As India and Russia celebrate 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin have decided to reset ties between the two nations. On Thursday, they went beyond the recent dissonance in bilateral ties to put in place the important reset. While the visiting Indian premier said in St Peterburg that the South Asian country still considers Russia as its ‘important strategic partner’, President Putin insisted that India is Russia’s ‘most trusted friend’.
Foreign policy experts are of the opinion that Prime Minister Modi, currently on a mission to re-engage Russia in a big way, tried hard to make his mission successful. He encouraged Kremlin to take a break from its focus on China and to concentrate on India. With major European powers, like Germany and France, maintaining a “safe distance” with Russia due to President Putin’s “aggressive” gestures in Syria and Ukraine, India has decided to emerge as Moscow’s ‘friend in need’.
Experts explain that the changing global geopolitical landscape has prompted Russia to maintain cordial ties with China and Pakistan (and also with the Taliban) in Asia. India, which is worried about Moscow’s proximity with its neighbours, expressed serious concern in a joint statement, which says: “India-Russia relations have stood the test of time and have been immune to external influences.” The statement was issued after Prime Minister Modi’s meeting with President Putin.
In St Petersburg, Putin assured Modi that Russia would not have any “tight” military relationship with Pakistan, as Moscow had no plan to dilute its close friendship with New Delhi. Although the president sidestepped a question on Kashmir, he backed India’s war against terrorism, stressing: “No matter where the threat comes from, it is unacceptable and we will always support India in its fight against terrorism.”
The two leaders discussed various ways to take bilateral strategic ties forward. In the presence of Modi and Putin, senior Indian and Russian officials signed five agreements, reflecting the partnership between the traditional allies.
Meanwhile, the visiting premier thanked Russia for supporting India’s NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group) membership bid, saying: “International relations see ups and downs, but history is witness Indo-Russia relations have not seen any ups and downs. President Putin is playing a crucial role in getting India the NSG and SCO membership.”
The Indian Ministry of External Affairs said in a separate statement that the meeting was successful, as the two countries concluded a much-awaited agreement to build the last two units of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in southern Indian province of Tamil Nadu. The ministry also said that the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited and Russia’s Atomstroyexport (a subsidiary of Rosatom – the regulator of Russia’s nuclear complex) would jointly set up reactors of the 6,000MW plant. The final two units of the plant will have a capacity to produce 1,000MW of electricity.
The two countries also agreed to set up joint ventures for manufacturing aircraft and automobiles, as they look to strengthen trade and economic ties. President Putin claimed that Russian-Indian economic co-operation returned to a growth trajectory. He said: “We both have a stake in consolidating this positive trend. Our talks are always held in a warm and friendly atmosphere, and are always substantive and productive. This time was no exception.” He further said: “Encouraging the growth of trade, improving its structure, and expanding industrial co-operation constitute our key priority.”
President Putin hinted that Russia and India would develop ‘independent’ credit rating industry in order to harmonise the respective laws in the two countries regarding credit ratings. Prime Minister Modi welcomed Kremlin’s decision, saying that there are a handful of rating agencies in the world and most of them are headquartered in America. He made clear that the American rating agencies’ performance failed to impress India, as most of them, including Fitch, S&P and Moody’s, gave the nation the lowest investment grade rating.
The Indian PM, currently on a four-nation Europe tour, arrived in France on Friday to meet newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron. In Paris, they discussed various important bilateral, regional and global issues.
Interestingly, Modi met the Russian president ahead of his meeting with American President Donald Trump. The June 26 Modi-Trump meeting in Washington would be a highly-anticipated first meeting between the two after President Trump took office in January. According to sources close to New Delhi, sensitive issues, such as counter-terrorism, maritime security and Afghanistan, will top PM Modi’s agenda during his June 25-26 America visit.