Stronger Russia-India Ties to Benefit Peoples of Two Countries – Modi

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Stronger ties between India and Russia will benefit the peoples of the two countries, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday.

“Landed in Moscow. Looking forward to further deepening the Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership between our nations, especially in futuristic areas of cooperation. Stronger ties between our nations will greatly benefit our people,” Modi said on X.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visiting Moscow on July 8-9 to co-chair the 22nd Russia-India Annual Summit with President Vladimir Putin. This is Modi’s first official visit after being sworn in for a third term as India’s prime minister after elections in June. The last time Putin welcomed Modi in Russia was in 2019, while in September 2022 the two leaders met at a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Uzbekistan. They have met 16 times since Modi assumed office. How have Russo-India relations evolved?

Despite the West calling upon India to join anti-Russia sanctions, trade turnover between the two leaped in 2023, reaching a record $65 billion and increasing 1.8 times compared to 2022. Russian exports reached $60.9 billion (+79.1 percent), supplies of Indian goods increased to $4.1 billion (+41.4 percent).

Russia is India’s fourth-largest trading partner after the US, China, and the UAE. Russia is India’s second-largest partner in terms of volume of imported products (after China).

India’s crude oil imports from Russia have risen to 1.97 million barrels per day (mbpd) in June and constitute roughly 40 percent of the country’s oil imports. It’s the biggest buyer of Russia’s seaborne crude despite the West’s shipping sanctions against Moscow.

India and Russia cooperate closely in a vast variety of international platforms, including the UN, G20, BRICS, and SCO. India’s presidency of the G20 and SCO in 2023 saw increased communications between the countries’ officials.

The two countries are continuing to enhance defense cooperation under the Agreement on the Program for Military Technical Cooperation for 2021-2031. Russia is India’s largest arms supplier.

Ahead of his July 8-9 visit to Russia, Modi hailed the “special and privileged strategic partnership between India and Russia,” in an official statement.

“Modi’s Russia visit showcases the importance of India-Russia ties for India, especially in energy and defense,” as per the Indian press.

Evolution of Russo-India Relations

The relationship between India and Russia has evolved significantly over the decades, marked by mutual cooperation in various sectors, from defense to energy. This evolution can be traced back to the Cold War era when the Soviet Union and India established a strategic partnership that laid the foundation for the robust ties seen today.

Historical Context and Foundation

The diplomatic relations between India and the Soviet Union were officially established in April 1947, a few months before India gained independence from British rule. The relationship was strengthened in 1955 when Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited the Soviet Union and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev visited India. These visits marked the beginning of a close friendship that was characterized by economic and military cooperation.

During the Cold War, India adopted a policy of non-alignment, yet it maintained a special relationship with the Soviet Union. This partnership was evident in the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship, and Cooperation signed in 1971, which provided for mutual strategic cooperation. The treaty was crucial during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, when the Soviet Union supported India diplomatically and militarily.

Post-Cold War Adjustments

The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 led to a period of adjustment in India-Russia relations. However, both countries quickly adapted to the new geopolitical landscape. In 1993, they signed a new Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, which reaffirmed their commitment to a strategic partnership.

The 1990s also saw the signing of several agreements aimed at enhancing economic and military cooperation. Notably, the BrahMos missile development program began during this period, symbolizing a new era of technological and defense collaboration.

21st Century: Strategic Partnership and Beyond

In the 21st century, India and Russia have continued to strengthen their ties through regular high-level visits and strategic dialogues. The annual summits between the leaders of the two countries have been instrumental in identifying new areas of cooperation and addressing mutual concerns.

Economic Cooperation

The economic relationship between India and Russia has grown steadily, with both countries exploring new avenues for trade and investment. The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is one such initiative aimed at improving connectivity and boosting trade between the two countries. The INSTC, which is a multimodal transportation network, connects India, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Russia, reducing transit time and cost for goods traded between these countries.

In recent years, energy cooperation has emerged as a key pillar of the economic relationship. Russia’s vast reserves of oil and natural gas have made it a crucial energy partner for India, which is one of the world’s largest energy consumers. The acquisition of stakes in Russian oil and gas fields by Indian companies, such as ONGC Videsh Limited, underscores the strategic importance of this sector.

Defense Cooperation

Defense cooperation has been a cornerstone of India-Russia relations for decades. Russia has been a major supplier of military equipment to India, including aircraft, tanks, and submarines. The two countries have also collaborated on joint defense projects, such as the development of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile and the licensed production of Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jets in India.

