Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin had a good conversation and discussed a range of aspects related to the “special and privileged strategic partnership” between the two countries.

About India-Russia Relations

Historical Background:

  • Embarking on his expedition to India, the Russian traveler Afanasy Nikitin undertook a remarkable journey between 1468 and 1472.
  • Traveling through Persia, India, and the Ottoman Empire, he documented his experiences in the book titled “The Journey Beyond Three Seas.”
  • The Embassy of India in Moscow was constructed in 1821 and transferred to the Indian government in 1952. 

Political Relations:

  • India-Russia bilateral relations date back to 1947. Russia played a crucial role in supporting India’s quest for economic self-sufficiency by making investments.
  • India and the Soviet Union signed the Treaty of Peace and Friendship in August 1971 which was a manifestation of a shared goal for strengthening regional and global peace and security.
  • After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a new Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation was signed in January 1993 and Bilateral Military-Technical Cooperation agreement followed in 1994.
  • In 2000, India and Russia elevated their relationship to a Strategic Partnership which was upgraded to a “Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership” in 2010.
  • The coordination between Russia and India extends across multiple international forums such as BRICS, SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), G20, etc.

Defense Relations:

• India-Russia defense ties have progressed from a buyer-seller relationship to joint research and development.

  • Examples include joint projects like the BrahMos Missile System, and licensed production of SU-30 aircraft, and T-90 tanks in India.
  • Annual exercises between armed forces, including ‘The INDRA Tri-Services exercise and the bilateral naval exercise ‘INDRA-Navy’.

• India and Russia have a longstanding defense partnership, guided by the Agreement on the Programme for Military-Technical Cooperation.

  • The Agreement for 2021-2031 was signed during the inaugural 2+2 Dialogue between India and Russia in Delhi in 2021.

Economic Relations:

• As per Exploring India-Russia Trade and Economic Relations data: 

  • In the fiscal year 2022-23, the bilateral trade between India and Russia reached an all-time high of US$ 49.36 billion. 
  • Indian exports totaled US$ 3.14 billion, encompassing items like pharmaceuticals, organic chemicals, electrical machinery, mechanical appliances, and iron & steel.
  • Imports from Russia amounted to US$ 46.21 billion, with major items including oil and petroleum products, fertilizers, and vegetable oils, resulting in a trade deficit of $43bn in Russia’s favor. 

Nuclear Cooperation:

• Key developments include:

  • Strategic Vision Agreement (2014): India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Russia’s Rosatom signed a Strategic Vision for enhanced cooperation in peaceful uses of atomic energy.
  • Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP): KKNPP, constructed in collaboration with Russia, includes operational Units 1 and 2, while construction for Units 3 and 4 is underway.
  • Trilateral MoU for Rooppur NPP (Bangladesh): The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) signed a trilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for cooperation in implementing the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant construction project in Bangladesh.

Space Technology Cooperation:

  • India and Russia have a longstanding collaboration in peaceful outer space activities such as satellite launches, the GLONASS navigation system, and applications like remote sensing.
  • Signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between ISRO and ROSCOSMOS on Joint Activities for the Human Spaceflight Programme.
  • Ongoing efforts involve negotiations and identification of key cooperation areas for the Gaganyaan Human Spaceflight Program, production of space systems in India, futuristic technologies etc.

Science and Technology:

  • India and Russia collaborate into three key mechanisms: the Working Group on Science and Technology under IRIGC-TEC, the Integrated Long-Term Programme (ILTP), and the Basic Science Cooperation Programme.
  • Several new initiatives include the India-Russia Bridge to Innovation, telemedicine cooperation, the creation of a Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), GIAN, and the Russia-India Network (RIN), etc. 

Mutual Significance: India and Russia

For India

  • Major Defense Supplier: Russian-made equipment, weapons, and platforms account for 86 percent of all military equipment, weaponry, and platforms now in use in India.
  • Balancing Chinese Aggression: India views Russia as a key partner to balance Chinese aggression in the region. For example: Russia organized India-China peace talks post-deadly clashes in Galwan Valley.
  • Support for a permanent seat at UNSC: Russia has consistently backed India’s aspirations for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), demonstrating robust and enduring support.
  • Advocating NSG entry: India seeks Russia’s support in multilateral forums such as NSG. For example: Russia has been a proponent of India’s inclusion in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and other non-proliferation regimes
  • Counterterrorism Cooperation: India recognizes Russia’s importance in countering terrorism. For example: Russia aims for the early finalization of India’s proposed Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.

For Russia:

  • Russian Dependence on India: Russia values India as a strategic partner to reduce dependence on China. It aims to diversify economic ties and revive the Eurasian Economic Union.
  • Re-establishing Hegemony: Russia seeks India’s support to re-establish its hegemony. It views India as a crucial ally in regional and global power dynamics.

Challenges in India-Russia relations

  • Shift in Russia’s Foreign Policy: India’s deepening ties with the United States and its participation in the QUAD group have caused a strategic shift in Russia’s foreign policy, leading it to align more closely with China. 
  • Divergence on Indo-Pacific Concept: Additionally, differences between India and Russia over the concept of the Indo-Pacific contribute to a divergence in their strategic perspectives. 
  • Convergence with China: The deepening military relations between Russia and China, coupled with Russia’s endorsement of China’s One Belt One Road initiative, reflect a shifting geopolitical landscape.
  • Overdependency in Defense: India’s diversification of defense relations, including with the US and Israel, has resulted in a reduction of Russia’s share in Indian defense imports. 

Way forward:

  • Engaging Russia in the Indo-Pacific: Actively pursue and facilitate Russia’s engagement in the Indo-Pacific region to contribute to a “free and inclusive” framework.
  • Trilateral Cooperation: Prioritize and promote trilateral cooperation between Russia, India, and China (RIC) to reduce mistrust and suspicion. Strengthening the RIC partnership can foster regional stability.
  • Multilateral Engagement: Emphasize collaboration through various multilateral forums such as BRICS, G20, East Asia Summit, and SCO. Explore avenues for cooperation on issues of mutual importance on the global stage.
  • Resilience Against Sanctions: India should maintain resolve in strategic procurements, such as the purchase of the S-400 Triumf air defense missile system, demonstrating the resilience of the bilateral relationship.
EFFECTS OF RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR ON IndiaNegative Effects:·       The conflict has also led to a rise in diesel and petroleum rates, and LPG costs, which has caused inflation.·       The crisis has pushed up the cost of imported fertilizers to India, particularly Urea and Potash from Russia, which has increased the farming fertilizer subsidy bill.·       The war threatens India-Russia defense ties as Russia’s increasing reliance on China, with which India is still engaged in a standoff along the Line of Actual Control in the Himalayas.Positive Effects:Russia has been offering discounted energy to nations such as China and India, the world’s third-largest oil importer. While Russian oil made up only 2% of India’s annual crude imports in 2021, this share has surged to nearly 20%.Primarily due to burgeoning oil imports, the bilateral trade between India and Russia reached an all-time high of US$ 49.36 billion 

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