Russia-India bilateral ties and the Ukraine issue

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    In Context

    • Recently, the Inter-governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation meet was held between India & Russia.

    Inter-governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation meet 

    • Surge in trade:
      • India and Russia hailed the surge in bilateral trade (up by 2.6 times in the past year, and at about $45 billion), surpassing the 2025 target. 
    • Trade challenges:
      • Both sides noted the problem of trade imbalance, calling for more market access and the use of “national currencies” to circumvent sanctions.
      • Russian Deputy Prime Minister, during the meet, suggested that Indian companies could increase exports in road construction and pharmaceuticals
      • India’s External Affairs Minister said that Indian businesses should guard against “over-compliance” when it comes to increasing trade with Russia, due to concerns over western sanctions.
    • FTA between India and the Eurasian Economic Union:
      • They also referred to progress in negotiations for an FTA between India and the Eurasian Economic Union, that was launched in 2017. 
        • Its signing could catapult trade, which has been the laggard in bilateral ties dominated by defence, nuclear and space cooperation.

    Increased trade & Ukraine issue:

    • Issue:
      • While the impetus in trade and the effort to balance imports and exports with Russia are welcome, it is hard to ignore the circumstances surrounding these developments

    • Since Russia’s war in Ukraine began last year, and western sanctions drastically cut Russian exports, Moscow has turned increasingly to India and other countries including China that have not joined the sanctions to export resources. 
    • India’s oil imports from Russia (a negligible 0.2%), have jumped since the war to a massive 28% of its total oil intake, contributing to trade as well as a growing deficit.
    • India’s decision:
      • When the war with Ukraine broke out, many countries, including India, scrambled to find trade alternatives for commodities Russia exported.
      • India’s decision on purchasing oil from Russia will continue to be guided by its energy security requirements.
      • Heavy discounts offered on Russian crude and fertilizers has compelled India to maintain trade.
    • Global discomfort:
      • India’s decision to purchase discounted crude oil from Russia is triggering concern among a number of Western powers.
      • The impression that New Delhi is “benefitting from the war” is gaining traction in Western countries.

    India’s Stand on Russia’s War with Ukraine

    • India’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been distinctive among the major democracies and among U.S. strategic partners. 
    • Despite its discomfort with Moscow’s war, New Delhi has adopted studied public neutrality toward Russia
    • It has abstained from successive votes in the UN Security Council, General Assembly, and Human Rights Council that condemned Russian aggression in Ukraine and thus far has refused to openly call out Russia as the instigator of the crisis. 
    • India has been under immense indirect pressure from Western nations that have openly condemned Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine. 
    • India has been pressing for the resolution of the crisis through diplomacy and dialogue.

    India-Russia Relations

    • India and Russia have a history of strong strategic, military, economic, and diplomatic relationships.
    • Political Relations:
      • 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. 
      • So far 20 Annual Summit meetings have taken place alternatively in India and Russia. 
    • Intergovernmental Commissions: 
      • There is regular high-level interaction between the two countries.
      • The IRIGC (India-Russia Intergovernmental Commission): 
        • It is the main body that conducts affairs at the governmental level between both countries. Both countries are members of international bodies including the UN, BRICS, G20 and SCO.
      • 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.
    • Trade and Economic Relations: 
      • Both sides revised targets of increasing bilateral investment to US $50 billion and bilateral trade to US $30 billion by 2025. 
        • India’s merchandise imports from Russia include petroleum oil and other fuel items, fertilizers, coffee and tea, spices, nuclear reactors, and animal and vegetable fats, among others.
    • Nuclear Energy: 
      • Russia recognizes India as a country with advanced nuclear technology with an impeccable non-proliferation record. 
      • Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) is being built in India with Russian cooperation. 
    • Space Cooperation: 
      • 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.
    • 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.
    • Cultural Cooperation: 
      • There is a strong tradition of Indian studies in Russia. 
      • There is strong interest among Russian people in Indian dance, music, yoga and Ayurveda.
    • Defence and Security Cooperation:
      • India has longstanding and wide-ranging cooperation with Russia in the field of defence. 
      • 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 termed INDRA.

    Daily Mains Question

    [Q] India’s efforts to balance imports and exports with Russia are welcome but, it is hard to ignore the circumstances surrounding these developments. Analyse. What is India’s Stand on Russia’s War with Ukraine?