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India-Russia strategic partnership: Constant factor in volatile world

NEW DELHI: It has been a strategic partnership that has grown in strength with every passing year. Built on the rich legacy and preparation for future the India-Russia strategic partnership is truly strategic in nature with a strong component of Make in India and joint ventures. In the words of one of the senior politicians of India Indo-Soviet and India-Russia partnership has the only constant factor in an otherwise volatile world – a time-tested partnership that in many senses has weathered many a geo-political storm through the decades.

The year 2020 celebrates the 20th anniversary of the formal signing of Declaration of Strategic Partnership. On 3rd October, 2000, then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and President Vladimir Putin signed the Declaration on Strategic Partnership between the Russian Federation and India. Over the subsequent years, annual summits between the leaders have strengthened this partnership to ever greater heights and not a single annual Summit has been skipped.

Through the next decade since 2000, bilateral ties were enhanced, with Putin as the Chief Guest for the Republic Day parade in 2007. In December 2009, the first formal BRIC Summit took place in Yekaterinburg and in December 2010, the Strategic Partnership was elevated to the level of a “Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership.”

A new era of personal friendship between the leaders of the two countries as Prime Minister Modi and President Putin have met several times, including the first Informal Summit in Sochi in 2018 and PM’s visit to Vladivostok for the Eastern Economic Forum. India joined SCO in 2017, adding to a growing list of multilateral platforms where India and Russia are cooperating.

On April 12, 2019, Putin signed the Executive Order On Awarding PM Russia’s highest state decoration – Order of St Andrew the Apostle. The order was presented to PM for his distinguished contribution to the development of a privileged strategic partnership between Russia and India and friendly ties between the Russian and Indian peoples.

Since the signing of “Declaration on the India-Russia Strategic Partnership”, India-Russia ties have acquired a qualitatively new character with enhanced levels of cooperation in almost all areas of the bilateral relationship including political, security, defence, trade and economy, science and technology, and culture. Far East Russia & associated connectivity projects besides cooperation in Arctic region have emerged as the next frontier for partnership.

Under the Strategic Partnership, several institutionalized dialogue mechanisms operate at both political and official levels to ensure regular interaction and follow up on cooperation activities. In the recent months Russia has been a political factor during the ongoing Sino-Indian crisis indulging in quiet backchannel diplomacy to defuse tensions. The Defence Minister visited Moscow twice notwithstanding pandemic and Moscow was the venue for the critical talks between the Foreign Ministers of India and China. Russia has also assured to maintain critical defence supplies during emergency including new batches of fighter aircraft.

India has longstanding and wide-ranging cooperation with Russia in the field of defence. India-Russia military technical cooperation has evolved from a buyer – seller framework to one involving joint research, development and production of advanced defence technologies and systems. BrahMos Missile System as well as the licensed production in India of SU-30 aircraft and T-90 tanks, are examples of such flagship cooperation. Furthering this cooperation, an agreement on the cooperation in the production of spare parts for Russian/Soviet military equipment was signed during the 20th Annual Bilateral Summit in Vladivostok in September 2019.

During the 17th Annual Summit, the sides concluded agreements on supply of S-400 air defence systems, construction of frigates under Project 1135.6 and shareholders agreement on the formation of joint venture to manufacture Ka-226T helicopters in India. On 3 March 2019, in Amethi, Indian PM announced the JV – Indo-Russian Rifles Pvt. Ltd. for production of AK Series Assault Rifles at Ordnance Factory Korwa under the ‘Make-in-India’ program. The two countries also hold exchanges and training exercises between their armed forces annually and recently held Naval exercise in Bay of Bengal. The two sides are expected to conclude Logistics pact for their Navies at the next annual summit.

India-Russia cooperation in the field of peaceful uses of outer space dates back to about four decades. Both sides cooperate in the peaceful uses of outer space, including satellite launches, GLONASS navigation system, remote sensing and other societal applications of outer space. A MoU ISRO and ROSCOSMOS on Joint Activities in the field of Human Spaceflight Programme was signed during the 19th Bilateral Summit. Indian cosmonauts for Gaganyan mission are being trained in Russia and program is on schedule despite pandemic.

Russia is an important partner for India in the area of peaceful use of nuclear energy. It recognizes India as a country with advanced nuclear technology with an impeccable non-proliferation record. MoU on Action Plan for Prioritization and Implementation of Cooperation Areas in the Nuclear Field was signed during the 19th Annual Summit in October in New Delhi. Russia has backed Indian membership for NSG as well as for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.

Both sides are exploring various third country projects as part of their global partnership and share strong counter-terror cooperation.

Key Pillars of Strategic Partnership

Kudankulam – Kudankulam is the largest nuclear power plant in India, scheduled to have 6 VVER-1000 reactors to produce 2 GW of electricity. Construction started in 2002 by NPCIL & Atomstroyexport with the first reactor getting connected to the grid in 2013. The Rooppur Nuclear Plant is being built as a collaborative effort between India, Russia and Bangladesh.

BrahMos- BrahMos Aerospace (from Brahmaputra and Moskva rivers) is a joint venture set up between the Russian Mashinostroyeniya and Indian DRDO to produce the fastest cruise missile in the world. It was first test fired in 2001, and was inducted into the Indian Army in 2007 and subsequently into the Indian Navy and Air Force. After the success of BrahMos, a hypersonic version- BrahMos-II is under development and testing expected to begin by 2020-21.

Sakhalin – ONGC Videsh Ltd acquired a 20% stake in Sakhalin in 2001.It further bought Imperial Energy a few years later and has recently invested in Vankorneft and TasYuryah. In return, Russian firm Rosneft has bought a majority stake in Essar Oil for USD 12.9 billion.

Today, Russia is one of India’s largest investment destinations in the oil and gas sector. Gas utility GAIL has contracted 2.5 million tonnes per annum of LNG from Russia’s Gazprom for 20 years. India has embarked on the path of becoming a gas-based economy, and a steady partnership with Russia is an important pillar in that vision. India is working on a long term oil supply agreement with Russia.

INS Vikramaditya (aircraft carrier): Vikramaditya in Sanskrit means “Brave as the Sun”. After serving in the Soviet and Russian navies from 1987 to 1996, the carrier was acquired from Russia by India on January 20, 2004. After successful completion of her sea and aviation trials in September 2013, she was formally commissioned in the Indian Navy on 16 Nov 2013. On 14 June 2014, the Prime Minister of India formally inducted INS Vikramaditya into the Indian Navy.

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