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    OpinionsModi-Putin meet in Moscow re-affirms a longstanding time-tested friendship

    Modi-Putin meet in Moscow re-affirms a longstanding time-tested friendship


    India-Russia ties an oasis of stability in a order of geopolitical churns

    By Annie Domini

    The 22nd India-Russia Annual Summit held in Moscow on July 8-9 2024 will go a long way in re-embellishing one of the most enduring friendships in the geopolitical theatre. Moscow and New Delhi have seen many ups and downs together, no matter who has been in power in the Grand Kremlin Palace or in the Parliament House. Fortunately, India-Russia ties are still regime change-proof, and have withstood the serial ideological onslaughts from the United States-led ‘rules-based order' of the West.

    The two-day bilateral summit between India and Russia (coming right before the NATO countries have their imperial huddle fronting all things Ukraine), saw the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, bestowing the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle on the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the highest state award by the country. Modi and Putin greeted each other in warm hugs, firm handshakes, and addressed each other as “dear friend” on several occasions. The fact that Russia is Modi's first international destination after securing a third term in office, albeit with a diminished mandate, speaks volumes about the importance of the Moscow-New Delhi all-weather strategic relationship. Moreover, Modi's latest visit comes after five years, the last time being a 2019 economic meet in Vladivostok, and is the first since the start of the Russia-Ukraine War in February 2022, as well as after Putin's landslide victory in the Russian presidential elections held in March this year.

    Crucially, the two-day meet with both formal and informal segments, saw the leaders charting an exhaustive list of issues covering economic and defence links, trade volume, cooperation in energy sector, developing Russia's Northern Sea Route together, cooperation in nuclear energy as well as space and other areas. The “Leaders' Joint Statement on the development of strategic areas of Russia-India economic cooperation for the period up to 2030” states that Moscow and New Delhi commit to “firmly adhering to the principles of mutual respect and equality, the sovereign development of the two countries on a mutually beneficial and long-term basis”, which will be “guided by the intention to maintain the trend of dynamic growth of trade in goods and services between the two states and the desire to ensure a significant increase in its volume by 2030”.

    As per the Leaders' Joint Statement, “bilateral economic cooperation” in nine key areas will be undertaken, including 1) elimination of non-tariff trade barriers, possibility of the EAEU-India Free Trade Area, achieving a mutual trade volume of 100 billion USD by 2030; 2) development of a bilateral settlement system using national currencies and digital financial instruments; 3) increase in cargo turnover along new routes of the North South International Transport Corridor, Russia's Northern Sea Route and the Chennai-Vladivostok Sea Line; 4) increased bilateral trade in agriculture, food and fertilizer; 5) cooperation in nuclear energy, oil refining, petrochemicals and mutual energy security; 6) infrastructure development; Indian and Russian companies in each other's markets, standardization of assessment; 7) joint projects in science, education, digital ; 8) medicine, medical and biological security; and 9) humanitarian cooperation in , tourism, , healthcare etc.

    The focus on economic ties aims to address the issue of trade imbalance, with India importing more from Russia, especially oil and other fuels, to help the latter tide over guelling post-Ukraine war Western sanctions. Delivering liquefied natural gas to India will further boost the Russian economy as the country will be able to effectively diversify away from Europe, while India will fuel its growing economy slated to soon become the world's third largest in GDP, surpassing Japan and Germany in the years to come.  Although, the total India-Russia trade volume is still roughly one-third of the Russia-China trade volume that stands at 240 billion USD, trade has been growing at an exponential rate, especially since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war. According to a report in Russia Today, “the volume of bilateral trade between Russia and India had continued to grow, hitting a record $23.1 billion in the first four months of the current year, marking a 10% rise versus the same period in 2023”.

    One of the pressing concerns has been the creation of a sustainable digital architecture of mutual payments in respective national currencies, with Rupee-Ruble exchange seeing serial hiccups in settlement. As BRICS countries seek to de-dollarise and create an alternative financial architecture for the Global South, moving away from the US dollar and its attendant restrictions, India and Russia have had testing times settling accounts in the mutual national currencies. Moreover, unwitting delays in defence supplies, India diversifying and indeginising its military procurements, and the confusion around recruitment of Indians in the Russian army as mercenaries, among other pending issues have been suitably addressed in the bilateral summit.

    In addition, Prime Minister Modi politely expressed concerns about the protracted Russia-Ukraine war, stressing on peace talks and negotiations over military solutions, for which President Putin thanked him. What Modi voiced was not an admonition of the Russian side, but merely the concerns of the Global South which wants peace and prosperity for all. This is in stark contrast to the high-voltage morality lectures in hypocrisy coming from the West, which unilaterally condemns Russia for far smaller transgressions while batting for the genocidal Israel's extermination of Gaza in the same breath.

    Modi's visit has been, expectedly, criticized in the Western press, which has been alarmed at the “hug” and the decoration of Modi with the highest Russian state award. Volodomyr Zelensky, the embattled President of Ukraine, has categorically condemned Modi's Moscow visit, especially on a day the Russians targeted some of the military installations in Kiev and a Ukrainian anti-defence missile landed on a children's hospital, which the Western press promptly pinned on Russia. Western disinformation aside, the Modi-Putin meet has been welcomed in most of the Global South, and crucially, in Beijing.

    Chinese press is awash with appreciative accounts of Modi-Putin meet, underlining that Beijing is happy to see deepening India-Russia cooperation, while expressing displeasure at the West's attempt to “sow discord” between China, India and Russia. According to an editorial in the Global Times, “China does not view closer Russian-Indian relations as a threat, whereas Western countries are increasingly dissatisfied with India's relations with Russia”. It added: “Western countries have sought to pull India into the Western camp and counterbalance China's influence, but India's response has not reciprocated the political and diplomatic gestures extended by the West”. Furthermore, the Global Times wrote: “Despite Western pressure, Modi opted for Russia as his first destination for a foreign visit after beginning his third term last month. This move not only aims to strengthen India's ties with Russia, but also enhances its leverage in dealing with the US and other Western nations.”

    Evidently, the Western press is flooded with headlines expressing discontent, such as “Russia is a strategic spoiler in Indo-Pacific”, “Modi's Moscow Miscalculation”, “India Charts Its Own Course”, “India's Balancing Act”, etc. However, it's reassuring to see not only New Delhi and Moscow brushing off Western sermons by ever-deepening mutual ties, but also Beijing respond maturely and cordially to the development. With Russia-India ties staying steadfast and time-tested as ever, could Moscow help precipitate a serious détente between New Delhi and Beijing? Geopolitics, as they say, is the art of the possible.

    (IPA Service)

    The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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