Millennium Post

Sochi sojourn

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's informal summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Russian city Sochi on Monday ended on a constructive note. India recalled its long-standing friendship with Russia, which has evolved into a 'special privileged strategic partnership'. According to the MEA statement, the two leaders also "agreed on the importance of building a multipolar world order." Though India's relations with the US have been warming up in the recent decades with all US Presidents since Bill Clinton, except for the current US President Donald Trump, having undertaken a visit to India, the evolving US policies, especially through which it tries to protect its business interests, have not been consistent or amicable to Indian interests. In the last five years, India has procured 62 per cent of its military hardware from Russia. It is also in talks to procure S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems from Russia. But a US law 'Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) forbids other countries to engage in business with countries on which the US has imposed sanctions. Through CAATSA, it has imposed economic sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Now, if India keeps procuring its military hardware from Russia, it may attract the provisions of CAATSA and the US may warn India of bringing under a regime of economic sanctions. Same is true about Iran after President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. India was in talks with Russia and other partners to build International North-South Transport Corridor, which will pass through Iran and would provide connectivity to international markets in Central Asia and Eurasian countries. After withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, which had provided Iran with a relief from international economic sanctions, the US has threatened to renew the sanctions. Once the sanctions come into effect, it will be difficult for India to ramp up its investments in Iran with a view to tapping the Central Asian markets. India has promised that it will lobby with the US and seek concessions from CAATSA for doing business with Russia and Iran, it understands the importance of a multipolar world. More than ever, it understands it is in India's interest to keep a cordial relationship with China to counterbalance US offensive against rising economic powers. The US has recently imposed a heavy tariff on exports from China. It may also consider similar action against Indian exports to the US. Russian President Putin has said that Modi's visit will provide an impetus to the bilateral relations, which though look normal, growing at a satisfactory pace, have been lackadaisical. The bilateral trade between the two countries was pegged at $7.5 billion in 2016-17. There is a great scope for increasing the bilateral trade but because of the US sanctions against Russia, India can't increase its imports from the country. In view of the US economic sanctions, Russia has grown closer to China. This gives rise to the possibility that Russia-China-India can emerge as a trade and political bloc and counter US trade policies, which have become extremely protective under the Trump administration.
India's efforts to shore up its bilateral ties with China through the informal summit in Wuhan were necessitated by these realities in world politics. The Modi-Putin informal summit is also a step in the same direction. The informal talks allow these leaders an unhindered communication on these vexing issues. Among the latest developments, Russia's growing closeness with Pakistan must have figured in the talks. Apart from joint military drills, Russia has been in talks with Pakistan to supply military transport vehicles as the relations between the two countries are seeing an uptick. Russia is seen being guided by the Chinese policies, which try to build normal relations with India without jettisoning its friendly relations with Pakistan. Russia is also increasing its involvement and presence in Afghanistan, where India and China have agreed to undertake some economic projects jointly in the country. From the Indian perspective, India's relations with Russia are of vital significance even though India has considerably moved away from Russia in the aftermath of the Cold War. India's closeness with the US in recent decades has certainly made a dent on the relations between India and Russia. Through the informal summit, Modi and Putin have tried to find new common grounds on which the two countries can cooperate and work together. Besides, the cooperation between the two countries in the military and defence sectors has been growing steadily and the Russian leader mentioned it in his statement that the defence ministers of the two countries frequently exchange communications on different issues.
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