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Russian President Vladimir Putin travels to India this week for the 15th annual India-Russia Summit, which begins on December 11 with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. There will be much for the two leaders to talk about, from the state of the two countries’ bilateral strategic relationship to business ties to Russian defense cooperation with Pakistan.
What do you expect from Vladimir Putin’s visit to India? Eurasia Outlook posed the question to some leading experts in the field in order to gather some predictions about the meeting’s significance to Russia-India relations moving forward.
President Vladimir Putin’s forthcoming first summit talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be taking place in a drastically changed scenario. Under the pressure of Western sanctions over Ukraine, Moscow is rapidly allying with China in military matters and making overtures to Pakistan, which has a long history of hostile relationship with India.
New Delhi is not at ease that Moscow’s announcement of lifting its informal ban on arms trade with Islamabad to supply Mi-35 helicopter gunships came at a time when a new government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi was voted into power. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s recent Islamabad visit to sign agreement on military cooperation further fuelled the concerns about the Russian intentions.
Obviously, New Delhi, which views these developments a shift in Russia’s declared “special” relations with India, would expect clarification during talks with President Putin, who in his turn would take interest in the surprise invitation to the U.S. President Barack Obama to be the chief guest at the Indian Republic Day celebrations in January.
I hope President Putin will receive the kind of welcome which will confirm that India is our genuine friend and ally, ready, as Prime Minister Modi has said, to support Russia in a rather complicated situation. I hope the talks and the documents that will be signed during the visit would help to overcome a certain stagnation in bilateral relations that developed in the last two or three years, to solve problems emerging in the course of our collaboration on a number of directions.
I hope that our cooperation will get a boost—and not just in the military sphere, but in the energy sector, agriculture, fertilizer and pharmaceutical production, civil aviation, diamond processing, science and culture; that our bilateral trade will reach an appropriate level. I expect our cooperation to move beyond the exchange of finished products to the establishment of joint ventures and elaboration of joint projects which will help to implement India’s slogan, Make in India.
I also hope that Russia and India will jointly find ways to work toward greater regional security, including stabilization in Afghanistan, counterterrorism, drug trade prevention, and peace and stability in Central Asia.
I count on the wisdom and experience of our countries’ leaders, their ability to make decisions, to promote proposals, and create initiatives that will help both countries advance their interests and avoid friction in their relations with the great Asian power—China, a strategic ally for both Russia and India. As far as India is concerned, next year it will receive—together with Pakistan—full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
The upcoming 15th Indo-Russian summit takes place in the backdrop of qualitatively new situations in India, in Russia, and in the international arena, giving rise to hopes and expectations from the summit. India’s new government is trying to provide a new impetus to the country’s foreign policy and is guided by pragmatism.
The central element of India’s new government’s foreign policy is economic diplomacy. Since trade and investment is the weakest link in the otherwise vibrant Indo-Russian strategic partnership, India expects that the new summit will help provide new content to this area. The upcoming Indo-Russian summit takes place amid Russia’s distinct and pre-eminent shift toward Asia in its foreign policy following the imposition of Western sanctions on Russia. Russia has imposed counter-sanctions on the West, too. This has created new opportunities to strengthen our ties in trade and economic areas. Europe’s exports to Russia constitute nearly 400 billion dollars. Part of this can be substituted by Indian exports to Russia, particularly by increasing supplies of food stuffs, medicines, machinery, equipment, etc.
The upcoming summit is also likely to provide stimulus to our cooperation in high-tech areas. This would be reflected in the strategic vision document planned to be signed during President Putin’s visit to India. Our cooperation in nuclear energy production, space, civilian aircraft manufacturing, helicopter manufacturing, etc. in the next ten years would be reflected in this document.
Mutual investment is an area where our cooperation is not adequate. Indian investment in Russia is about 5 billion dollars, mainly in the energy sector, whereas Russian investment in India is not more than 3 billion dollars. Russia has been invited to invest in the Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor, smart city construction, and massive infrastructure building programs. Russian company AFK Sistema, which has invested in the Indian telecommunication system, has evinced keen interest in the development of smart cities in India.
India has the largest diamond cutting industry in the world, and Russia controls almost one fourth of global diamond reserves, making us natural partners. However, bilateral cooperation in this sector is not significant. There is a proposal for building a diamond hub in Mumbai through bilateral cooperation, which can increase our bilateral trade turnover by 4-5 billion dollars. Some concrete steps are likely to be decided to strengthen our cooperation in the sector.
Another pillar of our strategic partnership is cooperation in hydrocarbon sector. India might be invited to pursue more acquisition in the Russian energy sector and invest in LNG factories planned to be built on Russia’s Pacific coast in order to meet its growing requirement in future. The gas pipeline from Altai to India can be discussed in the expert-level talks.
Both countries have been discussing to have a free-trade zone with the Customs Union consisting of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, and also have been discussing the creation of a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union that would kick start from January 1, 2015. We expect significant progress can be made as a result of the summit-level talks between President Putin and Prime Minister Modi in this sphere.
Modi and Putin are in the same group; both are energetic, pragmatic, and both are nationalists in a positive sense who wish to increase their roles in global affairs. Their personal chemistry can take our special and privileged strategic partnership to new heights.
Vladimir Putin’s visit to India is expected to yield 15 to 20 agreements in the spheres like military-technical cooperation, energy, customs and banking issues, and trade.
In the sphere of military-technical cooperation, several documents might be signed, including on joint development of a fifth-generation fighter jet. Apparently Russia and India will also make an arrangement to develop new modifications of the Brahmos missile.
There will probably be an agreement to build new reactors for the Kudankulam nuclear power plant. India might buy from Rosneft a 10 percent share in the Vankor field and secure a deal with it on the future acquisition of a 49 percent share in the Yurubchen-Tokhom field.
Russian group Alrosa will also sign about a dozen contracts with Indian companies, which will significantly increase exports of Russian diamonds to India.
Most importantly, Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will discuss a “road map” of Russian-Indian relations for the next ten years. The visit will help Russia and India to elaborate a cooperation strategy that their “strategic partnership” so conspicuously lacks.
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