INDIA RUSSIA RELATIONS PART 1

Relations between India and Russia are rooted in history, mutual trust and mutually beneficial cooperation.  This is a strategic partnership that has withstood the test of time, and which enjoys the support of the people of both countries. 

Russia has been a longstanding and time-tested partner for India. Development of India-Russia relations has been a key pillar of India’s foreign policy.

 

HISTORY

Diplomatic relations between India and Russia began even before India achieved independence, on 13 April 1947.  

  • In the period immediately following independence the goal for India was attaining economic self-sufficiency through investment in heavy industry.  
  • The Soviet Union invested in several new enterprises in the areas of heavy machine-building, mining, energy production and steel plants.  
  • During India’s second Five Year Plan, of the sixteen heavy industry projects set up, eight were initiated with the help of the Soviet Union.  This included the establishment of the world famous IIT Bombay. 
  • A watershed moment in relations between India and the Soviet Union was the signing of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship in August 1971.  The Treaty was the manifestation of shared goals of the two nations as well as a blueprint for the strengthening of regional and global peace and security.  
  • The nineties were a tumultuous period for both countries as the newly established Russian Federation sought to rebuild its foreign policy. For India, meanwhile, it was the time it began liberalising its economy and looking to the West for trade and investment. 
  • In 1990, India extended loans to the USSR in the form of technical credit and in 1991, India extended food credit and gift of 20,000 tonnes of rice.  After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, India and Russia entered into a new Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation in January 1993 and a bilateral Military-Technical Cooperation agreement in 1994. 
  • In 2000 the partnership acquired a new qualitative character, that of a Strategic Partnership.  The strategic partnership institutionalized annual meetings between the Prime Minister of India and the President of Russia and meetings have been held regularly since then.  
  • In 2010, marking a decade of the ‘Declaration on Strategic Partnership’ between the two countriesthe relation was elevated to the status of a Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership.These have led to personal contacts and close understanding at the highest level between our leaders. 

The process of re-establishing the multi-dimensional relationship has been long; it has also had to contend with the geo-political and geo-economic shifts both at the regional and global levels. Today there is no denying the mutual trust and friendship that exists between the two countries. However, the divergences in the goals of the two nations have sharpened in recent times – fuelled by both bilateral and international factors – and have the potential to deeply impact the future of Indo-Russia relationship. 

 

CULTURAL RELATIONS

India and Russia have strong cultural ties, which are an important contribution to the strong and robust relations between the countries. India-Russia Cultural relations developed even before India got independence in 1947. 

  • The linkages that started with AfanasyNikitin reaching India even before Vasco-da-Gama revealed India to the West, Gujarati traders settling in Astrakhan and the establishment of the Russian theatre in Kolkata have all brought peoples of our countries closer. 

AfanasyNikitin                               Letter from Tolostoy

  • Russian scholars like GerasimLebedev and Nicholas Roerich have travelled to India and studied Indian culture and philosophy.
  • Russian literature and thinkers like Leo Tolstoy, Alexander Pushkin and others have had a profound influence and contribution to Indian literature and thought. 
  • Several generations of Russians have grown up watching Indian films. 
  • Yoga in Russia has been growing and becoming increasingly popular since the 1980s, particularly in majors cities and urban centres. 
  • The number of Indian tourists to Russia and Russian tourists to India has shown significant increase over years. The two countries are taking steps to facilitate easier access to each other’s citizens.
  • There is an Ayush Chair at the People Friendship University of Russia propagating the ancient medicinal practice Ayurveda and its uses in Russian federation by taking classes and organising seminars in Russia.
  • In addition, there are Indian Russian Working Groups and Cultural Exchange Programme which also caters to the cultural and tourism needs of both the countries. 
  • There are four scholarship schemes for the nationals of Russian Federation to give them a chance to study in India to pursue higher education, in humanities, science, ayurveda, dance and music. ‘Days of Indian Culture’ are organised in regions of Russian Federation to disseminate Indian Culture and master classes in dance, music and yoga are conducted by India-based teachers. 
  • About 20 Russian Institutions, including leading universities and schools, regularly teach Hindi to about 1500 Russian students. Apart from Hindi, languages such as Tamil, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, Urdu, Sanskrit and Pali are taught in Russian Institutions. There is strong interest among Russian people in Indian dance, music, yoga and Ayurveda. 
  • To commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, digital exhibition and cycle rally were organized by the Embassy. On October 2, an exhibition dedicated to the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and about his friendship with the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy was opened at the State Duma of the Russian Federation. The exhibition, titled “Tolstoy-Gandhi: The story of personal transformations across continents bound by the infinite possibilities of universal love”.
  • There is a strong tradition of Indian studies in Russia. Jawaharlal Nehru Cultural Center  at  the  Embassy  of  India,  Moscow  (JNCC)  maintains  close  cooperation  with  leading  Russian  institutions. There are regular cultural initiatives to promote people-to-people contacts between India and Russia. 

