Rajya Sabha TV programs like ‘The Big Picture’, ‘In Depth’ and ‘India’s World’ are informative programs that are important for UPSC preparation. In this article, you can read about the discussions held in the ‘Big Picture’ episode on “Modi-Putin Summit“ for the IAS exam.
Guests: Professor Harsh V Pant, Distinguished Fellow and Head of ORF’s Strategic Studies;
Ashok Sajjanhar, Former Diplomat;
Sanjay Pandey, Professor, Centre for Russian, Central Asian Studies, JNU.
Anchor: Vishal Dahiya
- The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the 5th Eastern Economic Forum (EEF), held in Vladivostok, Russia, as the chief guest.
- He also held a meeting with the Russian President Vladimir Putin at the 20th Annual India-Russia Summit.
- The importance of India-Russia relations is underlined by the invitation of the Indian PM as the chief guest of EEF. The meetings are vital for the reinvigoration of partnership between India and Russia.
- This is the 3rd time Modi and Putin are meeting in 2019.
- They had an informal summit at Sochi (May, 2019). They also met on the sidelines of the SCO summit held in Bishkek (June, 2019).
Current Status of India-Russia Relations:
- Defence Sector:
- India and Russia have impressive cooperation in the defence sector. India has signed agreements to purchase the S400 missile system and Kamov 226T Helicopters from Russia.
- At present, the cooperation has transformed from equipment purchase to joint development and production.
- The Ordnance Factory in Amethi is making AK 230 Kalashnikov rifles under the ‘Make in India’
- The BrahMos missile has been developed as a joint venture between India and Russia.
- Su-57E, a fifth generation fighter aircraft is being considered for a joint development in India and Russia.
- Energy Sector:
- Bilateral investment in the energy sector has grown significantly in the last ten years.
- Russia has $13 billion investment in the oil sector of India, including the acquisition of ‘Essar Oil’. India has $10 billion investment in Russia.
- Russia is the largest nuclear energy partner of India. Russia has set up 6 reactors (total capacity of 7200 MW) in the Kudankulam nuclear power plant.
- Economic Sector:
- The traditional areas of economic cooperation between the two countries are pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, energy, etc.
- Ruble-Rupee trade arrangement was introduced to reduce the dependency on dollars in India-Russia trade. It was particularly vital after sanctions were issued against Russia by US and European countries.
- A team led by India’s Minister of Commerce and Industries comprising of more than 150 businessmen and four Chief Ministers (of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat, and Goa) had visited Russia in August 2019.
- They signed a number of Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) with Russian counterparts.
- Government schemes like Skill India and Make in India have the potential to attract more investment from Russia.
India-Russia Relations in the Present Regional Context:
- Russia-Pakistan relation is getting stronger.
- India was not invited to the 1st meeting of the Afghan peace process organized by Russia. India had to carry out a diplomatic protest against it.
- Russia is willing to have limited engagement with Taliban in the Afghan peace process. But India does not support the idea.
- India has articulated an Indo Pacific policy to take advantage of that region. But, Russia still prefers the term Asia Pacific over Indo Pacific.
- Positive Aspects and the Way Forward:
- Even though the Russia-Pakistan relation is growing stronger, Russia continues to be a supporter of India in matters like revoking the special status of Jammu & Kashmir.
- In the context of the US’ plan to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, the burden of establishing peace in the region falls on the regional powers, i.e., India and Russia.
- India and Russia need to leverage their friendship to solve the differences and talk about common interests in the Indo Pacific region.
What are the Impacts of the Changing Global Scenario on India-Russia Relations?
- At present, every nation has its own national, regional and global interests and trajectories.
- All nations are engaging with multiple partners through a multi-vector foreign policy.
- Earlier, Russia was suspended from the G8 after the Crimea crisis. After that, the group is being called G7.
- Recently, at the G7 summit, US President Trump openly invited Russia to rejoin the group.
- However, other members of the G7 are not agreeing to this demand of Trump.
- Isolation from western countries is making Russia move closer to China.
- Russia is a partner of the Belt and Road Initiative of China (BRI). But, India has remained outside the BRI scheme.
- In spite of the growing relations, Russia is anxious about China getting into domains exclusively held by Russia.
- China has growing economic and military presence in Central Asia, and the people of the Far East region of Russia have concerns regarding Chinese investment and military presence across the border.
- It is also one of the reasons Putin has invited investments from other countries.
- There is a perception, especially among Russia that India is moving closer to the USA and European countries.
- But India’s cooperation with the USA is not intended against Russia.
