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India-Russia Relations: A Time-Tested Partnership

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India-Russia Relations

Even before India attained its independence from Britain, the foundation of diplomatic relations with Russia was laid on April 13, 1947, which today spans across the whole gamut of economy, energy, industry, science and technology, cultural and humanitarian cooperation. Underpinning this special relationship are the solid pillars of peace, friendship, mutual trust and respect which have withstood the test of times.
By Vivek Ratnakar, eGov Bureau

India shares a special and multifaceted relationship with Russia which has evolved over the past seven decades to include political and strategic cooperation, military and security cooperation, and close cooperation in the spheres of economy, energy, industry, science and technology and culture, among others. Today, both the countries acknowledge that their relationship is “mature and confident, marked by deep trust, mutual respect and close understanding of each other’s position”.

“India Russia relations have been the one constant in a world that has changed dramatically since 1947. They have withstood the test of time, and grown from strength to strength. The resilience of our relationship is based on the fact that it rests on the principles of equality, trust and mutual benefits,” wrote Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an article to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Russia. Conveying his greetings to the people of Russia and India, he underscored one of the most outstanding features of this relationship by pointing out that both the countries “adapted our partnership to the different stages of our national development and to the changing realities of the international context.

We have been together in times good and bad”. This relationship has been nurtured by successive leadership of both the countries, who successfully drew strength from their shared wisdom based on the fact that both India and Russia are multicultural, multilingual and multi-religious societies, which should be leveraged to create a more diverse and interconnected world. To lessen the global tensions, India and Russia envision a world where interstate relations are marked by the “ideals of tolerance, cooperation, transparency and openness”.

This shared global vision of both the countries is clearly reflected in the joint statement issued during the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to India on October 5, 2018. “The primary challenge in large parts of the world remains ensuring rapid and environmentally sustainable economic development, removal of poverty, reducing inequality among and within states, and providing basic health care. India and Russia pledge to cooperate with each other to achieve these goals,” says the statement.

Historical Perspective

Relations between India and Russia are rooted in history. The kinship and similarity of languages and cultures of ancient India and Russia have been unwaveringly established by scholars like Gleb Ivashentsov and Nikolai Koltsov and academic research of GM Bongard-Levin, GF llyin and PM Kemp. Similarly, the common root of lndo-Russian culture was embodied in the paintings of Nikolai Roerich. In the medieval book, Tughlak-Nama, it is found that the Russians formed an army of Ghazi Malik and were part of the Indian dynasty of Tughlakids (1320-1413).

Russian traders of the 15th century like Afanasy Nikitin contributed a lot in establishing the ancient ties between India and Russia. Nikitin’s voyage to India lasted for about three years from 1471 to 1474 which has been encapsulated in his book, Voyage Beyond Three Seas.

Russia unwaveringly supported India in its struggle for Independence. The policy of friendship and support for national aspirations of the Indian people became a state policy of Soviet Russia. This policy helped India to get a faithful friend who, in all steps of freedom movement gave India a moral support. Not only that, the Bolshevik Party in 1916 took the decision to render economic and cultural help to the oppressed people of India by the new socialist government.

The signing of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship in August 1971 was another turning point in Indo-Russia relations. “The Treaty was the manifestation of shared goals of the two nations as well as a blueprint for the strengthening of regional and global peace and security,” said Pankaj Saran, the then Indian Ambassador to Russia in a statement he made to mark the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between India and Russia.

Evolution through Time

The signing of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship in August 1971 was another turning point in Indo-Russia relations. “The Treaty was the manifestation of shared goals of the two nations as well as a blueprint for the strengthening of regional and global peace and security,” said Pankaj Saran, the then Indian Ambassador to Russia in a statement he made to mark the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between India and Russia.

“The nineties were a tumultuous period for both countries. In 1990, India extended loans to the USSR in the form of technical credit and in 1991, India extended food credit and gift of 20,000 tonnes of rice. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, India and Russia entered into a new Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation in January 1993 and a bilateral Military- Technical Cooperation agreement in 1994,” he added.

Annual Summits

In 2000, during the visit of Russian President Putin to India, the partnership acquired a new qualitative character, that of a Strategic Partnership. The strategic partnership institutionalised annual meetings between the Prime Minister of India and the President of Russia and meetings have been held regularly since then.

Nineteen Annual Summit meetings have taken place till now, alternatively in Russia and India. President Putin visited New Delhi from October 04-05, 2018, for the 19th India-Russia Annual Bilateral Summit.

As many as eight MoUs were signed during the visit in the field of business and investment, civil nuclear cooperation, space, transport, etc. Both the leaders jointly addressed the India-Russia Business Summit and interacted with the talented children of India and Russia. Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin held their first informal Summit in the city of Sochi in the Russian Federation on May 21, 2018. The Summit provided an occasion for both leaders to deepen their friendship and to exchange views on international and regional issues, in keeping with the tradition of high level political exchanges between India and Russia. The two leaders also met on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg in July 2018.

Both the countries have also institutionalised dialogue mechanisms that report to two leaderships. These are the Inter- Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation (IRIGCTEC), co-chaired by the External Affairs Minister of India and the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia and the Inter-Governmental Commission on Military and Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC) co-chaired by the Defense Ministers of both countries. These meetings identify priorities and review cooperation on a regular basis and are key platforms to take our cooperation forward.

The 5th Eastern Economic Forum from 4 to 6 September 2019 at the Far Eastern Federal University campus in Vladivostok will again bring together the leaders of the two great countries to make joint efforts for further integration of the Far East into the Asia-Pacific Region economy.

India has participated in all major economic forums in Russia including SPIEF, Eastern Economic Forum, Innoprom, Technoprom, IT Forum, Arctic Forum and others. Recently, Prime Minister Modi and Russian President Putin met in Bishkek at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, and the G-20 summit in Tokyo. During bilateral discussions both the leaders have agreed to widen the scope for strengthening partnership in sectors including the Artic Region, Energy and Transfer of technology and joint partnership under the ‘Make in India’ initiative.

The 5th Eastern Economic Forum from 4 to 6 September 2019 at the Far Eastern Federal University campus in Vladivostok will again bring together the leaders of the two great countries to make joint efforts for further integration of the Far East into the Indo-Pacific Region economy.

India was the first country to establish a resident consulate in Vladivostok in 1992. However, India’s existing engagement with the region is limited to isolated pockets. In order to bolster the trade ties it is imperative that connectivity between India and Vladivostok have to be simplified, affordable and time efficient. Ease of connectivity will not only provide access to the resource rich, unexplored Far East but will also strengthen India’s geo-political stature.

References
Press Information Bureau (pib.gov.in), http://www.makeinindia.com, The Hindu
Glimpses of World History, Discovery of India, The Financial Express, The Times of India, Russia Beyond:
https://www.rbth.com/articles/2012/11/29/remembering_nehrus_first_ever_visit_to_the_ussr_19431),
https://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/137173/5/05_chapter_01.pdf

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