Vladimir Putin's India visit: From New Delhi and Moscow signing record 28 MoUs to 2+2 talks, what went down

New Delhi and Moscow also signed a programme of cooperation in the field of defence for the next 10 years from 2021 to 2031

FP Staff December 06, 2021 22:06:58 IST

India and Russia on Monday signed a record 28 MoUs across a wide range of sectors including trade, energy, culture, intellectual property accountancy and education.

During a special briefing after the annual summit meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the visiting Russian president Vladimir Putin, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan said there was an "excellent discussion" between the two leaders.

Shringla said President Putin's visit was short but "nonetheless highly productive and highly substantive".

Besides 28 MoUs, New Delhi and Moscow also signed a programme of cooperation in the field of defence for the next 10 years from 2021 to 2031.

"There were excellent discussions between the two leaders. This is President Putin's second visit out of Russia since COVID-19 pandemic began. The only visit he has undertaken was the brief visit to Geneva for the Russia-US summit," he said.

"The fact that the Russian president has decided to visit India for the annual summit exceptionally is an indication of the importance he attaches to the bilateral relationship and also his personal rapport," he added.

Noting that "record number 28 MoUs were concluded during the visit," Shringla said the "agreements were government-to-government and business-to-business, including those involving public sector units.

"The diversity of agreements and MoUs signed today shows the multifaceted nature of our bilateral partnership," he said.

This is just Putin's second overseas trip since the pandemic, seeking to bolster military and energy ties.

This, in the backdrop of its traditional ally New Delhi being courted by Washington which -- in its efforts to address a rising China -- has set up the QUAD security dialogue with India, Japan, and Australia, raising concerns in both Beijing and Moscow.

Putin met Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the 21st India- Russia Annual Summit at the Hyderabad House on Monday.

Here's what they said, the discussions held at the 2+2 dialogue and the agreements that were signed between India and Russia.

What PM Modi and Putin said at summit

"In the last few decades, several fundamentals have changed. New geopolitical angles have emerged. Amidst all such variables, Indo-Russian friendship has been constant. Both countries have assisted each other and also taken care of each other's sensitivities," Modi said.

"The first 2+2 dialogue between our defence and foreign ministers has taken place. It starts a new mechanism to improve our behavioral cooperation. We've been in constant touch on Afghanistan and other regional issues," he added.

"We're adopting a long-term vision to strengthen our partnership in economic affairs. By 2025, we've set a target of trade worth $30 billion and investment worth $50 billion," the prime minister said.

As per ANI, Putin said, "We perceive India as a great power, a friendly nation, and a time-tested friend. The relations between our nations are growing and I am looking to the future."

"Currently, mutual investments stand at about 38 billion with a bit more investment coming from the Russian side. We cooperate greatly in military & technical sphere like no other country. We develop high technologies together as well as produce in India," Putin added.

"Naturally, we're concerned about everything that has to do with terrorism. Fight against terrorism is also fight against drug trafficking and organized crime. With that regard, we are concerned about the developments of the situation in Afghanistan," Putin said.

Putin also said that "Last year the trade between India and Russia had decreased by 17 percent, but in the first 9 months of 2021, both countries witnessed an Meanwhile, Putin also said that both the countries continue to develop relations both in the international arena and in the military sphere.

"We are conducting joint military exercises both in India and in Russia. We are grateful to you for your understanding of this component of our work, we intend to continue working in this direction," Putin was quoted as saying by Sputnik.

Inaugural Indo-Russia 2+2 dialogue

India is faced with challenges arising out of "extraordinary militarisation" in its neighbourhood and "completely unprovoked aggression" on the northern border, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said at the inaugural Indo-Russia '2+2' dialogue even as the two nations inked a pact for joint production of over six lakh AK-203 rifles and extended military cooperation till 2031.

Besides Singh, the '2+2' foreign and defence talks were attended by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov and Russian Defence Minister Gen Sergey Shoigu. The ministers held comprehensive discussion on strategically important bilateral and regional issues.

Ahead of the '2+2' talks, Rajnath and Shoigu co-chaired a meeting of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military and Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-M&MTC) during which the two sides inked the agreement for joint production of over six lakh AK-203 assault rifles at a manufacturing facility in Uttar Pradesh's Amethi and extended the pact on military cooperation for 10 years (2021-31).

The rifles will be manufactured for the Indian armed forces at a cost of around Rs 5000 crore. The 10 year pact on military cooperation is a renewal of an existing framework.

The pandemic, the extra-ordinary militarisation and expansion of armament in our neighbourhood and the completely unprovoked aggression on our northern border since early summer of 2020 have thrown in several challenges," Singh said without naming China.

At the same time, he said India is confident of overcoming these challenges with the strong political will and inherent capability of its people. "Recognising that its development needs are colossal and that its defence challenges are legitimate, real and immediate, India seeks partners who are sensitive and responsive to India's expectations and requirements," the defence minister said.

Singh also hoped that Russia will remain a major partner for India in these "changing circumstances". "From Ministry of Defence we have urged for greater military-technical collaboration, advanced research, co-development and co-production of defence equipment leading to the self-reliance of India," Singh said.

"Separately, we proposed greater engagements in Central Asia and the Indian Ocean region. India is a continuation of the vast Eurasian landmass and at the same time central in the enormous Indian Ocean region," he said. "We are optimistic about Russia's cooperation in all the domains, " he added.