The Agreement on the Program for Military Technical Cooperation for 2021-2031 further strengthens this partnership by outlining a framework for future collaboration in defense technology and production. The agreement emphasizes joint research and development, as well as the production of advanced military systems.

Strategic and Geopolitical Alignment

India and Russia share common strategic interests, particularly in the context of regional security and stability. Both countries have been active participants in multilateral organizations such as the United Nations, the G20, BRICS, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). These platforms provide opportunities for dialogue and cooperation on global and regional issues, including counterterrorism, cybersecurity, and economic development.

Energy Cooperation: A Strategic Priority

Energy cooperation between India and Russia has gained significant momentum, with both countries recognizing the strategic importance of diversifying their energy sources and ensuring energy security. Russia’s vast reserves of oil and natural gas make it a key partner for India, which is heavily dependent on energy imports to fuel its growing economy.

Crude Oil and Natural Gas Imports

India’s crude oil imports from Russia have surged in recent years, reaching 1.97 million barrels per day (mbpd) in June 2023, constituting roughly 40 percent of the country’s total oil imports. This increase in imports has made India the largest buyer of Russia’s seaborne crude, despite the West’s shipping sanctions against Moscow.

The collaboration extends beyond crude oil to include natural gas. Indian companies have invested in Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects, such as the Yamal LNG project in the Arctic. These investments are aimed at securing long-term LNG supplies for India’s growing energy needs.

Nuclear Energy Cooperation

Nuclear energy is another critical area of cooperation between India and Russia. The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) in Tamil Nadu, built with Russian assistance, is a testament to the strong partnership in this sector. The KNPP, which consists of multiple reactors, plays a crucial role in India’s efforts to diversify its energy mix and reduce its carbon footprint.

In addition to Kudankulam, both countries are exploring the possibility of setting up additional nuclear power plants in India. The Intergovernmental Agreement on Cooperation in the Construction of Additional Nuclear Power Plants in India, signed in 2017, outlines the framework for future collaboration in this area.

Renewable Energy Initiatives

While fossil fuels and nuclear energy dominate the energy cooperation agenda, there is also growing interest in renewable energy. Both India and Russia are investing in renewable energy projects, including solar and wind power, to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Defense Cooperation: A Pillar of Strategic Partnership

Defense cooperation has been a cornerstone of India-Russia relations, with both countries benefiting from a long-standing partnership in military technology and production. Russia has been a major supplier of military equipment to India, and the two countries have collaborated on several high-profile defense projects.

Historical Context of Defense Cooperation

The defense relationship between India and Russia dates back to the early years of India’s independence. The Soviet Union was a key supplier of military hardware to India, providing aircraft, tanks, submarines, and other equipment. This partnership was instrumental during the Cold War, with the Soviet Union supporting India during critical conflicts, such as the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.

Joint Defense Projects

In recent years, India and Russia have continued to collaborate on joint defense projects, focusing on advanced military technology and production. The BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, developed jointly by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyenia, is a prime example of successful collaboration. The BrahMos missile, known for its speed and precision, has become a key component of India’s defense arsenal.

Another significant project is the licensed production of Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jets in India. The Su-30MKI, a multirole air superiority fighter, is a mainstay of the Indian Air Force. The production of these aircraft in India, with the transfer of technology from Russia, has strengthened India’s indigenous defense manufacturing capabilities.

Future Prospects for Defense Cooperation

The Agreement on the Program for Military Technical Cooperation for 2021-2031 outlines a comprehensive framework for future collaboration in defense technology and production. The agreement emphasizes joint research and development, as well as the production of advanced

military systems tailored to the specific needs of both nations. This strategic approach ensures that the defense relationship remains robust and adaptive to the evolving security landscape.

Advanced Weapon Systems and Technology Transfer

One of the key aspects of the defense cooperation agreement is the emphasis on developing advanced weapon systems through technology transfer and joint ventures. This includes the co-development and production of next-generation fighter aircraft, armored vehicles, and missile systems. By leveraging Russia’s expertise in military technology and India’s manufacturing capabilities, both countries aim to enhance their defense preparedness and reduce dependency on external sources.

Joint Military Exercises and Training

Regular joint military exercises and training programs are integral components of the defense partnership between India and Russia. These exercises, such as the INDRA series, enhance interoperability between the armed forces of both countries and provide valuable opportunities for exchanging tactical knowledge and operational experience. Such engagements are crucial for maintaining a high level of readiness and coordination in addressing common security challenges.

