- Indo-Russia bilateral relations: Continuity and Change
- China angle
- Pakistan angle
- Why Russia is important for us?
- What needs to be done?
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GS (M) Paper-2: “India and its neighbourhood- relations.”
- Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the 18th edition of the Indo-Russian annual summit at St. Petersburg, Russia.
- Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin have signed General Framework Agreement and the Credit Protocol for the construction units of five and six at Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant.
- Both countries also agreed to expand their bilateral economic cooperation to third countries with joint development projects in various sectors.
Indo-Russia bilateral relations: Continuity and Change
Four necessary elements are important to understand in this regard:
- 30% of India’s oil and gas comes from Russia with reasonable price.
- ONGC Videsh (OVL) of India has equity shares in Shakhalin oil and gas fields.
- Russia is the only country cooperating with India on nuclear energy.
- India’s defense relationship with Russia is still strong as India as part of legacy will have to continue to buy Russian equipment and spare parts from very long time.
- However, defense relationship is starting to fray partly because Russia doesn’t make some of the kinds of technology India need.
- For example, drone technology. India has the world’s largest Israeli-made drone fleet but it’s not an area where the Russians have between particularly good especially the variety of drones that India needs.
- There are certain other technologies which Russia gives to china that India is reluctant to share or get from Russia.
- If this trend persists, Russia will be among the four or five defence partners of India against single largest partner.
- Russia’s relationship with china has achieved a certain stage in which it feels it can no longer give India a favourable position in terms of many thing. Russia is very clear that it can no longer discriminate between India and China.
- For Russia, relationship with China is now one of almost dependency. Economically Russia has no choice partly because of western sanctions.
- Afghanistan is one of the areas where Russia has become very close to the Chinese in Pakistan position.
- Both nations have Government to Government (G2G) relationship i.e. most purchases of oil, nuclear or weapons take place between two governments.
- However private Indian companies still avoid Russia because they say Russia is very difficult place to work to do business. Moreover, getting a Russian visa is now still a major source of contention.
- The nature of the Russian economy is very different. For example, there’s almost no Small Medium Enterprise (SME) sector in Russia and as a consequence India’s attempts to promote SME trade between India and Russia is hopeless.
- Russia remains very much a commodity based government and state-owned economy whereas Indian economy is now diversifying in different directions. Changing the very nature of economies of both nations is very difficult.
- Nowadays Russia continues to be a very low on priority list of Indian private sector. Apart from Russia, other options are also available for them.
- On Russian side, they face difficulty in understanding how the Indian system especially the private sector works as they are comfortable only with the G2G relations.
- Recently, China has organized the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), also known as OBOR (One Belt, One Road) project, summit in Beijing and India refused to participate in the summit.
- Actually, Russia in its own interest doesn’t see any problems in OBOR as in case of the connectivity with Central Asia, Russia has its own designs to reassert itself in this part of the world. Also, Russia doesn’t have the financial wherewithal to subsidize this kind of developmental projects.
- India has not been able to offer an alternative in a long ago. For example, in case of Ganges Mekong connectivity, India has done nothing with it. Even India has problems with delivering on simple road making equipment to Myanmar.
- However, according to experts, China is in pretty serious economic trouble. Moody’s have also downgraded their debt and their debt is something like 300 percent of the GDP. There’s no other G20 economy that has that level of debt. China’s external debt is something like 1.4 trillion dollars so it’s not as if they have unlimited funds to throw around here and there and build rail and pipelines.
- For bilateral relationship, there is not a question of arms supplies to Pakistan as President Putin is pointed out that a lot of their Western partners are supplying much more sophisticated weaponry to Pakistan.
- President Putin also clarified that Russia does not have any tight military relationship with Pakistan and asserted that its close friendship with India cannot be diluted.
- The danger is that Russia is being sucked into the Sino-Pakistan Nexus in the South Asian region and principally that concerns Afghanistan.
Why Russia is important for us?
- Regarding Indo-Russia bilateral relations, there are some positive aspects. President Putin stated that Russia has not that kind of relations with any other countries in the world it has with India.
- Russia has been the one country that has been fairly free in giving reasonably cutting-edge technology whether it’s military or any other matters.
- Russia has given us very strategic assistance for many of our projects that cannot be denied.
- Russia becomes very important because it is the primary source of high technology in the military realm and in terms of the Moscow’s willingness to assist us in critical areas of our own development.
- Even today the kind of technology which the Russians are willing to share with us is something nobody else will. For example, jet engines. Russians have enormous experience in some of the best jet engines. Although it is almost a hundred years old technology but India not being able to make up a viable jet engines.
What needs to be done?
- Both sides have to work harder in order to understand each other’s concerns and to the extent possible address them.
- India has to deliver what he has agreed and promised both in terms of bilateral commitments or in terms of joint statements.
- India has to begin investing in its own technology instead of buying from Westinghouse, a bankrupt US company.
- There might be very little financial logic for India trying to acquire Westinghouse by paying out huge humongous sums for an uncertified reactor (uncertified by the American Atomic Energy Commission for safety reasons).
- India’s Eurasia approach is unworkable without an Iran connection.
- India has to focus on two things: First is economy. India is doing reasonably well not as well as it could. The second is to build up a hard power.
- India also needs to focus with the Russians on energy. Putin also mentioned this that they are going to be supplying LNG to India. However, it doesn’t make sense for India to transport all the way from the Far East of Russia to India. The best way to do a swap through Qatar, Japan and Korea.
- There are tensions between the Russians and the Americans. India is in a very uniquely placed to try and bridge those tensions. That’s a role which the Russians would really welcome from our side.