Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2013 > Indo-Russian Strategic Partnership Reaches New Heights

Mainstream, VOL LI, No 45, October 26, 2013

Indo-Russian Strategic Partnership Reaches New Heights

Saturday 26 October 2013, by Arun Mohanty

There is every reason to believe that the just-concluded high-level meeting between India and Russia is one of the most successful and productive summits in recent years. This is the first time in many years that the annual summit is not dogged by serious irritants in bilateral relationship like delays and cost escalations of Russian military hardware planned to be supplied to India. Issues like delay in the supply of the aircraft career, Admiral Gorshkov, its price hike and problems linked to Russian investments in the Indian telecommunication sector by Systema to the tune of US $ 3.5 billion that marred previous summits have finally become things of the past. While Systema’s investment issue is resolved to the satisfaction of both sides, Admiral Gorshkov, rechristened Vikramaditya, would be officially commissioned in November after successful completion of all the sea trials.

The significance of the current summit lies in the fact that it took place at a time when Russia has bounced back to the centre-stage of global affairs as a major player following its unprecedented diplomatic victory in resolving the Syrian crisis and averting an imminent US military strike against that country. Our policy-makers, who had been thinking in the back of their minds that Russia was a declining power, have no doubt taken note of the implications and importance of a resurgent Russia asserting in world affairs. This has elevated Russia’s status and relevance in the minds of our policy-makers as well as members of the strategic community.

This summit assumes importance as it took place several months before the US troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan where both countries have huge stakes and in all likelihood it would be the last summit before the drawdown.

Journalists are used to assess the success of a prime ministerial visit by the number of agreements signed as a result of the particular summit. Dozens of important agreements covering our bilateral cooperation in various areas have been concluded in the course of the 13 summits that took place after President Putin’s first ever state visit to India in the year 2000 when both sides inked the historic Delhi Declaration on Strategic Partnership (that built the solid legal foundation for strengthening our multifaceted cooperation in the subsequent years). That is why one cannot really expect many documents to be signed in the course of each annual summit. Russia is the first and only country with which India has established this mechanism of annual summit to be held alternatively in each other’s capital. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will go down in the history of our bilateral relations as the one Indian leader who had the maximum number of summits with Moscow. This was indeed his 10th summit with the Russian President.

Nevertheless, the five agreements signed in the course of the Moscow summit are an MoU on our cooperation in energy efficiency; a programme on science and technology and innovation up to the year 2017; an MoU in standardisation and conformity assessment; a programme of cooperation in the area of bio-technology; and a treaty on transfer of sentenced prisoners.

Perhaps the most important document signed as a result of the Moscow summit is the Joint Declaration that reflects convergence of our views practically on all major global and regional issues of mutual concern. In a veiled criticism of US attempts to build an unipolar world under its diktat and in violation of international law, Delhi and Moscow called for building a more stable, secure and fair system of international relations based on equal partnerships between states, the rule of international law and respect for the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. At a time when there are attempts to denigrate the UN and its Security Council, both countries have expressed their desire to continue efforts for strengthening the central role of the UN in maintaining global peace and security and ensuring steady social and economic development.

Noting their increasing cooperation within the UN, Moscow and Delhi have agreed to further coordinate approaches and actions on a wide range of global and regional issues. Russia was the first major power to support India’s candidature for the reformed UN Security Council that would reflect the realities of the current world and reiterated its strong support for a permanent seat for Delhi in the expanded world body.

Russia joined India in condemning terrorism in the strongest language yet used in bilateral documents. Declaring zero tolerance for sheltering, arming, training or financing terrorists, Delhi and Moscow condemned terrorist acts as attacks on the freedom and democratic values that are aimed at undermining the territorial integrity of both countries. Pointing an accusing finger towards Pakistan, the Joint Declaration said that states that provide aid, abetment and shelter to such activities are themselves as guilty as the actual perpetrators of terrorism. In an obvious reference to Pakistan both sides urged such countries to ‘irreversibly shut down terrorist networks, organisations and infrastructure, and show tangible movement in investigating and bringing quickly to justice all those responsible for acts of terrorism’. It was emphasised that international terrorism was a threat to peace and security and grave violation of human rights and a crime against humanity.

