India Russia to expand cooperation in Central Asia

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    In Context 

    • India and Russia are looking at expanding cooperation in Central Asia and the possibility of supplementing bilateral exercises with trilateral and multilateral ones.

    Major Points 

    • India and Russia are expecting to conclude the bilateral logistics agreement, Reciprocal Exchange of Logistics Agreement (RELOS), and a Navy to Navy cooperation Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) when Russian Defence Minister Gen Sergei Shoigu visits India later this year. 
    • There are specific defence and national security considerations that led India to conclude the contract for the supply of S-400 systems
    • Both countries are also scheduled to hold the maiden 2+2 ministerial dialogue during the visit of Gen Shoigu.
    • Both sides were also looking at how they can cooperate in using India as a production base for exporting to third countries of Russian-origin equipment and services and will add to the Make in India programme. 
      • Russia will remain a key defence partner for India for decades to come

    India-Russia Relations 

    Historical: 

    • Russia has been a longstanding and time-tested partner for India. The development of India-Russia relations has been a key pillar of India’s foreign policy.
    • India and the former Soviet Union had signed a Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation on August 9, 1971.
    • Since the signing of the “Declaration on the India-Russia Strategic Partnership” in October 2000, 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.

    Political Relations:

    • 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 EAM and the Russian DPM, and another on Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC- MTC) co-chaired by Russian and Indian Defence Ministers, meet annually. 
    • Russia has been a long-standing supporter of India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. 

    Defence and Security Cooperation:

    •  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.
    • Both sides concluded agreements on the supply of S-400 air defence systems, construction of frigates under Project 1135.6 and shareholders agreement on the formation of a joint venture to manufacture Ka-226T helicopters in India.
    • 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

    Trade and economic relations: 

    • Intensifying the trade and economic relations has been identified as a priority area by the leaders on both sides as is clear by the revised targets of increasing bilateral investment to the US $ 50 billion and bilateral trade to the US $ 30 billion by 2025. 

    Nuclear Energy:

    • 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.
      •  In Dec 2014, DAE and Russia’s Rosatom signed the Strategic Vision for strengthening cooperation in peaceful uses of atomic energy

    Space Cooperation:

    • 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 systems, remote sensing and other societal applications of outer space. 
    • Science & Technology
    • The Working Group on Science and Technology functioning under IRIGC-TEC, the Integrated Long Term Programme (ILTP) and the Basic Science Cooperation Programme are the three main institutional mechanisms for bilateral Science and Technology cooperation, while the Science Academies of the two countries promote inter-academy exchanges.
    • Cultural Cooperation
      • There is a strong tradition of Indian studies in Russia. 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. 

    Challenges 

    • Russia has been useful to India in some ways, particularly in enhancing Indian military power. But Moscow’s political compulsion to support China is a warning. India’s dependence on Moscow for weapons is a vulnerability that the Indian decision-makers need to take more seriously.
    •  Russia is also helping China set up its missile early warning system, one of the most sensitive bits of technology for any nuclear power. 
    • The source of divergence between Indian and Russian interests lies in the continuing problems that Russia faces in its relations with the US. 
      • In the aftermath of the general economic slowdown and Russia’s ongoing dispute with the West over the Ukraine issue, Russia has emphasized import substitution due to which, there has been a significant reduction in Russia’s external trade.
        • India has also been affected by this contraction in Russian exports and imports.
    • The Afghanistan crisis would impact both India and Russia and normal inter-state relations especially with respect to Central Asia, with additional threats emanating from drug trafficking, organized crime and the flow of refugees.

    Way Forward 

    • It is important for India and Russia to adapt to new realities, step up their cooperation and insulate and protect their national interests from the instability that is expected to radiate out of Afghanistan for some time to come. 
    • India and Russia will need to work together even more than before. This is vital for protecting India’s continental security interests
    • Both the countries  should pursue their bilateral relationship, which is of high value for both in this more complex and international environment
    • Both have worked together to overcome the difficulties of the Covid pandemic and there are chances for bilateral relations to emerge even stronger as a result of our planned meetings this year.

    Source: TH