After the disintegration of the Soviet Union in December 1991, under the new Russian President Boris Yeltsin too continued with the policy of building close cooperation with the US and the West, there were calls for a “pragmatic renewal” of ties with India.
During Yeltsin’s visit to India in 1993, the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation was signed between India and Russia.
It replaced the 1971 Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation. The security clause of the earlier Treaty was abandoned while the two countries resolved to continue their peaceful and friendly relation. Another important breakthrough was the agreement on debts and Ruble-Rupee exchange rates.
A Treaty on cooperation in military field was also signed and Yeltsin confirmed once again that India would receive cryogenic rocket engines despite US objections.
The Indo-Russian relations attained a new high and momentum with the signing of Declaration on Strategic Partnership during the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee’s November 2001 visit resulted in the signing of the Declaration on International Terrorism. This declaration condemned the double standards adopted by the west on terrorism.
Although Russia is not a super power any more, its significance for India cannot be underestimated. Being a permanent member of the Security Council of the UN, it has the power of veto.
Further, as you already know, Russia is the only important world power that has consistently supported the Indian position on Kashmir and cross-border terrorism. It holds Pakistan responsible for the spread of religious extremism and terrorism in this part of the world.
The most recent support for Kashmir came in the form of the joint statement issued at the end of three days visit of Prime Minister Vajpayee to Moscow in November 2003.
It called upon Pakistan to prevent infiltration of terrorists across the LOC and at the other points of the border into the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It also asked Pakistan to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan and Pakistan-controlled territory as a condition for purposeful dialogue between the two countries.
Among the permanent members of the UN Security Council, Russia is the most prominent and unequivocal supporter of India’s candidature for permanent membership in an expanded Security Council.
Russia remains India’s most reliable supplier of high-quality military equipment. Russia supplies more than seventy per cent of India’s defence need including the state-of-the-art weapon systems and the technologies.
The major Russian defence export include fighter aircraft (such as MiG-21), main battle tanks (like T-72MI), helicopters, anti-tank missiles, anti-ship missiles, submarines, nuclear submarine (of Akula-2 class) and aircraft carrier (such as Gorskhov). In a “landmark deal” in January 2004, India agreed to buy the refurbished Admiral Gorskhov along with 12 Mig-29 fighter aircraft.
The aircraft carrier will be delivered to India by 2008. Defence co-operation between India and Russian is not limited to procurement but includes production of many of these weapon systems in India (e.g. Mig-27M, Sukhoi- 30MK, T-72 tanks, etc.).
It also covers areas like joint research and development and service to service co-operation. One of the most striking examples is the Indo-Russian joint endeavour to develop, manufacture and market the supersonic (flying faster than the speed of sound) Anti-Ship Cruise Missile Systems, BrahMos.
India and Russia have enjoyed strong historical ties. In the present international scenario, their views of the world coincide to a large extent. This is further complemented by the mutuality of their security and economic interests.
Indo-Russian trade is the weakest link in an otherwise excellent relationship. But the economic interaction between the two countries is brightened by cooperation in new areas like energy and security.
There are certain areas in which the bilateral cooperation between the two countries is looking up. Energy Cooperation is one of them. India is emerging as a large consumer of energy.
Russia’s oil and gas reserves and its expertise in thermal, hydropower and nuclear energy sector will be crucial in ensuring India’s energy security in future. A number of thermal and hydropower projects have already been built with Soviet/ Russian collaboration.
India’s ambitious goals in the field of nuclear energy need Russian help since it is the only important nuclear power which is ready to co-operate with India in the atomic energy sector.