In a dig at the US-led anti-terrorist campaign, both countries reaffirmed the UN’s central role in combating international terrorism and expressed their strong intention to make active contribution to combating the terrorist menace under the auspices of the UN.

Afghanistan is a hot spot not only for India, Russia but for the entire region, and perhaps for the whole world if the Taliban stage a comeback there. Russia is on the same side with India on the Afghan issue, where both countries have huge stakes. There is complete convergence of views of both sides on this serious problem likely to be aggravated in the aftermath of the US withdrawal from the war-torn country. Both the strategic partners approve the efforts made by the Afghan Government to begin an Afghan-led dialogue on reconciliation with the armed opposition forces on the basis of recognition of the Afghan Constitution, renunciation of violence and severing of ties with the Al-Qaeda. Both countries favour imposition of the UNSC’s sanctions regime against the Taliban as one of the most important tools for fighting terrorism. Emphasising a regional approach for resolving the Afghan issue, Delhi and Moscow call for greater involvement of the SCO, CSTO, SAARC and RIC in the resolution of the problem that would hit all the neighbouring countries after the US troops withdrawal from that state.

President Putin and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh paid sufficient attention to yet another international hot spot: Syria. While the Prime Minister highly commended Russia’s role resulting in a diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict, President Putin said Russia would welcome India‘s participation in Geneva-II and its bigger role in Syrian crisis management. Both countries strongly pleaded against the use of force in Syria and pitched for an exclusively political solution of the problem.

In an indirect criticism of the serious US espionage activities against sovereign countries, both states have called upon the international community for adopting universal values, norms and principles of responsible behaviour of states in the use of information and communication technologies. Pleading in favour of an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the field of international information security, both countries have underlined the need to observe the principle of non-interference in internal affairs as well as human rights in internet, including the right to privacy.

Apart from expressing support to India’s attempt for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, Russia promised its support to Delhi’s bid for full membership in a host of other international bodies like the NSG, MTCR and Wassenaar Arrangement etc. In the course of the summit Russia once again expressed its strong support for India’s full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) whose contribution to enhancing peace, stability, economic development and prosperity in Eurasia is significant.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC) is yet another international body designed to create favourable conditions for trade and investment cooperation and promotion of regional integration, to which India has been striving for membership for some time, and here again Russia has expressed its support to India’s bid for accession into this important regional body.

The 21st century is predicted to be the Asian century, and the Asia-Pacific region is projected to be the pivot of all important economic and political developments of the century. India and Russia have resolved to closely interact in order to discuss the framework principles of strengthening security cooperation in this vital region and play an active role in the multilateral fora to encourage further dialogue on equal and undiminished security and developing mutually beneficial cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region in accordance with the agreement achieved at the East Asia Summit (EAS) last October. Delhi and Moscow consider EAS a key forum for strategic dialogue between leaders of member states on pressing issues relating to political and economic cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.

Though the strategic triangle proposed by former Russian Prime Minister and veteran diplomat Evgeny Primakov did not really take off largely because of lack of Chinese interest in it, Delhi and Moscow are in favour of intensifying political interactions between the three Asian giants, and in this context, they attach great significance to the forthcoming meeting of Ministers of External Affairs of the three countries, scheduled to be held in coming November at Delhi, where they would hold consultations primarily on regional security issues.