Referring to his bilateral meeting with Shoigu, Singh said he had discussed the "emerging challenges India is confronted with and the enhanced requirement of India for closer military and military-technical cooperation with Russia”. In his remarks, Jaishankar said ties between India and Russia have been "close and time-tested" in a world that has changed so much.

"They (the ties) have been exceptionally steady," he said. "We are meeting at a critical juncture in the global geopolitical environment which is in great flux, especially in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic," he said.

"As close friends and strategic partners, India and Russia have been working together to safeguard our common interests and to ensure peace, progress and prosperity for our peoples," Jaishankar said. The external affairs minister also said that the situation in Afghanistan has wider repercussions including for central Asia.

"The Covid-19 pandemic has raised questions about the current model of global affairs. But the long-standing challenges remain even as new ones emerge
Prominent among them are terrorism, violent extremism and radicalization. The situation in Afghanistan has wider repercussions, including for Central Asia," he said.

Shoigu said bilateral military-technical cooperation is especially important in India-Russia relations, and that he and Singh had finalised plans for future cooperation.

Russian foreign minister Lavrov said the 2+2 ministerial dialogue mechanism will further expand traditional understanding and help reinforce the bilateral special and privileged strategic partnership.

"Both Russia and India have a similar worldview of a more poly-centric, more multi-polar, more equitable world order. We advocate similar or identical positions on the most important political and military issues,” he said.

Tweeting on his discussions with the Russian ministers, Singh said India values its special and privileged strategic partnership with Russia. "India deeply appreciates Russia’s strong support for India. We hope that our cooperation will bring peace, prosperity and stability to the entire region. Glad that a number of Agreements/Contracts/Protocols were signed pertaining to small arms and military cooperation," he tweeted

India-Russia sign agreements for assault rifles

India and Russia on Monday signed the agreements for the procurement of 6,01,427 7.63 x 39mm assault rifles AK-203 through Indo-Russia Rifles Pvt Ltd, under the military-technical cooperation arrangement for 2021-31.

This deal was signed following the meeting between Rajnath Singh and Russian Defence Minister General Sergey Shoigu. Another agreement was signed on protocol on amending agreement on cooperation in the field of Kalashnikov series small arms manufacturing dated 18 February, 2019.

Underlining the importance of the time-tested relations between India and Russia, Rajnath Singh had said that defence cooperation is one of the most important pillars of the bilateral partnership and thanked Russia for its strong support.

"Defence cooperation is one of the most important pillars of our partnership. India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC) is a well-established mechanism for the past two decades. I hope the India-Russia partnership will bring peace to the entire region and provide stability to the region," said Singh in his opening remarks during a meeting with Sergey Shoigu.

Rajnath Singh also appreciated Russia's strong support for India. "Our close cooperation is not targeted against any country. We hope that our partnership will bring peace and prosperity to the entire region," he added.

Rajnath Singh met with Shoigu here in Delhi and held talks on the Inter-Governmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC), considered as a major issue in the context of bilateral relations.

'Special and privleged strategic partnership'

India was close to the Soviet Union during the Cold War, a relationship that has endured, with New Delhi calling it a "special and privileged strategic partnership".

"The friendship between India and Russia has stood the test of time," Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Putin at a virtual summit in September. "You have always been a great friend of India."

It is only the Russian leader's second trip abroad since the coronavirus pandemic began -- he skipped both the G20 and COP26 summits this year -- after a June summit with US President Joe Biden in Geneva.

"It's hugely symbolic," said Nandan Unnikrishnan from New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation think tank.

"It's indicative how they do not want the relationship to stagnate or slow down for want of something from the Russian side."

But Putin has to contend with complex regional dynamics, with tensions mounting between India and Russia's traditional ally China following deadly clashes in a disputed Himalayan region.

"Russia's influence in the region is very limited," said Tatiana Belousova of OP Jindal Global University in Haryana, "mostly because of its close ties with China and unwillingness to act in dissonance with the Chinese regional interests."

'Quite remarkable'

The Kremlin said last week the talks will be dominated by defence and energy issues, with the boss of Russian energy giant Rosneft, Igor Sechin, also travelling as a "number of important energy agreements" were on the table.

Russia has long been a key arms supplier to India, which is looking to modernise its armed forces, and one of their most high-profile current contracts is for the long-range S-400 ground-to-air missile defence system.

The deal, worth over $5 billion, was signed in 2018 and deliveries have reportedly begun, but it threatens to upend the burgeoning relationship between New Delhi and Washington.

The US has threatened sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which is aimed at reining in Russia, and the state department said last week that no decisions had been made on any waivers for India.

"It is quite remarkable that India still decided to go ahead with the S-400 deal, despite the US disapproval," said Belousova.

New Delhi has long sought to diversify its military imports but analysts believe it could take some time before it moves away from Russia.

Military equipment was "paramount" to India given "unabated" tensions with Pakistan, according to Unnikrishnan. "You're going to try and nurture whatever is required to ensure that."

India is also keen to increase domestic production and has launched a joint venture with Russia to manufacture AK-203 assault rifles.

India and Russia normally hold annual summits, but the leaders' last in-person meeting was on the sidelines of the 2019 BRICS Summit in Brazil.

"The leaders will review the state and prospects of bilateral relations and discuss ways to further strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries," India's ministry of external affairs said in a statement last month.

With inputs from agencies

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