature in the UNSC and entry in NSG.
  • India has abstained from voting against Russia on various United Nations resolutions condemning Russia’s attack/invasion on Ukraine.
  • Two nations are also a part of G20, SCO, BRICS, RIC and East Asia Summit.

Recent Initiatives:

The diplomatic landscape has witnessed noteworthy recent initiatives, such as the first informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin in Sochi in 2018. Additionally, the establishment of the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in 2015 serves as an annual platform to bolster economic development in Russia’s Far East, with India actively participating since 2019. Prime Minister Modi’s participation in the 7th EEF in 2022 further emphasized the deepening ties between the two nations, particularly under India’s “Act Far-East” policy.

21st Annual Summit 2021:

The 21st India-Russia Annual Summit in 2021 highlighted the resilience and progress of the “Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership” despite challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The leaders discussed various aspects of bilateral cooperation, including economic ties, connectivity through the INSTC, and regional cooperation with a focus on Russia’s Far East. Mutual investments, successful presidencies of international groupings (UN Security Council, BRICS), and cooperation in combating the Covid pandemic were acknowledged. The joint statement, “India-Russia: Partnership for Peace, Progress, and Prosperity,” encapsulates the comprehensive nature of their strategic relationship.

Key Takeaways:

The Foreign Secretary, Harsh Vardhan Shringla, emphasized pivotal takeaways from the summit and the inaugural 2+2 ministerial talks. Key achievements included the signing of 10-year military-technical partnerships and plans to jointly produce AK-203 assault rifles under the ‘Make in India’ initiative. These agreements underscore the depth and breadth of the bilateral partnership, encompassing various sectors such as trade, energy, science, technology, intellectual property, outer space, geological exploration, cultural exchange, and education. Both leaders expressed a commitment to deepen cooperation in the energy sector, enhance transport and connectivity, and elevate two-way trade to $30 billion by 2025. President Putin extended an invitation for Prime Minister Modi to attend the 22nd India-Russia Annual Summit in 2022, underscoring the continuity and significance of their strategic engagements.

Latest News – India’s stand regarding conflict between Ukraine and Russia

India’s decision to abstain from condemning Russia’s referendum in Ukraine, alongside Brazil, China, and Gabon, reflects a diplomatic stance balancing global pressures. The United Nations Security Council’s failed resolution, vetoed by Russia, underscores the challenges in achieving consensus. India’s abstention signals a nuanced approach, steering clear of alignment with either side. The geopolitical complexities surrounding the Ukraine situation and divergent national interests contribute to a cautious diplomatic strategy, emphasizing India’s commitment to non-alignment and pragmatic decision-making within the international arena.

Conclusion:

The intricate tapestry of India-Russia relations, woven over decades, reflects a resilient partnership that has withstood the test of time. While contemporary challenges exist, the multifaceted cooperation across political, strategic, and military realms underscores the depth of this enduring alliance. As both nations navigate a dynamic geopolitical landscape, the Indo-Russian partnership continues to be a linchpin, shaping regional and global dynamics with its historical significance and contemporary relevance.

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