Stanislav Ivanov, Leading Researcher at the IMEMO Center
for International Security of the Russian Academy of Sciences,
PhD Historical Sciences
The importance and relevance of the summit meeting between Russia and India, held on December 6, 2021, is quite obvious. During the visit of Russian President Putin to New Delhi, the leaders of the two countries compared their positions on key issues on the international agenda, regional security issues, concluded new agreements, signed 28 investment contracts and reached agreements on strategic areas of mutually beneficial cooperation: military-technical, energy, including nuclear, development of regional infrastructure, including the North-South transport corridor.
It was announced that the parties intend to increase the mutual annual trade turnover to $30 billion by 2025 – against $11 billion in 2019 (before the pandemic). Rosneft has signed a contract to supply 2 million tons of oil to India by the end of 2022, and PJSC Novatek has signed a contract to increase imports of liquefied natural gas via the Northern Sea Route. The demand in India for Russian coal has also been confirmed: both countries are similar in not forcing the process of abandoning hydrocarbons.
During the Russian-Indian negotiations, an agreement was signed on a promising program of military-technical cooperation from 2021 to 2030, providing for closer cooperation in this area, new supplies of Russian weapons and military equipment, and the exchange of advanced technologies. The parties agreed to conduct joint military exercises and maneuvers on a regular basis, and to prepare the second Indian cosmonaut to fly into space together with the Russian crew. India will produce a new modification of the AK-203 Kalashnikov assault rifle under license, cooperation will continue in the field of shipbuilding, operation of modern air defense systems (S-400 SAM).
The parties also touched upon the prospects of switching to the latest technologies in such areas as space, cyberspace, artificial intelligence, pharmaceuticals, production of the Sputnik vaccine, green energy, new transport communications, agriculture. It is appropriate to note that India’s economy (the sixth in the world) has been modernizing quite rapidly in recent years. The country is a leader in computer outsourcing, occupying about 55% of the market with a volume of 200-250 billion dollars per year. Within the framework of the Indian concept of “Look to the East”, the parties agreed to intensify cooperation in the Russian Far East.
It should also be noted that the leaders of the Russian Federation and India had previously agreed to hold Russian-Indian summits at least once a year. Last year, the coronavirus pandemic disrupted these plans, but this year the parties decided not to miss such a meeting. Putin’s talks with the Indian Prime Minister of Fashion took place on the eve of the Russian-American online summit, therefore, their political component aroused the special attention of observers. Given the aggravation of relations between Russia and the United States (NATO), as well as between China and the United States, the increased attention to the foreign policy of such a powerful regional nuclear power as India is quite understandable. Washington does not hide its plans to strengthen its position in India by speculating on New Delhi’s concerns about China’s growing military and economic power and Beijing’s close partnership with Pakistan, which is in confrontation with India.
The joint statement “Russia—India: Partnership for Peace, Progress and Prosperity” adopted at the end of the summit contains important formulations and definitions that emphasize the closeness of the positions of the two states on a number of strategic issues. Contrary to the American military-strategic concept of the Indo-Pacific region, under which the United States created the appropriate command of its armed forces, the statement refers to the regions of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Mention was made of greater Eurasia, its integration and development — this is a Russian concept, the opponents of which are the United States and transatlantic forces. The “leading role of ASEAN in the regional architecture of security and cooperation” was emphasized, which goes against the line of the United States, Great Britain and Australia, which created the AUKUS military alliance in September 2021. The task of this alliance is to project military force on the disputed islands of the South China Sea, in Southeast Asia and more broadly – within the framework of the Indo-Pacific Strategy of the United States.
The demonstration of the common position of Russia and India on issues of Eurasian security and regional cooperation on the eve of the Russian-US online summit caused some alarm among American commentators concerned that, despite the attempts of the United States to attract India to its side in the growing global conflict, the government of Narendra Modi is pursuing an independent policy.
A positive aspect of the Russian leader’s visit to New Delhi was that he was accompanied by two key Russian ministers – Lavrov (Foreign Ministry) and Shoigu (Defense Ministry), who had the opportunity to hold working meetings and negotiations with their Indian counterparts in the 2 x 2 format on the eve.
It is also noteworthy that the Russian-Indian summit took place 10 days after the meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia, India and China, held on November 26, 2021 in an online format. That meeting showed that, despite the ongoing Sino-Indian contradictions, the positions of the three countries largely coincide or are close. Thus, the final communique noted the inadmissibility of unilateral sanctions of states bypassing the UN Security Council. China is well aware that the strengthening of cooperation between Russia and India weakens the position of China’s main competitor and rival, the United States, in this country. Thus, the prospects for the joint development of greater Eurasia with decisive participation, but without the dominance of only one of the sides of the triangle: Russia — India — China, are outlined. In this format and through the Russian-Indian dialogue, full mutual understanding has been reached with regard to Afghanistan. The sides confirmed the need to prevent the terrorist threat from this direction, but at the same time expressed their readiness to provide the necessary humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people.
According to most experts, the Russia-India summit was a success and contributed not only to strengthening confidence-building measures between the two countries, further development of Russian-Indian bilateral relations in various fields, but also confirmed the commitment of the parties to a balanced policy, the desire for friendship not against someone, but to the development of a friendly alliance for the sake of peace and security in the region. There is a certain confidence that the results of the summit will have the most favorable effect on the work of such reputable international organizations as the SCO and BRICS.