From revamping defence ties to geopolitical issues: What Putin's visit means for India-Russia ties

There have been six telephonic conversations between the two leaders since November 2019, to date apart from virtual meetings for multilateral summits.

FP Staff December 03, 2021 11:07:20 IST
From revamping defence ties to geopolitical issues: What Putin's visit means for India-Russia ties

File image of Narendra Modi and Vladimir Putin. Getty images

India and Russia will have an extensive engagement on defence and geopolitical issues during President Vladimir Putin’s visit to New Delhi for the annual summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 6 December. The Modi-Putin summit is expected to produce specific outcomes in further expanding ties in areas of defence, trade and energy, officials said.

MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the 21st India-Russia summit in Delhi will offer an opportunity to the two leaders to exchange views on regional, multilateral and international issues of mutual interests.

It will be the first in-person meeting between the two leaders after their talks on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Brasilia in November 2019. There have been six telephonic conversations between the two leaders since November 2019, to date apart from virtual meetings for multilateral summits.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting 19 times since 2014 displays the steadfastness of the relationship. Russia displayed its proximity to India, when Putin participated in the Modi-chaired conference on maritime security of the UN Security Council, under India’s presidency. The upcoming summit would be their 20th meeting.

What are the key issues of the Modi-Putin Summit?

India-Russia defence ties

In a major boost to India and Russia military ties, the two countries are scheduled to ink the deal on supplying 7.5 lakh AK-203 assault rifles on Monday during Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Delhi, news agency ANI reported citing unnamed government sources.

The meeting between Putin and Modi is also likely to see the presentation of the S-400 air defence system to India which has already started arriving in India in parts, sources said.

Work is also in progress between both sides on the Igla shoulder-fired air defence system which has been in the making for last many years now.

The Russian designed AK-203 will be made in a factory in Amethi, Uttar Pradesh.  The deal had been agreed upon between the two sides a few years ago and now the last major issue would be resolving the issues on the transfer of technology, they said.

Of the 7.5 lakh rifles to be acquired by the Indian Army, the first 70,000 will include Russian made components as the transfer of technology slowly happens.

A framework for military-technical cooperation is set to be renewed for the next decade at the summit besides announcing a joint commission on technology and science. According to a report from the Congressional Research Service — Russia provides nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of all Indian arms imports.

India and Russia have also reached the final phase of negotiation for a logistics support agreement and it is likely to be signed either during the two-plus-two talks or at the summit. On the sidelines of the summit, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will hold a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoygu India-Russia under the framework of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation.

The pact will allow militaries of the two countries to use each other’s bases for repair and replenishment of supplies, besides facilitating scaling up of overall defence cooperation.

As this Firstpost report notes, historically, it was Soviet support that enabled India to free Bangladesh from the clutches of Pakistan in 1971 and kept the US and China at bay. Since then, Indo-Russian ties have remained steady. Russia has supported India in global forums, even when the Western world was pro-Pakistan. Similarly, India has never joined the world in criticism of Russia.

Though it is an established fact that India is now firmly in the US camp, yet its relations with Russia, a US adversary, remain steady. India and Russia are together in multiple forums including BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), RIC (Russia, India and China) and SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation).

Geopolitical issues

MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the 21st India-Russia summit in Delhi will offer an opportunity to the two leaders to exchange views on regional, multilateral and international issues of mutual interests.

It is expected that the two leaders will deliberate on the situation in Afghanistan as well as deal with the COVID-19 pandemic among other issues.

Russia has been a time-tested partner for India and the country has been a key pillar of New Delhi’s foreign policy. According to ORF, Moscow had shed its ‘neutrality” between India and China to support New Delhi at the UN in the aftermath of the decision to abrogate Article 370 as well as expedite weapons to India during the border tensions with China in the Himalayas in 2020.

Whether it was Kashmir, where Moscow used its veto to stop anti-India resolutions at the UNSC, or the liberation of Bangladesh, when the US-backed Islamabad and sent its Seventh Fleet to the Bay of Bengal in support of Pakistan, it was Russia that backed the Indian army, as per this Outlook report.

At their annual summit on 6 December, the two leaders will review the state and prospects of bilateral relations and discuss ways to further strengthen the bilateral strategic partnership. The summit will be an opportunity to exchange views on regional, multilateral and international issues and several agreements are expected to be signed during and in the run-up to the summit.

It is also believed that Russia brought India into the SCO as a counterbalance to China, while China invited Pakistan for counterbalancing India. India also inducted Russia as a dialogue partner in the Indian Ocean Rim Association on 17 November. The group has 23 members and 10 dialogue partners. This gives Russia a major role in the Indian Ocean.

The upcoming visit, though short is expected only to draw the nations closer as they revamp India-Russia defence ties and focus on geopolitical issues including Afghanistan.

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