india-russia-to-establish-a-22-ministerial-dialogue-between-foreign-defence-ministers

Context- Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanked President Vladimir Putin for Russia's help and support in India's fight against COVID-19 as the two leaders agreed to establish a "2+2 ministerial dialogue" between foreign and defence ministers to add further momentum to the bilateral strategic partnership.

Background

  • After a telephonic conversation with the Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi said they reviewed the diverse bilateral cooperation, especially in the areas of space exploration and renewable energy sector, including in the hydrogen economy.
  • The Prime Minister also said that the cooperation between Russia and India on the Sputnik V vaccine will assist humanity in battling the pandemic.
  • Sputnik-V is a coronavirus vaccine that has been approved by the government for use in India.
  • The Prime Minister also thanked the Russian President for help and support in India’s fight against the pandemic.

India Russia Relations 

  • India and Russia have shared longstanding ties since Indian independence. The two countries signed the “Declaration on India Russia Strategic Partnership” in 2000 and since then the ties between the two countries have acquired a qualitatively new character with enhanced levels of cooperation in diverse areas of bilateral relationship which include political, security, defense, trade and economy, science and technology, and culture.
  • Russia has been an all-weather friend for India since a long time under relationship with the country and has been a key pillar of India's foreign policy.
  • However, in the recent times the bilateral ties between the two countries have suffered minor drawbacks mostly due to India's inclination towards the West and Russia's growing relationship with China.
  • The year 2020 saw several geopolitical events that impacted both India and Russia. These include the sharpening rivalry between the US and China, the India-China border issue, the continuing decline in ties between the West and Russia, and now change of leadership in the US.
  • Both India and Russia desire a multipolar world and therefore are equally important to each other in fulfilling each other's national interests.

Significance of Russia for India

  • Defence- Russia has remained one of the largest importers of defence equipment to India.  
  • Nuclear Energy- Russia recognises India's need to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. In 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. The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) in India is being built with Russian cooperation. 
  • Strategic- Considering the emerging strong ties between Russia and China, India sees it as an actor that can help in influencing China amidst the increasing rate of 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 has marked the 45th anniversary of the launch of India's first satellite "Aryabhatt" on a Russian (then USSR) launch vehicle "Soyuz". Both the countries have also been exploring the possibility of cooperation in manned space flight. 
  • Combating terrorism- India and Russia have been working together 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 emerge in the near future. Some of 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 crucial supporter of India's candidacy for permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council as well as the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

Challenges

  • India’s growing inclination to the West especially the US-
    • 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.
  • Russia’s growing relations with the East especially China-
    • 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.
  • Russia's decision to supply M-35 Hind attack Helicopters to Pakistan has further alarmed the Indian defense establishment.

Way Forward

  • There is a need for India to make efforts on rebuilding its strengths and concerns with Russia. 
  • 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 that provide avenues for cooperation on issues of mutual importance and hence must be used effectively by both the countries.

Conclusion

Despite certain differences the ties between India and Russia have remained strong And it is clear that both the countries see each other as valued partners with a friendship built on deep mutual trust and cooperation. Hence, given the strategic convergence of interests between Russia and India, it is important for both the countries to draw up strategies that protect their national interests.