Space and Cybersecurity Cooperation

In addition to traditional defense areas, India and Russia are increasingly focusing on emerging domains such as space and cybersecurity. Collaborative efforts in space technology, including satellite development and space exploration, have the potential to yield significant strategic advantages. The two countries are also working together to enhance their cybersecurity capabilities, addressing the growing threats posed by cyberattacks and digital warfare.

Economic Ties: Expanding Trade and Investment

Economic cooperation between India and Russia extends beyond energy and defense, encompassing a wide range of sectors including agriculture, pharmaceuticals, information technology, and infrastructure development. The robust trade relations and investment opportunities between the two countries are a testament to their commitment to fostering economic growth and development.

Agricultural Trade and Food Security

Agriculture is a vital sector in the economic partnership between India and Russia. Both countries are major agricultural producers and have complementary strengths in this field. India exports a variety of agricultural products to Russia, including rice, tea, spices, and fruits. In return, Russia supplies India with wheat, barley, and other grains. This trade in agricultural commodities plays a crucial role in ensuring food security and stability in both nations.

Pharmaceuticals and Healthcare Collaboration

The pharmaceutical industry is another area of significant cooperation. Indian pharmaceutical companies have a strong presence in the Russian market, supplying a wide range of generic medicines and healthcare products. This collaboration has been particularly important in addressing public health challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Joint efforts in research and development, as well as the production of vaccines and medical equipment, have further strengthened this partnership.

Information Technology and Digital Economy

The information technology sector offers immense potential for collaboration between India and Russia. Indian IT companies are exploring opportunities to expand their operations in Russia, leveraging their expertise in software development, digital services, and innovation. Collaborative projects in the digital economy, including e-governance, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence, are expected to drive economic growth and technological advancement in both countries.

Infrastructure Development and Connectivity

Infrastructure development is a key area of focus for India and Russia, with both countries investing in projects aimed at improving connectivity and boosting economic growth. The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is a prime example of such an initiative. This multimodal transportation network, which connects India, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Russia, is designed to facilitate the efficient movement of goods and reduce transit times. By enhancing connectivity, the INSTC is expected to significantly increase trade volumes and economic integration between the participating countries.

Cultural and Educational Exchanges

Cultural and educational exchanges play a vital role in strengthening the people-to-people ties between India and Russia. These exchanges foster mutual understanding, promote cultural diversity, and create opportunities for collaboration in various fields, including education, science, and the arts.

Academic Collaboration and Student Exchange Programs

Academic collaboration between Indian and Russian universities has been growing steadily, with both countries recognizing the importance of education in fostering long-term relationships. Student exchange programs, joint research initiatives, and academic partnerships provide valuable opportunities for students and researchers to gain international experience and contribute to the advancement of knowledge.

Cultural Festivals and Artistic Collaborations

Cultural festivals and artistic collaborations are integral to the bilateral relationship, showcasing the rich cultural heritage of both nations. Events such as the Festival of India in Russia and the Days of Russian Culture in India highlight the diverse traditions, music, dance, and art of the two countries. These cultural exchanges not only strengthen diplomatic ties but also promote tourism and economic cooperation.

Challenges and Future Directions

While the India-Russia relationship is marked by strong cooperation and mutual interests, it is not without challenges. Both countries must navigate the complexities of the international geopolitical landscape, address economic disparities, and manage domestic political dynamics to maintain and enhance their strategic partnership.

Geopolitical Dynamics and Strategic Balancing

The evolving geopolitical landscape presents both opportunities and challenges for India and Russia. Both countries must balance their relationships with other major powers, including the United States and China, while maintaining their strategic autonomy. Navigating these dynamics requires careful diplomacy, strategic foresight, and a commitment to mutual interests.

Economic Diversification and Innovation

Economic diversification and innovation are critical for sustaining long-term growth and development in both countries. India and Russia must continue to explore new areas of economic cooperation, invest in research and development, and foster innovation to remain competitive in the global economy. This includes leveraging emerging technologies, promoting entrepreneurship, and enhancing the ease of doing business.

Addressing Domestic Political and Economic Issues

Domestic political and economic issues can also impact the bilateral relationship. Both countries must address internal challenges, such as economic inequality, political stability, and social development, to ensure that their partnership remains resilient and beneficial for their respective populations.

In cocnlusion, the India-Russia relationship is a multifaceted and dynamic partnership that has evolved significantly over the decades. Rooted in historical ties and mutual respect, the bilateral relationship encompasses a wide range of sectors, including defense, energy, economy, culture, and education. The strategic partnership between India and Russia is poised to grow stronger, driven by shared interests, common values, and a commitment to mutual prosperity.

