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'India great power and a time-tested friend', says Russia's Vladimir Putin

India, Russia hold 21st summit, and first 2+2 dialogue; sign 28 agreements

India Russia | indian government | India-Russia ties

Ajai Shukla  |  New Delhi 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi receives Russian President Vladimir Putin at Hyderabad House in New Delhi (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi and Moscow on Monday issued to the world a high-visibility reminder about their “Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership”, as Prime Minister and Russian President held the 21st India-Russia Summit, an annual ritual missed only in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Leading into the 21st summit meeting, India and Russia held their first-ever 2 + 2 Ministerial Dialogue, in which External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh together held strategic discussions with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.

“We perceive India as a great power, a friendly nation and a time-tested friend. The relations between our countries are growing and I am looking into the future,” Putin said in his initial comments.

Putin also expressed concern over the developments in Afghanistan and said India and Russia will continue to coordinate on major challenges facing the region.

Modi said Putin’s second visit abroad during the Covid-19 pandemic reflected his personal commitment to the and that the special and privileged strategic partnership between the two sides was getting stronger. In the last few decades, the world witnessed many fundamental changes and different kinds of geopolitical equations and variables, but the friendship of India and Russia remained constant, Modi said. “Your visit to India is a reflection of your commitment to ties with India,” the PM said.

Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said 28 agreements were concluded between India and Russia after Modi-Putin meet. After the 2+2 meeting, Jaishankar tweeted: “A productive exchange of perspectives on cross-cutting and inter-related issues. Will be reporting it to the Annual Summit later today.”

Earlier on Monday, there was a meeting of the apex body that governs defence relations between the two: The Indo-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC), co-chaired by the two defence ministers, Singh and Shoigu.

India’s military uses Russian weaponry extensively, such as Sukhoi-30MKI fighter aircraft, T-90S tanks and BMP infantry combat vehicles, Talwar-class frigates, and Kilo-class submarines. The two sides have jointly produced the highly regarded BrahMos cruise missile system.

During the 17th annual summit, the two countries concluded deals on India’s procurement of five units of the S-400 air defence systems for an estimated ~37,000 crore, constructing Talwar-class frigates under Project 1135.6, and a shareholders’ agreement on a joint venture (JV) to manufacture Kamov-226T helicopters in India.

The S400 is regarded as the world’s premier long-range missile system, with the ability to shoot down enemy aircraft at ranges up to 400 kilometres. During the confrontation over the last two years between the Chinese and Indian armies in Ladakh, China deployed the S400 along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

On March 3, 2019, in Amethi, Modi announced another JV —Indo-Russian Rifles — that would manufacture 750,000 AK-203 assault rifles in Korwa under the “Make in India” programme for an estimated $687 million. Russia is also competing for a ~40,000-crore deal for building six submarines in India under Project 75I, and a ~50,000-60,000 crore agreement to manufacture 114 fighter aircraft in India.

To ensure that Russian defence equipment was not hampered by any shortfall in maintenance or spare parts, the two sides agreed during the 20th Annual Summit in Vladivostok in September 2019 to cooperate in producing spare parts for Russian/Soviet military equipment.

The India-Russia defence partnership is being tested by Washington, especially through the piece of legislation the US Congress passed in 2017, titled CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act). This provides for US sanctions on countries that have significant defence or intelligence relations with Russia, Iran, or North Korea. India’s purchase of the S400 missile system is regarded as a potential trigger for Washington to impose sanctions.

While the US Congress has created a “CAATSA waiver” for close partners such as India, the US president is required to determine whether to exercise that waiver. So far, President Joe Biden has not stated a preference.

India, which faces a growing threat from China, is determined to buy the S400 from Russia. Asked whether New Delhi would bow to CAATSA pressure, India’s foreign ministry spokesperson said last week: “India and the US have a special global strategic partnership. And we also have a very special and privileged strategic partnership with Russia. And as you’re all aware, we pursue an independent foreign policy. This applies to our defence acquisitions, and supplies which are and will continue to be guided by our security interest.”

New Delhi and Moscow have identified trade and economic relations as a priority area. Modi and Putin have set a bilateral investment target of $50 billion and a bilateral trade target of $30 billion by 2025.

(With inputs from PTI)

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First Published: Tue, December 07 2021. 01:24 IST