- It is a strategic move necessitated by the Chinese assertiveness in the Indian Ocean.
- China has been increasing its political, economic and military presence in the region.
- Further, the cooperation between India and the US has its own concerns due to the unpredictable nature of the US President.
What is the Need for Redefining India-Russia Strategic Relations?
- Due to the isolation by the western countries, Russia can’t expect a western ally to balance China.
- Hence they are looking for India’s cooperation for the same.
- Finance and human resources from India need to be relocated to Russia to balance the Chinese presence.
- At the same time, India finds the embrace between Russia and China a challenge to her interests. India wants to see them in a relatively dissociated position.
- But, India need not be unnecessarily worried because the reasons behind Russia and China partnership is not related to India. E.g. they share a very long land border.
- Further, their relationship has been going through a number of ups and downs.
- There are several areas where India, Russia and China have common concerns. E.g., cross border terrorism, Afghan crisis, etc.
- The three countries should build on these areas of convergence by forming trilateral working groups.
How can India and Russia take the Relations in Nuclear Energy and Defence Sectors to the Next Level?
- At around $9 billion, India-Russia bilateral trade is very less. It has declined from the earlier value of $10 billion. Such lower trade volume would not push the relations further.
- Sanctions against Russia by US and European countries after the Crimea crisis and the recent global economic slowdown has worsened the situation.
- Russian investment in ‘Make in India’ can be upgraded.
- Way Forward:
- India needs to get out of the traditional dimensions of cooperation (nuclear energy and defence) and move forward to new avenues like trade and oil & gas.
- Maritime connectivity could be increased by a sea lane connecting Chennai and Vladivostok. The lane can be extended to Europe via the Northern Sea route and the Arctic Ocean.
- India should accept the invitation of Russia regarding new opportunities in Far East Russia.
- Within the defence sector, the infrastructure available at Visakhapatnam and other ports can be used for manufacturing naval ships and other military equipment using Russian technology.
Cooperation in Far East Russia:
- The Far East region of Russia ranges from Siberia to the Pacific Ocean. It is more than 6 million km2 in area (almost twice as big as India).
- But the population is only around 8 million due to a severe cold climate.
- The region is rich in oil & gas, minerals, diamonds, etc.
- It has huge potential in farming, fishing, and tourism
- Russia has been trying to develop the region, particularly after the formation of EEF in 2015.
- The Far East region of Russia is close to ‘Indo Pacific’, where India and other countries have growing interests.
- India wants to increase her presence in Far East Russia.
- Earlier, Russian Deputy Prime Minister in charge of the development of the region had visited India.
Outcomes of the Indian PM’s Visit to Russia:
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India and Russia are against ‘outside influence’ in the internal matters of any nation.
- His remarks came against the backdrop of growing tension between India and Pakistan after India revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.
- Russia has backed India’s move on Jammu and Kashmir while Pakistan is trying to internationalize the issue.
- The Indian PM also unveiled the ‘Act Far East’ policy to boost India’s engagement with Far East Russia. India announced a $1 billion line of credit for the development of the region.
- The two leaders discussed ways to bolster cooperation in trade, investment, oil & gas, mining, nuclear energy, defence, air and maritime connectivity, transport infrastructure, technology, outer space, and people-to-people ties.
- The two sides signed 15 agreements in areas such as defence, air and maritime connectivity, natural gas, petroleum and trade.
- A proposal has been made to introduce a full-fledged maritime route between Chennai and Vladivostok.
- Russia has offered India a proposal for joint design and development of conventional submarines along with full access to technology and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).
- Russia expressed its support for India’s candidature for a permanent membership in the UNSC.
- They also agreed to focus on increasing the effectiveness of Shanghai Cooperation Organization- Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (SCO-RATS) in countering terrorism, extremism, drug trafficking, cross-border organized crime, and information security threats.
- PM Modi said that Russia will help train Indian astronauts for Gaganyaan, India’s manned space mission.
- Both sides expressed their concern over the possibility of an arms race in outer space and advocated peaceful uses of outer space. Also read: Militarisation Of Space.
- Russia expressed its strong support for India’s membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
- The two sides also expressed their support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process in Afghanistan.
- They reaffirmed their commitment to build an equal and indivisible security architecture in Asia and the Pacific region.
- Both India and Russia realize that their partnership remains steadfast, stable and time-tested. But the strategic relations have been perceived to have stuck in a time warp and lost the significance it used to have. India and Russia need to take forward the progress in their partnership imparted by the meetings held at Vladivostok.
Read previous RSTV articles here.