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India – Russia bilateral relations
India – Russia bilateral relations
India–Russia relations are the bilateral relations between India and Russia. During the Cold War, India and the Soviet Union (USSR) had a strong strategic, military, economic and diplomatic relationship. After the Dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia inherited its close relationship with India which resulted in both nations sharing a Special Relationship. Russia and India both term this relationship as a “special and privileged strategic partnership” . Owing to the bonhomie shared by the countries’ respective leaders, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin, the bilateral relationship has seen further growth and development. An informal meeting between them in 2018 at Sochi helped accelerate the partnership, displaying the role of interaction and cooperation between India and Russia.
Traditionally, the Indo-Russian strategic partnership has been built on five major components: politics, defence, civil nuclear energy, anti-terrorism co-operation and space. These five major components were highlighted in a speech given by former Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai in Russia. However, in recent years a sixth, economic component has grown in importance, with both countries setting a target of reaching US$30 billion in bilateral trade by 2025, from about US$9.4 billion in the year 2017. In order to meet this goal, both countries are looking to develop a free trade agreement. Bilateral trade between both countries in 2012 grew by over 24%.
The powerful IRIGC (India-Russia Intergovernmental Commission) is the main body that conducts affairs at the governmental level between both countries. Both countries are members of many international bodies where they collaborate closely on matters of shared national interest. Important examples include the UN, BRICS, G20 and SCO.
India is the second largest market for the Russian defence industry. In 2017, approximately 68% of the Indian Military’s hardware import came from Russia, making Russia the chief supplier of defence equipment. India has an embassy in Moscow and two consulates-general (in Saint Petersburg and Vladivostok). Russia has an embassy in New Delhi and six consulate-generals (in Chennai, Goa, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai and Thiruvananthapuram).
According to a 2014 BBC World Service Poll, 85% of Russians view India positively, with only 9% expressing a negative view. Similarly, a 2017 opinion poll by the Moscow-based non-governmental think tank Levada- Center states that Russians identified India as one of their top five “friends”, with the others being Belarus, China, Kazakhstan and Syria.
The first major political initiative, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, between India and Russia began with the Strategic Partnership signed between the two countries in 2000. President Vladimir Putin stated in an article written by him in the Hindu, “The Declaration on Strategic Partnership between India and Russia signed in October 2000 became a truly historic step”. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also agreed with his counterpart by stated in speech given during President Putin’s 2012 visit to India, “President Putin is a valued friend of India and the original architect of the India-Russia strategic partnership”. Both countries closely collaborate on matters of shared national interest these include at the UN, BRICS, G20 and SCO. Russia also strongly supports India receiving a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. In addition, Russia has vocally backed India joining the NSG and APEC. Moreover, it has also expressed interest in joining SAARC with observer status in which India is a founding member.
Russia currently is one of the only two countries in the world that has a mechanism for annual ministerial-level defence reviews with India. The Indo-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission (IRIGC) is one of the largest and most comprehensive governmental mechanisms that India has had with any country internationally. Almost every department from the Government of India attends it.
Relations have deteriorated recently due to India’s anti-China stance. Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, accused the West of trying to undermine Russia’s close partnership with India. He added that India is being used as an object by the Western powers.
Co-operation in the energy sector
Energy sector is an important area in Indo-Russian bilateral relations. In 2001, ONGC-Videsh acquired 20% stake in the Sakhalin-I oil and gas project in the Russian Federation, and has invested about US$1.7 billion in the project. Gazprom, the Russian company, and Gas Authority of India have collaborated in joint development of a block in the Bay of Bengal. Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project with two units of 1000 MW each is a good example of Indo-Russian nuclear energy co-operation. Both sides have expressed interest in expanding co-operation in the energy sector.
In December 2008, Russia and India signed an agreement to build civilian nuclear reactors in India during a visit by the Russian president to New Delhi.
To know more about bilateral relations between India and Russia, please download our booklet.