Saturday 22nd of June 2024

Indo-Russia Relation in the Challenging Global Contours
Siddharth Singh
Region : AsiaIndia, India,
Issue : Security, Terrorism,
There are paradigm shifts in the nature of relations among countries throughout the World but the bilateral relation between India and Russia have always been very close, trusted and friendly in nature. Indo-Russian relations have evolved into a Strategic partnership. The Strategic partnership between Russia and India is a natural phenomenon. The two countries’ national interests either coincide or atleast do not contradict each other. Geopolitical considerations dictate the need to strengthen mutual relations much more in today’s time. Similarities between the two countries’ objectives in the foreign policy domain cannot be ignored. This implies a qualitative higher level of relationship reflecting mutual trust and confidence. The regional scenario has been in a state of constant flux. For Indo-Russian relations, the regional context presents not only new challenges to their relationship, but new opportunities as well. Indian vulnerabilities vis-à-vis the non-traditional threats has always received full support and understanding from Russia.

Russia's vast hydrocarbon reserves are of great interest to India and the two countries are cooperating on exploring the Russian offshore Arctic. More immediately, the International North-South Trade Corridor (INSTC) and the construction of gas pipelines from Russia and Central Asia to Chabahar and beyond hold the key to an energy bonanza not just for the two countries but other states en route as well. Russia's historic ties and influence in Central Asia can be a mutually beneficial asset. India-Russia cooperation in the developmental activities of Central Asia can be accelerated if they can provide the landlocked countries access to the outside world. In this regard, the North-South Corridor connecting St. Petersburg with Mumbai is the best option. Unblocking transport routes linking Russia and India could become a powerful incentive for the growth of Russia-India trade andeconomic ties. This implies primarily “unfreezing” the North-South international transport corridor. From the Russian side, it is much easier and cheaper to provide Eurasian region with goods from India than from Europe. Although the North-South Corridor is operational, it is not functioning up to the desired capacity. Difficulties need to be resolved. The question is how to ensure the smooth functioning of corridor when the North-South Corridor is operating below capacity. One option could be to have sub-regional cooperation among Russia, Kazakhstan, Iran, and India. If sub-regional cooperation takes off, many of the problems related to the transport corridor could be sorted out. The physical infrastructure and development that would occur in the process could act as a tool for development and strengthen cooperation.

While regional input has played an important role in Indo-Russian relations, the bilateral context is equally substantial. At the political level, both India and Russia have steadfastly supported each other on issues of crucial importance. Russia’s position on the Kashmir issue is very close to India’s position. At any international forum, India and Russia have vigorously championed the need to combat the menace of terrorism with a greater sense of urgency. The two countries have often reiterated their deep commitment to fighting religious extremism and terrorism. Several institutional linkages have been established to facilitate exchange and sharing of information and advancing the common interests in the best possible way. The congruence of views between India and Russia had a favorable impact on defense cooperation.

The salutary features of Indo-Russian defense cooperation were its long-term-basis transfer of technology, modernization of existing equipment, and access to the latestequipment, weaponry, etc. in the Russian arsenal. In fact, defense cooperation had gone beyond the main “buyer-seller” syndrome and had moved to the plane of joint design, research, and production. Russia is the dominant supplier of arms to India, with the historic military and defense ties between the two countries continuing to serve as one ofthe cornerstones of the India-Russia relationship. At the same time, strains are also becoming apparent because India is moving on the path of military indigenization and import diversification while Russia continues to struggle with a long-deferred military and defense complex modernization program. While frustrations in the defense sector may not be articulated loudly. Despite these challenges there is a clear opportunity for closer cooperation on joint military modernization. The success of the defense relationship depends critically on India’s ability to continue to transition ties from the traditional importer model into a more symbiotic relationship. A revamped defense relationship will also require greater coordination and cooperation between the two ministries of defense, more than the demonstrations of good will that have so far taken place.

India and Russia share the view that today’s problems cannot be effectively
resolved without broader involvement of developing nations in global trade, finance and investment. Developing countries can and must become the real drivers of global economic growth. Russia has always reaffirmed its position regarding support for India gaining the status of UN Security Council permanent member and call for comprehensive assistance to Delhi in its desire to become an APEC member.

The prospects of building further links between Russian research (and its resources) and India’s engineering skills which can be witnessed already in the military realm is extremely promising. Bringing together India’s software production capacity with Russian hardware and software exports also has potential to deliver positive results.
The domain of space has been a fruitful one for Indo-Russian cooperation.
The Soviet Union was the traditional source of high technology for India’s space program. Building on this historic cooperation, the Russian Federal Space Agency (RFSA, or Roskosmos) and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) cooperated on Chandrayaan-1. In future also this cooperation will yield such results which will further strengthen the bond of friendship between two countries.

Cultural and educational ties between India and Russia are the most woefully neglected aspect of their relationship, suffering on both sides from lack offunding and, no less important, a shortage of political will. Major efforts have to be undertaken by the two governments to revive their once vibrant academic and cultural exchanges.

The single greatest transformation in India-Russia relations is an expansion of Indian trade from defence, and perhaps energy, to other sectors of the economy. Trade between the two countries stands at less than $10 billion today. So far, this has been because the Russian market was notoriously difficult to access for Indian firms but now, with Western sanctions against Russia and Russian sanctions against Turkey, there is an opening for aggressive Indian corporations to move into the space vacated by Western and Turkish firms in pharmaceuticals, agriculture, food products, fertilisers, textiles, furniture, and other areas.

The clutch of deals announced during Modi's visit underscore that relations continue to be good notwithstanding Moscow's recent supply of attack helicopters to Islamabad. But there are other elements to this relationship intriguing from any point of view.

Both India and Russia have now realised that in their quest for global power status, it is imperative that they restore the climate of intimate friendship. Russia needs India as a market for its goods to bypass Western sanctions imposed after its power push in Ukraine. The forthcoming Transatlantic Trade and Investment partnership driven by the US will also force Russia to eye markets beyond Europe. India is a natural partner. Despite its renewed friendship with China, Russia will soon find itself in competition with it as Beijing regards itself as the new G2 along with the US. India can help provide the multi-polarity that Russia fiercely seeks. India needs Russia because it can meet its abundant energy requirements at a cost-effective price. Major opportunities are opening up for Russian companies in India to invest in Modi's 'Make in India' initiative in sectors such as defence equipment, civil aviation and in railways. India on its part has to learn to absorb Russian technology and reduce bureaucratic hurdles.

Prospects for the development of Russia-India relations on a global scale largely depend on the nature of interaction displayed by India with regard to the key players on the international scene. India has demonstrated a genuine interest in establishing an inclusive world order and this Indian vision does not run counter to Russia’s interests.

Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of FORE INDIA.

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