The second half of 2021 will be that of Russia and India, in terms of diplomatic activity in New Delhi. The year 1971 was the history of the Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation between India and the Soviet Union. In three weeks, there will be celebrations in Moscow and New Delhi marking the Golden Jubilee of the signing of this historic document.
Indians engaging Russians in government or the outside world will never hear in Moscow questions such as “are you with us or against us”.
Prime Minister Modi and Russian President Putin recently agreed to put in place a new mechanism to eliminate any spiderwebs in mutual engagement: a 2 + 2 ministerial forum, which is now a familiar structure in many bilateral relations in the world and turned out to be productive. The first such meeting of Russian and Indian foreign and defense ministers will be held shortly.
Intergovernmental commissions worked well in Soviet times to advance Moscow’s ties with New Delhi. They were effective institutional structures in government-to-government relations after the 1971 treaty advanced Indo-Soviet relations. Ministerial meetings of the committee will take place in the second half of this year and will focus on defense, economy and trade.
All of this is in preparation for Putin’s visit to India later this year, taking into account what Russia’s deputy head of mission to India, Roman Babushkin, calls “epidemiological considerations.” There is great optimism that the Putin-Modi summit will be held this year in person.
If that happens, Putin will be the first high-level, high-powered visit to New Delhi since Covid-19 has descended in various countries. The chance to win this place was to belong to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as a guest on Republic Day, but he canceled his travel plans after a variant of the coronavirus spread across the UK to that time.
All of this constitutes a full plate when it comes to bilateral events, but there is much more to the pipeline that puts Moscow at the forefront of New Delhi’s diplomatic calendar for the remainder of 2021. Next month India will assume responsibility. presidency of the UNSC. Council President-designate TS Tirumurti has started coordinating with Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Nebenzia Vassily Alekseevich on how to advance a multipolar agenda.
Foreign Minister S Jaishankar now chairs the Russia-India-China Trilateral Cooperation Mechanism, better known as the RIC. Jaishankar intends to convene a meeting of RIC foreign ministers in New Delhi in September. India also currently holds the BRICS Presidency. The BRICS leaders, according to current plans, will hold their 13th summit in India in September.
Before all of this happens, Russia and India should complete the process of mutual recognition of their COVID-19 vaccination certificates. Sputnik Lite, the Russian single-dose vaccine, would then have arrived in India. The expansion of partnerships for the manufacture of the Sputnik V vaccine in India would also have generalized bilateral vaccine cooperation by the end of the year. All of this will lay the groundwork for a renaissance of people-to-people interaction that faltered when the Soviet Union collapsed.
Soviet-era sentiment and emotion are still high on the Indo-Russian agenda, as Russian-speaking Jaishankar’s three-day visit to Moscow this month demonstrated. He chose the almost century-old Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO) Institute of World Economy and International Relations for his public engagement alone, although he was offered several platforms. He chose this location as a tribute to Yevgeni Primakov, whose contribution to India’s strong defense preparation and strategic stability during the years when the Soviet Union collapsed, will only be revealed when top documents secrets of this period will be declassified, if applicable. Primakov, the first head of the successor to the Soviet KGB spy agency, the Foreign Intelligence Service, was the Russian Prime Minister when India tested its nuclear weapons in 1998. He was associated with IMEMO from 1970 until ‘when he died six years ago.
With much of Russia on India’s diplomatic calendar for the remainder of the year, an oft-repeated question is sure to crop up again: “How relevant is Russia to India?” Over the past two decades, India has become attractive to the whole world due to its economic opportunities and its emergence as a major world power. The latest conclusive proof of this status was India’s election to the Security Council with an overwhelming majority a year ago. On these two points, India now faces challenges.
Jaishankar stressed in his IMEMO speech that what India and Russia “have in common is a clear sense of national interest and a strong sense of national determination.” We have dealt with each other long enough to know that these qualities are really part of our core character. As India’s foreign and economic policies face questions, which would have disappeared more than two decades ago, it is important to remember a critical point: Indians engaging Russians in government or outside will never hear in Moscow questions like “are you with us?” or against us ”.
Unlike other familiar countries, the Russians do not have an upright attitude towards Indians, despite the massive support they have given India since independence in all areas. History has taught us that the Russians will not instigate a “color revolution” in India. Nor will they seek to change regimes through interference in Indian sovereignty. This cannot be said for sure for many other countries, which are said to be New Delhi’s friends. None of India’s other friendships have shown the strength of resilience in relations with Russia.
“The paradox, however, is that precisely because it has remained so stable, this relationship is sometimes taken for granted. The arguments for its constant maintenance are therefore as powerful, if not more so, than with the more volatile, ”Jaishankar said. This is what his ministry is preparing for the remaining months of this year.