While the strategic triangle consisting of Russia, India and China became a virtual non-starter, though they do hold regular high level trilateral consultations on issues of mutual interest, India and Russia strongly pitch for developing BRICS as a mechanism for trans-forming the globe into a multipolar world through strategic coordination of activities undertaken by the member-states on a wide range of political and economic issues of inter-national significance. Emerging and developing countries pin a lot of hope on the proposed BRICS Development Bank and Contingent Reserve Arrangement for ridding the world from dollar domination and the World Bank, IMF dictates on matters of trade and development.

Apart from global and regional issues, the leaders of India and Russia paid sufficient attention to issues of bilateral cooperation which has obtained strategic dimensions in several areas like defence, energy, nuclear, space, science and technology.

Though no major defence deal has been clinched in the area of defence cooperation, allaying Moscow’s apprehensions, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured that ‘Russia would remain an indispensable partner for our defence needs‘ and the thrust of our future defence partnership would be increasingly based on technology transfer, joint ventures, joint designing and co-production. He, perhaps in a reference to our defence relations with other countries like the US, France and Israel, stressed that our defence cooperation with Russia is unmatched by any other relationship. The INS Vikramaditya, scheduled to be commissioned soon, the nuclear submarine, INS Chakra, leased to us by Russia, joint development of the fifth generation fighter aircraft and the supersonic Brahmos Cruise missile are examples of the scale and sophistication of our defence collabo-ration. Currently both countries are negotiating for developing a hypersonic missile and a second nuclear submarine. With Russia embarking on an ambitious modernisation programme of its defence industry with massive investment of 20 trillion roubles, by the year 2020 our defence cooperation is likely to break new grounds without the irritants of the past like delays in delivery and cost escalations.

Nuclear energy is another area of our strategic cooperation. The first reactor at Kudankulam plant in Tamil Nadu, that went critical last July, finally started generating energy at the time the current summit was in progress in Moscow. Our Prime Minister highlighted the fact that Russia offered us partnership in nuclear energy when the world still shunned nuclear commerce with us. Russia signed the contract for building the Kudankulam plant in the aftermath of India’s nuclear test in May 1998 when the entire world was up in arms against us, and country after country sought to impose sanctions on us, making us virtually isolated in the international arena. The nuclear roadmap designed by both countries stipulates building 16 to 18 reactors in India in the coming decades.

There was a lot of hope in both countries that a commercial contract for building the third and fourth reactors at Kudankulam with Russian assistance would be clinched during the summit. Though no contract could be signed, both sides are very close to clinching the deal in the coming weeks.

Hydrocarbon is another pillar of our strategic partnership and India has invested nearly US $ 5 billion in two projects in Russia, India’s largest investment abroad. Both sides have agreed to enter into long term contracts for the supply of Russian LNG to India in the coming years. Both sides, in the course of the summit, have agreed to explore the possibilities of direct transportation of hydrocarbons from Russia to India through the land route and decided to set up a Joint Study Group for preparing the feasibility report. Both sides are mulling over joint exploration of hydrocarbons in the energy- rich Arctic region. Russia, home to all types of energy resources, is destined to play a very important role in strengthening our energy security. India should pursue a more aggressive policy in the Russian energy sector in order to tap the full potential of our cooperation in this vital sphere.

The just-concluded summit has contributed immensely towards enhancing our strategic partnership in all vital areas. The summit would stand out distinctly in several ways compared to many previous summits that were dogged by irritants and controversies. Indo-Russian strategic partnership has grown and flourished over the years. Our Prime Minister has very aptly described this relationship as very precious emphasising that no country has had closer relations with India and no country, other than Russia, inspires more admiration, trust and confidence among the people of India. India has many strategic partners, so has Russia but for each other we are “special and privileged strategic partners”. The 14th Indo-Russian summit, just concluded in Moscow, has yet again proved this with renewed clarity.

Prof Arun Mohanty is the Chairperson, Centre for Russian and Central Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

ISSN : 0542-1462 / RNI No. : 7064/62 Privacy Policy Notice Addressed to Online Readers of Mainstream Weekly in view of European data privacy regulations (GDPR)