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Moscow demonstrates, the future of India-Russia relations holds immense potential for collaboration and growth. By continuing to deepen their cooperation in key areas, both countries can address common challenges, seize new opportunities, and contribute to regional and global stability. The strong ties between India and Russia not only benefit the peoples of both nations but also play a crucial role in shaping a more interconnected and prosperous world.


APPENDIX 1 – Detailed Analysis of India-Russia Economic Exchange in 2024

The economic relationship between India and Russia has continued to strengthen in 2024, expanding across various sectors including trade, defense, energy, and technology. The bilateral trade between the two nations has surpassed USD 50 billion, demonstrating significant growth and diversification.

Trade Statistics

Bilateral Trade:

  • In the fiscal year 2022-23, the total bilateral trade amounted to USD 49.36 billion.
  • For the period April-May 2023-24, trade witnessed a 161.22% increment compared to the same period the previous year.

Exports from India to Russia:

  • Major exports include pharmaceutical products (USD 416 million), iron and steel (USD 159 million), and marine products (USD 148 million).
  • From April-November 2023-24, exports included iron and steel (USD 229.04 million), pharmaceutical products (USD 245.7 million), and organic chemicals (USD 226.73 million).

Imports from Russia to India:

  • Major imports are petroleum and crude (USD 31.02 billion), coal (USD 4.82 billion), and fertilizers (USD 3.04 billion).
  • From April-November 2023-24, imports included mineral fuels and oils (USD 36 billion), animal or vegetable fats and oils (USD 863 million), and fertilizers (USD 1.4 billion).

Key Sectors of Collaboration

Energy:

  • Russia remains a crucial partner for India in energy, particularly in hydrocarbons and nuclear energy.
  • Significant agreements have been signed to advance projects such as the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant.

Defense:

  • The defense sector is a cornerstone of India-Russia relations, with Russia supplying around 47% of India’s total arms imports.
  • Key defense equipment includes the T-72 and T-90S tanks, MiG and Sukhoi aircraft, and the jointly developed BrahMos missile system.

Technology and Space:

  • Collaborations in space technology continue, with both countries working on various satellite and space exploration projects.
  • Technological cooperation also extends to IT and cybersecurity domains.

Financial and Banking:

  • There has been a substantial shift towards using the Chinese yuan for trade settlements, reducing dependence on the US dollar.
  • Russian and Chinese banks have implemented local financial systems to facilitate transactions, bypassing Western sanctions.

Strategic and Geopolitical Implications

Geopolitical Balance:

  • The relationship helps India counterbalance Chinese influence in the region while maintaining strategic autonomy.
  • Russia supports India’s bid for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council and membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Challenges:

  • The deepening Russia-China partnership poses a challenge for India, particularly in terms of military and economic dynamics.
  • Western sanctions on Russia complicate trade and financial transactions, although alternative mechanisms have been established to mitigate these effects.

Detailed Scheme Table

SectorKey DataDetails
TradeBilateral Trade: USD 50 billion+ (2023-24)Significant growth in trade, with major exports including pharmaceuticals, iron and steel, and major imports including petroleum, coal, and fertilizers.
EnergyKey Projects: Kudankulam Nuclear Power PlantOngoing collaboration in nuclear energy, hydrocarbons, and LNG. Agreements on nuclear fuel supply and project advancements.
DefenseRussian Arms: 47% of India’s importsKey equipment includes tanks (T-72, T-90S), aircraft (MiG, Sukhoi), and missiles (BrahMos). Defense collaboration remains strong despite geopolitical challenges.
TechnologyIT, Cybersecurity, SpaceJoint projects in satellite technology, space exploration, and cybersecurity. Both countries are enhancing cooperation in advanced technologies and innovation sectors.
FinancialShift to Yuan: Significant increase in yuan-denominated trade settlementsUse of local financial systems to bypass Western sanctions. Increased bilateral use of yuan for trade and financial transactions. Russian banks adapting to new financial systems to facilitate trade with China and other partners.
GeopoliticalStrategic Partnership: Multilateral support and geopolitical balancingRussia supports India’s global strategic interests, including UNSC membership and balancing Chinese aggression. Strategic dialogues continue to address mutual geopolitical concerns.

Recent Developments

  • In December 2023, significant progress was made in India-Russia nuclear cooperation, including agreements related to the Kudankulam project.
  • High-level meetings between Indian and Russian officials underscore the ongoing strategic dialogue and cooperation in various sectors.

By analyzing the data and trends, it is evident that India-Russia economic exchanges are robust and multifaceted, encompassing critical sectors that contribute to the strategic partnership between the two nations.


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