The number of tourists from Russia to India has been on the rise. In comparison, the number of Indian tourists to Russia, though having increased, still remains low.

Indian Diaspora:

  • Indian  Community  in  the  Russian  Federation  is  estimated  at  about  15,000.    
  • In addition, about 1,500 Afghan nationals of Indian origin live in Russia. 
  • There are approximately 4,500 Indian students enrolled in medical and technical institutions in the Russian   Federation.   
  • About   90%   of   them   pursue   medical   studies   in   about   20 universities/institutions   across   Russia.      
  • Hindustani   Samaj   is   the   oldest   Indian organization in Russia functioning since 1957.  Other Indian  organizations  in  Moscow include  AMMA,  DISHA,  Indian  Business  Alliance,    and  Ramakrishna  Society  Vedanta Centre.  

POLITICAL RELATIONS

Political relations between India and Russia have historically been steady and cordial. The two countries have had the advantage of what analysts refer to as a “problem-free environment”.

  1. Annual Summit:
    1. The Annual Summit meeting between the Prime Minister of India and the President of the Russian Federation is the highest institutionalized dialogue mechanism in the strategic partnership between India and Russia. 
    2. So far 20 Annual Summit meetings have taken place alternatively in India and Russia. 
    3. In early 2019, Russia bestowed the Order of St Andrew the Apostle on PM Modi 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.”
  1. Intergovernmental Commissions:
    1. There is regular high-level interaction between the two countries. Two Inter- Governmental Commissions – one on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation (IRIGC-TEC), co-chaired by Indian and Russian foreign Ministers, and another on Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC- MTC) co-chaired by Russian and Indian Defence Ministers, meet annually.
    2. The two sides also signed the ‘Strategic Vision for Strengthening Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy’ in 2014 and agreed on the ‘Partnership for Global Peace and Stability’ in 2016. 

REGIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

In the international arena both countries have similar positions and coordinate their actions. 

  • Russia and India cooperate closely within the United Nations, BRICS and G-20 groupings, as well as in the various structures in the Asia Pacific region such as ASEAN and East Asia Summit Forum. Russia supported India’s membership to the SCO and India was admitted as a full member of SCO in 2017. A major reason for this was Moscow’s desire to prevent the organisation from being dominated by China, a concern that was shared by the Central Asian states as well.
  • The unique political proximity between the nations is reflected in congruence in global priorities. Both the countries share similar views on fighting terrorism without double standards, a more representative multi-polar world order based on international law with UN playing a central role, and resolving threats to international peace and security.  
  • On Syria and Afghanistan, both countries have called for resolute action to bring about a lasting and peaceful solution, and defeating the forces of terrorism. 

NSG:

  • Russia has been a long standing supporter of India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. 
  • This support was also reflected in the Joint Statement adopted during President Putin’s visit to New Delhi in October for the 19th Annual Bilateral Summit.

UNSC:

  • In the recently adopted Joint Statement during the 19th Bilateral Summit, India & Russia reaffirmed the need to reform the UN Security Council to better reflect the current world order and make it more effective in dealing with emerging global challenges. 
  • Russia reiterated its unwavering support to India for Permanent Membership in an expanded UNSC.

DEFENCE AND SECURITY COOPERATION

Defence cooperation is an important pillar of the India-Russia strategic partnership. It is guided by the Programme for Military Technical Cooperation signed between the two countries. It enshrines the interest of the two governments to further develop and strengthen the military and technical cooperation in the sphere of research and development, production and after sales support of armament systems and various military equipment. 

India is the largest buyer of Russian military equipment and, at the same time, Russia is India’s principal defence partner.

