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One love, many, many partners

The meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin in the national capital for the 15th Annual India-Russia Summit did not point towards any significant change in foreign relations between both countries. Circumstance, however, are slightly different from previous summits during the erstwhile UPA-led government, considering Russia’s growing isolation from Europe and United States. In light of Russia’s increasing ostracisation, New Delhi has found itself in a position of newfound importance in Moscow’s foreign policy initiative. Depreciating oil prices and a weak Ruble have deepened the impact of Western sanctions on the Russian economy.

India has played its part by vehemently rejecting the EU, US-led economic sanctions. In return, Russia has expressed its support for Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Make in India’ programme that seeks to revive India’s stagnating manufacturing sector. Both countries will also explore opportunities for sourcing materials, equipment and services from Indian industries for the construction of Russian-designed nuclear power plants in third countries.  The summit also resulted in renewed cooperation on defence deals, energy sharing and an enhanced strategy to strengthen the diamond trade between both countries.

However, herein lies the catch. Despite all the rhetoric surrounding Modi’s relatively sudden love for the beleaguered Putin, New Delhi continues to diversify its foreign policy and geo-strategic options on various levels, a continuation of the strategy followed by the Manmohan Singh-led government. The NDA government had chosen to import French Rafale aircrafts and American Apache helicopters over offers from Moscow, although Russia decided to fully manufacture one of its state-of-the-art helicopters in India. However, in a policy carry-over from the erstwhile UPA-led government, 75 per cent of India’s arms imports continues to come from Russia. Since 1989, Russia has provided India with $31.5 billion worth of arms, as compared to $1.6 billion from the United States, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Despite Russia’s pledge to build at least 12 different nuclear reactors in India, New Delhi had already a signed a major nuclear deal with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot. As per the deal, it will allow Australia to sell it’s uranium to India. Though India has consistently refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, New Delhi has been given a free pass to take part in international nuclear trade by virtue of its strong strategic relationship with the United States. Of course, it’s another matter that United State President Barack Obama has been invited as a chief guest for India’s Republic Day celebrations. Following Obama’s arrival, both sides will have the opportunity to clinch a broad set of defence, counter-terrorism and economic agreements.
MPost

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