Context- An important round of discussion between India and Russia take place on 6th April, 2021, between the green glove visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and External Affairs Minister of India. 

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  • Russian Foreign Minister, accompanied by Moscow’s special envoy on Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, is expected to brief the Indian side about Russian plans regarding the difficult peace process underway in Afghanistan. 
  • The meeting will also provide India with a window to share its frank assessment about the continuing scenario in eastern Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). 
  • The visit by the Russian foreign minister coincides with the tour of India by the US special presidential envoy for climate, John Kerry. 
  • The US embassy's spokesperson said that Washington viewed India as an important partner in future clean energy, research, development and deployment. 
  • Mr. Lavrov recently visited China where both the countries put up a joint front against the US. 
  • India on the other hand, has called upon China to withdraw from the remaining friction points along the LAC following the spirit of disengagement that was achieved at Pangong Tso earlier. 
  • The presence of Moscow’s special envoy on Afghanistan at the discussion will provide a first-hand briefing on the latest Russian moves on Afghan front. He has argued for engaging the Taliban for a fruitful negotiation. 
  • Russia recently held a summit ‘one Afghanistan’ on March 18th, 2021, where India was not invited.  
  • The present meeting is therefore being interpreted as a move to update New Delhi about the latest on the Afghan issue. 
  • Another major item that is expected to feature in the current talks is the pending delivery of the Russian S 400 missile defense system to India 
  • India is expected to receive the first S 400 system later this year. 
  • The delivery may attract U.S. sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA)

India Russia Relations 

  • Russia has been an all-weather friend of India for a long time. The relationship with the country is a key pillar of India's foreign policy. 
  • The bilateral ties in recent times have suffered minor drawbacks mainly due to India's inclination to the West and Russia’s growing relationship with China. 
  • Despite the differences, the other shared ties have remained strong. The Prime Minister of India, visited Russia's Vladivostok to participate in the 20th India Russia annual summit and the 5th eastern Economic Forum
  • This was the first Indian Prime Minister’s visit to the Russian Far East which gave a new direction, new energy and new speed to the bilateral relations between the two countries. 
  • As India and Russia both desire a multipolar world, they are equally important for each other in fulfilling each other's national interests. However, going by the changing geopolitical scenario around the globe, the relations between the two countries are not as good as it used to be in the Cold War era. 

Importance of Russia for India 

  • Defence- Russia has remained the largest importer of defence equipment to India.  
  • Nuclear Energy- Russia recognises India's need to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. In December 2014, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Russia's Rosatom signed the Strategic Vision for strengthening cooperation in peaceful uses of atomic energy between India and Russia. Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) is being built in India with Russian cooperation. 
  • Strategic- considering strong ties between Russia and China, India sees it as an actor that can influence China amidst increasing clashes between India and China. Russia recently organised a trilateral meeting among the foreign ministers of Russia, India, and China following deadly clashes in the Galwan Valley in the disputed territory of Ladakh. 
  • Space cooperation - The year 2020 marked the 45th anniversary of the launch of India's first satellite "Aryabhatt" on a Russian (then USSR) launch vehicle "Soyuz". Both sides are also exploring the possibility of cooperation in manned space flight. 
  • Combating terrorism- India and Russia how been working closely to finalize the comprehensive convention on international terrorism as clearly as possible. 
  • Emerging New Sectors of Economic Engagement- apart from the traditional areas of cooperation like weapons, hydrocarbons, nuclear energy and diamonds, there are several new sectors of economic engagement that are likely to be large in the near future. These include- mining, agro industrial, and high technology including robotics, nanotechnology as well as biotechnology
  • In addition to this, India's presence in the Russian forest and in the Arctic is likely to expand in the near future and the connectivity projects may get a boost too. 
  • Support at Multilateral Forums- Russia has been a supporter of India's candidacy for permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council as well as the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). 

Major Concerns regarding India-Russia Relations 

  1. India’s growing inclination to the West: China’s expansionist foreign policy has forced India to shed its past hesitations and actively pursue closer relations with the West, especially the US. This can be seen in a determined restart of the Quad process and a clearer enunciation of a free and inclusive Indo-Pacific by both India as well as the US. 
  1. Russia’s growing inclination to the East: The Western countries have imposed harsh economic sanctions on Russia after its annexation of Crimea in 2014. 
  • Russia has responded to these efforts to isolate it, by revving its own “Pivot to the East” Policy. 
  • The most distinct results of this include the markedly improved relations with China, and better ties with Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan. 
  • Russia’s Pivot to the East policy is not in synergy with that of the US and this in turn affects the relationship between India and Russia suffers. 
  1. Russia's decision to supply M-35 Hind attack Helicopters to Pakistan has further alarmed the Indian defense establishment. 

Way Forward 

  • India must rebuild on its strengths and concerns with the Russians. 
  • Both the countries need to revitalize their earlier agreement on sharing intelligence for a joint strategy on terrorism. 
  • India needs to pursue and facilitate Russia's engagement in the Indo Pacific as it could contribute to make the Indo pacific truly free and inclusive. 
  • There is a need to promote a mutually beneficial trilateral cooperation between Russia, India and China that could contribute towards the reduction of mistrust and suspicion between India and China. The RIC (Russia-India-China) Forum can act as a platform for such an engagement. 
  • India and Russia continue to share a common strategic rationale for their relationship. 
  • Apart from bilateral synergies, the two countries are members of various multilateral organizations like BRICS, RIC, G20, East Asia summit and SCO. These provide avenues for cooperation on issues of mutual importance and must be used effectively by both the countries. 

Source: The Hindu