  • India and Russia have an institutionalized structure to oversee the complete range of issues of military technical cooperation. The India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC), set up in 2000, is at the apex of this structure. 
  • Bilateral projects currently underway include indigenous production of T-90 tanks and Su-30-MKI aircraft, supply of MiG-29-K aircraft and Kamov-31 and Mi-17 helicopters, upgrade of MiG-29 aircraft and supply of Multi-Barrel Rocket Launcher Smerch.
  • 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.
  • India and Russia also recently 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. 
  • The S-400 long-range air defense system is the most visible recent indicator of the arms transfer relationship. India is buying five batteries of the S-400 system in a deal worth more than $5 billion despite the threat of U.S. sanctions. That India went ahead with the system regardless of the threat of sanctions is an indicator of India’s desire to maintain this aspect of its relationship with Russia.
  • In addition, Russia recently offered India three more Kilo-class submarines. These refurbished Kilos will join the nine other Kilo-class submarines in the Indian Navy. 
  • On 3 March 2019, in Amethi, 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. 
  • Further, under emergency procurement, the defence ministry has approved the purchase of $1.47 billion ‘Igla-S Very Short Range Air Defence Systems (VSHORAD)’ from Russia.

The two countries also hold exchanges and training exercises between their armed forces annually.

  • The first-ever Tri-Services exercise –‘INDRA 2017’ took place in Vladivostok from October 19 to 29, 2017. On December 13-16, bilateral Russian-Indian naval exercise Indra Navy-2018 was held in the Bay of Bengal. 
  • Joint Tri-Services Exercise ‘INDRA 2019’ between India and Russia was carried out simultaneously in Babina, Pune, and Goa from 10th -19th December 2019. 
  • Representatives from the Armed Forces of the Republic of India and the Eastern Command of the Russian Federation participated in the exercises, to strengthen field, marine and flight skills as well as improve cooperation between Russia and India’s armed forces.

The defence facet of the relationship is one of the strongest pillars of the India-Russia relationship and has withstood the test of time.  India, with Russia’s cooperation, has achieved capacity building in strategic areas through acquisitions and development of weapons.  Russia is committed to becoming a partner in the ‘Make in India’ programme. 

 

TRADE AND ECONOMIC RELATIONS

In 2019, total bilateral trade between the two countries from January-September, 2019 stood at USD 7.55 billion.

Major components of bilateral trade:

 Top 5 import items in India from Russia:

  1. Mineral fuels, mineral oils and products of their distillation;bituminous substances; mineral waxes 
  2. Natural or cultured pearls, precious or semi-precious stones, precious metals
  3. Nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances;
  4. Electrical machinery and equipment and parts 
  5. Fertilizers

Top 5 export items from India to Russia:

  1. Pharmaceutical products
  2. Electrical machinery and equipment and parts 
  3. Nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances;
  4. Organic chemicals
  5. Vehicles other than railway or tramway rolling-stock, and parts and accessories 

Bilateral investment

Russian investment in India in 2017 has reached 18bn USD and India’s total investment in Russia so far is 13 bn USD. The overall investment target of 30 bn USD that was set for 2025 has been already crossed. There has been a renewed emphasis on increasing the bilateral investment, especially in the hydrocarbon sector.

  • Some of the other major investments by Indian companies include ONGC Videsh Ltd. in Sakhalin-I Project (US $ 2.2 bn); Imperial Energy (US $ 2.1 bn); Commercial Bank of India Ltd. (JV of SBI and Canara Bank); 
  • Russian company Rosneft acquired ESSAR’s Vadinar refinery in India by concluding a deal in 2017. This deal was USD 12.9 billion, is one of the biggest Russian investments in India in recent times, planned India- Russia JV for production of titanium products in Odisha; branches by VTB and Sber bank; Joint Ventures automotive company between Russian KamazInc and Vectra Group.
  • India-Russia Strategic Economic Dialogue (IRSED) focuses on five core areas – Transport Infrastructure, Agriculture and agro-processing sector, Small & Medium Business support, Digital Transformation & Frontier technologies and Industrial & Trade Cooperation. 
  • India-Russia Startup Summit was held on December 11, 2018 focused on six core areas of cooperation, including; Trade, Banking, Finance, and Industry; and Tourism & Connectivity as well. The meetings focused on identifying potential sectors, cooperation in the Far East and establishing business linkages. 
  • The Russian Ministry of Economic Development has launched ‘Single window Service’ in October 2018 to facilitate hassle-free investment by Indian companies which will help achieve mutual trade and investment target. Some of the key priority sectors identified for focused interaction include hydrocarbons, pharmaceuticals, mining, fertilizers, heavy engineering, gems & jewelry, chemicals, fertilizers and agriculture & food processing industry.
  • Hydrocarbons is an active area for exploring cooperation between the two countries. The sides are working towards realization of an ‘Energy Bridge’ between the two countries, which is based on robust civil nuclear cooperation, LNG sourcing, partnership in the Oil and Gas sector, and engagement in renewable energy sources. 
  • Russia was also added as a new source for long-term LNG imports and the first cargo of Russian LNG reached India at Dahej, Gujarat in June 2018.
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