President of the Russian Federation, Mr. Vladimir Putin will be on an official visit to New Delhi on 6 December 2021 for the 21st India-Russia Annual Summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This will be the first international bilateral visit by President Putin since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic about two years ago. The fact that President Putin’s first stand-alone visit is to India is understood as a reaffirmation of the fundamental strength and resilience of the India-Russia relationship.
The last India-Russia Annual Summit was held in September 2019 during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Vladivostok (Russia). The Annual Summit could not take place in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic situation. Therefore, this will be the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders after their meeting on the side-lines of the BRICS Summit in Brasilia in November, 2019. Of course, there have been half a dozen telephonic conversations between the two leaders since November, 2019, besides the virtual meetings for multilateral Summits.
According to a Ministry of External Affairs release on 26th November, 2021, the two leaders will “review the state and prospects of bilateral relations and discuss ways to further strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries. The Summit will also afford an opportunity to exchange views on regional, multilateral and international issues of mutual interest”. The release also says that “this visit will provide further impetus to the India-Russia Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership”.
Traditionally, it is assumed that on the bilateral front, discussions usually take off from where they were left. Two years ago, PM Narendra Modi had met him in person during his visit to Vladivostok in September, 2019 as Chief Guest to the Eastern Economic Forum. A number of far-reaching decisions were taken on that occasion in diverse areas to strengthen bilateral ties in defence, nuclear energy cooperation, hydrocarbons, space, shipbuilding, railways, diamond industry etc.
That time, Russia had invited India to collaborate actively with it in the Arctic region. Memorandum of Intent(MoI) for establishment of a Chennai-Vladivostok marine connectivity link, a proposed full-fledged sea route of approximately 5,600 nautical miles between Russia’s eastern port city, Vladivostok and Chennai on eastern Indian seaboard was signed then. This link is very important to both the countries, as it would enable to transfer cargo between Chennai and Vladivostok in 24 days in comparison to over 40 days currently taken to transport goods from India to Far East Russia via Europe. The proposed sea route will pass through the Sea of Japan, South China Sea and Strait of Malacca.
During his visit in 2019 PM Modi had launched the Act Far East Policy and announced a Line of Credit of US$1 billion to explore opportunities for greater Indian engagement with the region.
Russia has expeditiously supplied the S-400 Triumf air defence systems to India. The defence trade between India and Russia has witnessed a jump from US$2-3 billion a year in 2018 to around US$9-10 billion in 2021.
On 28th Oct 2021, the 7th Indian Navy Frigate of P1135. 6 class was launched at Yantar Shipyard, Kaliningrad, Russia. This was pursuant to the Inter-Governmental Agreement signed in 2018 for the construction of four frigates – two in Russia and two at the Goa Shipyard Limited under Transfer of Technology provisions.
In addition, India is working towards concluding a ₹5,100-crore deal with Russia to jointly manufacture AK-203 assault rifles at a facility in Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi.
Similarly, the two sides are engaged in advanced talks for several other defence deals and nuclear energy cooperation. India has procured the third generation, most advanced nuclear power technology to India from Russia only. In fact, several bilateral agreements are supposed to be in the pipeline.
Unique points of President Putin’s visit include it being a “purely working” visit. That means the two leaders can head straight for talks immediately after President Putin’s arrival. Similarly, no specific limits have been planned for the Putin-Modi talks. The Russian delegation for the New Delhi summit includes Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu, Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov, Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin and Russian Presidential top Aide Yuri Ushakov.
According to the Ministry of External Affairs, the day will start with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoygu co-chairing the Intergovernmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation.
Simultaneously, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will also be holding their bilateral meeting.” According to MEA spokesperson “both ministers are expected to discuss bilateral, regional and international political and defence issues within this format, as you know, we have with very few countries”.
This again reaffirms the importance of the India-Russia relationship.