Dr. Sanghamitra Sarma, Strategic Analyst on International Affairs
The India-Russia relationship is one of the strongest and most significant bilateral relations that have withstood the test of time. In fact, the partnership has a future of attaining a qualitatively new level due to multi-sectoral convergences emphasised in the recent past. Both India and Russia hold annual summit meetings to discuss the spectrum of bilateral ties. Approximately 20 summit meetings have been held so far in this direction. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited India from April 5-6 as a precursor event preparing the groundwork for the 21st India-Russia summit to be held in 2021. In this working visit, the Russian Minister held talks with his Indian counterpart External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.
In a statement released by the Russian embassy in India just before the visit, it was highlighted that Russia shares a “special and privileged strategic partnership with India”. The two sides are developing an active political dialogue, trade and economic, as well as military and technical ties, scientific, cultural, and humanitarian contacts
As envisaged, the central highlights of this working visit were to emphasise the model of the emerging polycentric world order, strengthen strategic partnership among both sides, stressing reforms for global governance and reinforcing the UN’s key coordinating role in international affairs. The talks have also underscored the need for greater cooperation in the fight against the pandemic. An accentuation was also placed on the need for India and Russia to continue cooperation in other multilateral fora like the BRICS, SCO, G20, and the East Asia Summit.
On China, he said that Russia is closely observing the process of normalisation at the Line of Actual Control (LAC). His statement that India and China find “mutually acceptable political and diplomatic ways” to remove their differences at the earliest will depend on aborting provocative actions at the border and focussing more on complementary interactions. On the agenda for discussion were also, several India-Russia
defence related ventures and projects like the S-400 Air Defence System, the manufacturing of the AK-47 203 rifles locally in India, production of helicopters in India and the long-pending P-75i submarine project.
The Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov’s visit to India comes at a crucial juncture when both India and Russia are looking forward to diversifying their relationship and expanding vistas of engagement rather than focussing merely on the defence sector.
Undoubtedly, India’s association with Russia also has been shaped to some extent by Russia’s relations with China and Pakistan. While all countries have different foreign policy priorities amidst a change in the regional and global order, discussions on issues where India and Russia might have different perspectives will lead to clarity and better management of bilateral as well as international relationships.