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India and Russia are set to take their bilateral relations to newer heights during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second term. He will be participating in the 5th Annual Eastern Economic Forum as the Chief Guest and the 20th Annual Bilateral Summit between the two countries in Vladivostok from 4-6 September 2019. Fresh opportunities are being explored to include new areas of cooperation and re-energize existing Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership between India and Russia.
Russia was one of the first countries to welcome the revocation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. Moscow had termed it as India’s internal matter and supported Indi’s position at various international fora.
Earlier this month, Indian Commerce Minister, Piyush Goyal accompanied by four Chief Ministers visited to Vladivostok to discuss proposal of partnership between Indian states and Russian Far East provinces with Yuri Tutnev, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Presidential envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District. India views Russia’s Far East as priority for enhancing economic cooperation and investment. New Delhi is looking at major diversification in its longstanding bilateral engagement by focusing on Russian Far East. India and Russia are looking beyond conventional cooperation in the areas of defence, space, energy, and nuclear which do form major pillars of bilateral cooperation to add new areas of inter-regional cooperation. Russia’s Far East continues to be of great significance to India. New Delhi’s increasing volume of trade with this region has expanded by over 3 per cent in 2018 to US $790 million, despite India’s total trade with Russia crossing US $10 billion. Both countries want to achieve bilateral trade target of US $30 billion by 2025.
India’s National Security Adviser, Ajit Doval also visited Moscow and met his counterpart Nikolai Patrushev to reaffirm and intensify counter terrorism cooperation and underlined full support for principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference of third parties. The NSA also met Dmitry Rogozin, Director of ROSCOSMOS to review the on-going cooperation in the space field and the ‘Gaganyaan’ programme. Russia will train 4 of the 12 Indian astronauts for a 15 month period in the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Moscow to be prepared for India’s Gaganyaan mission scheduled for launch by 2022.
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s visit took place this week. This was his first visit to Moscow since assumption of office. He met his counterpart Sergey Lavrov to take stock of preparations for the forthcoming visit of the Indian Prime Minister to Vladivostok. He met Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov. Both of them co-chaired the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission-Technical and Economic Cooperation. In addition to fine tuning the course of actions to be taken in September when Mr. Modi and President Putin meet, the Indian External Affairs Minister also participated in the Valdai Discussion Club interaction on the theme of India’s perspective on the Indo-Pacific.
These high level visits from India to Russia need to be viewed in the context of new geo-political and geo-economic shifts in the region and beyond; and India’s increasing focus on building new synergy of cooperation with its long term reliable partner Russia. It is expected that in this new beginning of enhanced bilateral engagement, focus will be on crafting new path of intra-regional cooperation in the areas of agriculture, diamond cutting, establishing polishing units, sourcing timber and pulp, giving push to tourism sector, and fisheries and mining. In past, four focus areas of cooperation identified jointly by India and Russia include Energy, Digital Economy, Start-ups and Infrastructure. As both countries prepare to take the relationship to new levels of cooperation during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Russia, bilateral interactions between Dr. S. Jaishankar and Mr. Sergey Lavrov have successfully identified new areas of cooperation that will be endorsed by the Indian Prime Minister and President Putin to make this relationship much more meaningful both in strategic and economic terms.
Script: Dr. Meena Singh Roy, Strategic Analyst on Russia & CIS