Redesigninga Indo-Russia ties
India must be more receptive to Russia as together they could be pivotal in ensuring global peace and stability, argues
Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin desperately needed the informal summit. If India needed a positive move towards strengthening bilateral relations, Russia desired a clear assurance about firming up cooperation, including defence, as well as global issues of common concern.
Though both leaders agreed that they hold the responsibility for maintaining global peace and stability, Modi was quite ecstatic of the outcome. He described his discussion with Putin as extremely productive. The change in the tone and tenor of his observation was important. His invoking former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee at least seven times in his opening remarks made it clear he expected more from Russia.
Modi saying that the strategic partnership between India and Russia has been elevated into a "special privileged strategic partnership" has wider implications. Interestingly, the two leaders are yet to deliberate on extending the Indo-Russia civil nuclear cooperation to third countries.
Russia had nursed the feeling that India will speak out its mind on the US sanction against Moscow. The US had imposed the sanctions earlier this year under CAATSA for Russia's military intervention in Ukraine and for alleged meddling in the 2016 US Presidential elections.
It is perceived in diplomatic circles that Modi's current Russia visit is different from the previous ones. Putin's invitation to Modi came within two weeks of his re-election as President. While the special and privileged strategic partnership between India and Russia is an important factor for global peace and stability, India will have to stop suspecting Russian intentions and moves. It is good that they recognised each other's respective roles as major powers with common responsibilities for maintaining global peace and stability. The proceedings of the summit, however, makes one doubt if India intends to use the outcome as a leverage tool to extract more from the US.
It is not yet clear as to what extent both the countries use the friendship and trust between them to create convergence on key global and regional issues. India must take the outcome in proper stride. Instead of looking on uncomfortably as Russia develops closer links with China and Pakistan, it must assess its attitude from a more holistic perspective.
The news from across the border that while Russia has promised to improve defence ties with Pakistan, the Putin government is keen to improve its South Asia relations and take its traditional strategic partnership with India to a new height, must be reassuring to Delhi. This is in sharp contrast to the perception that Russia has been against India's interest by providing patronage and protection to Pakistan.
Modi must refrain from looking at the Indo-Russian relationship from the skewed prism of Sangh ideology and perspective. Delhi must realise that an Islamic state like Pakistan is not in the interest of Russia. The Indian bureaucracy and policymakers are so heavily inclined towards the West that they turn and twist the facts to decry Russia. They are using the Russian arms sale to Pakistan as a part of this strategy.
Though India's US friends caution Delhi by inflating its fears over Russian arms supply to Islamabad, they prefer to maintain a stoic silence on United States giving Pakistan more than 45 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years. At a time of considerable tension in ties between Russia and the West, there is a stronger incentive for Russia to develop the non-Western vectors of its foreign relations.
Strong economic, diplomatic, and military support from China to Pakistan is an irritant for both India and Russia. A standoff in the border region between the two countries would adversely affect Russia. India and Russia have been trying to increase bilateral trade for the last two decades in order to develop a more positive relationship. India is the biggest market of foreign arms in the world; Russia has traditionally been among its largest suppliers. But, in the recent months, India has increasingly started depending on the United States and Israel for weapons. A string of military contracts has gone to the two Western suppliers, disappointing Moscow.
India, in the changed global perspective, must effectively respond to structural and geopolitical shifts and learn the skills to adjust to changing power dynamics. In the recent times, the geopolitical realities in the region have been changing. India ought to realise that its relationship with Russia has been a stabilising factor in a fast-changing regional and global order. India must continue to play this proactive role. IPA
(The views expressed are strictly personal)