Russia-India: India-Russia Strategic Partnership and Implications

by Hiten Ghosh
Russia- India: India-Russia Strategic Partnership and Implications

The relations between India and Russia are very old. Since the signing of the “India-Russia Strategic Partnership Declaration” in October 2000, India-Russia relations have seen increased cooperation in almost all areas of bilateral relations, including political, security, defence, trade and economy, science and technology, and culture. A qualitative redesign has been seen with the increased levels.

During the Cold War, India and the Soviet Union had a strong strategic, military, economic and diplomatic relationship. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia inherited its close ties with India, resulting in the two countries sharing a special strategic relationship. However, relations have taken a severe turn in the last few years, especially in the post-Covid scenario. The biggest reason for this is Russia’s close ties with China and Pakistan, which have caused many geopolitical issues in India over the years.

India-Russia Political Affiliation

  • The annual summit between the Prime Minister of India and the President of the Russian Federation is the highest institutional dialogue mechanism in the strategic partnership between India and Russia.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin held their first informal summit in the year 2018 in the city of Sochi, Russian Federation.
  • In the year 2019, President Putin conferred Russia’s highest honor – “Order of St. Andrew the Apostle” on PM Narendra Modi. The same was awarded to the Prime Minister for his distinguished contribution to the development of a privileged, strategic partnership between Russia and India and to the development of friendly relations between the Russian and Indian peoples.
  • Two intergovernmental commissions meet annually – the first trade, economic, scientific, technical and cultural cooperation (IRIGC-TEC), and the second on military-technical cooperation (IRIGC-MTC).

India-Russia Trade relations

  • Both countries are striving to increase bilateral investment to US$ 50 billion and bilateral trade to US$ 30 billion by the year 2025.
  • Bilateral trade stood at US$ 8.1 billion during FY2020.
  • From 2013 to 2016 there was a major decline in the trade percentage between the two countries. However, it increased from 2017 and continued to see growth in 2018 and 2019 as well.

India-Russia Defense and Security Relations

India-Russia military-technical cooperation has evolved from a buyer-seller framework for joint research, development and production of advanced defence technologies and systems.

  • Both countries regularly conduct the tri-services exercise ‘INDRA’.
  • Joint military programs between India and Russia include:
  • Brahmos cruise missile program
  • 5th generation fighter jet program
  • Sukhoi Su-30MKI Program
  • Ilyushin/HAL Strategic Transport Aircraft
  • KA-226T twin-engine utility helicopter
  • some warships
  • Military hardware purchased/leased by India from Russia includes:
  • S-400 Triumph
  • 200 Kamov Ka-226 to be made in India under Make in India initiative
  • T-90S Bhishma

INS Vikramaditya Aircraft Carrier Program

  • Russia also plays a very important role in assisting the Indian Navy in its submarine programs
  • The first submarine of the Indian Navy, the ‘Foxtrot Class’ was acquired from Russia.
  • India is dependent on Russia for its nuclear submarine program.
  • INS Vikramaditya, the only aircraft carrier operated by India, is also of Russian origin.
  • Of the fourteen conventional submarines operated by India, nine are Indian.
  • Other important areas of relations between India and Russia

Nuclear Bonding

  • Russia is an important partner of India in the field of peaceful uses of nuclear energy. It recognizes India as a country with advanced nuclear technology with an unblemished non-proliferation record.
  • The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) is being built in India.
  • Both India and Russia are setting up the Rooppur Nuclear Power Project in Bangladesh.

Space Probes

  • The two sides cooperate in the peaceful uses of outer space, including satellite launches, the GLONASS navigation system, remote sensing, and other societal applications of outer space.
  • An MoU on joint activities in the field of the Human Space Flight Program was signed by ISRO and Roscosmos during the 19th Bilateral Summit.

Science and Technology

  • The Working Group on Science and Technology, the Integrated Long-Term Program (ILTP) and the Basic Science Cooperation Program operating under the IRIGC-TEC are the three main institutional mechanisms for bilateral S&T cooperation, while the science academies of both countries promote inter-academic exchanges. To promote it.
  • Several new initiatives in this area include the India-Russia Bridge to Innovation, cooperation in telemedicine, the creation of the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) and the Russia India Network of Universities (RIN).

Cultural Relations

  • Hindi is taught regularly to about 1500 Russian students in about 20 Russian institutions, including leading universities and schools.
  • Besides Hindi, languages such as Tamil, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, Urdu, Sanskrit and Pali are taught in Russian institutions.
  • Indian dance, music, yoga and Ayurveda are some of the other interests that Russians are interested in.

Importance of Russia to India

  • Balancing China: The Chinese presence in border areas of Eastern Ladakh While the visit marked a turning point in India-China relations, it also demonstrated that Russia could contribute to reducing tensions with China.
  • Russia organized a trilateral meeting between the foreign ministers of Russia, India and China following deadly clashes in the Galway Valley in the disputed region of Ladakh.
  • Emerging new areas of economic engagement: In addition to traditional areas of cooperation such as weapons, hydrocarbons, nuclear energy, and diamonds, new areas of economic engagement are likely to emerge – mining, agro-industrial and high technology, including robotics, nanotech, and biotech.
  • India’s footprint is set to expand in the Russian Far East and the Arctic. Connectivity projects can also get a boost.
  • Counter Terrorism: India and Russia are working to bridge the gap between Afghanistan and both countries have called for early finalization of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.
  • Support in multilateral fora: In addition, Russia supports India’s candidature for permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
  • Military Exports of Russia: Russia has been one of the largest arms exporters to India. Even Russia’s share in India’s arms imports fell by more than 50% in the last five-year period as compared to the previous five years (2011-2015).
  • According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which tracks the global arms trade, India has imported arms worth US$35 billion from Russia in the last 20 years.

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