In a telephonic conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated him on the successful completion of the referendum on constitutional amendments in Russia which took place from 25th June to 1st July, 2020. The victory in the referendum allows Mr. Putin two additional possible six-year terms till 2036 as President, after completing his current tenure in 2024. Prime Minister Modi was the first world leader to congratulate Mr. Putin on this success.
Lauding the celebrations marking the 75th anniversary of the victory in the Second World War, Mr. Modi termed the participation of an Indian contingent in the Victory Day Parade on June 24 as a symbol of “abiding friendship” between India and Russia.
The leaders discussed the effective measures taken by the two countries to address the negative consequences of COVID-19 pandemic. They agreed to have a closer India-Russia relationship for jointly confronting the challenges of the post-COVID world. The Indian Prime Minister conveyed his keenness to welcome President Putin in India for the annual bilateral Summit later in 2020. During the conversation, the Russian President reiterated his commitment to strengthen the ‘Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership’ between the two nations in all spheres.
Before the emergence of Russian Federation as an independent country in 1991, India and the then Soviet Union enjoyed a unique, strong partnership which witnessed its pinnacle in 1971 with the signing of the Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation. This ensured the liberation of Bangladesh in the aftermath of the India-Pakistan war, notwithstanding the staunch opposition of both USA and China to such an outcome.
After the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia and India entered into a Strategic Partnership in 2000 which was upgraded to a Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership in 2010. An annual Summit relationship between the leaders of the two countries was launched during the first visit of President Putin to India in 2000. It is a measure of the importance and priority that both countries attach to this relationship that the Summit meetings have been held every year over the last 20 years, alternately in the two countries.
The last 20 years have seen a rapid growth and expansion of ties in multiple spheres. Defence is one of the most significant areas of such cooperation. Although India has, over the years, diversified its defence procurement to include other countries like USA, France and Israel, Russia continues to account for 60% of the total defence equipment in India’s arsenal.
In the current security scenario with a faceoff in Ladakh with China, it is imperative that all defence supplies ordered by India from Russia like the MIG and Sukhoi aircrafts, S-400 missile defence system, Kamov 226T helicopters, T-90 tanks etc. and the necessary spares are provided to India expeditiously. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh who participated in the celebrations of the 75th anniversary of victory over Nazism on 24th June in Moscow also held discussions on prompt supplies of India’s defence requirements. Russia has promised to fully honour its commitments.
Notwithstanding Russia’s growing partnership with China and India’s expanding ties with USA, India-Russia relations continue to blossom. India decided to defy US sanctions under its CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) domestic law to import the S-400 missile defence system from Russia.
Civilian nuclear energy, oil, gas, coal are other sectors where bilateral cooperation is expanding dynamically. Bilateral trade is the only area where collaboration remains less than optimum. Significant efforts are however being made to achieve the target of US$30 billion two-way trade by 2025.
Prime Minister Modi’s telephonic conversation with President Putin has given a significant fillip to the bilateral partnership. In the rapidly changing geo-political scenario, Indo-Russian relations are not only mutually beneficial but also a source of regional and global security, stability and prosperity.
Script: Amb. Ashok Sajjanhar , Former Indian Diplomat