India and Russia reaffirmed their commitment for continued partnership in the areas of trade, investment, space, energy, scientific and military cooperation. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit was considered important for its timing and some of the concerns that have appeared in the ties between the two countries. He visited immediately after the virtual summit meeting of the Quad, and the visit of US’ Defence Secretary, Llyod Austin. Therefore, it was widely believed that the Quad, and defence purchase of India from Russia will figure prominently in the discussion.
The Russian Minister avoided mentioning the term Quad, but he made it clear that such blocs are counterproductive. “He reiterated that the ASEAN should play a central role in the affairs of the “Asia-Pacific”. It is interesting to note that the term used was “Asia-Pacific” and not the “Indo-Pacific” which is used by the West and India. Russia does not agree to the concept of Indo-Pacific advanced by the US,” observes Prof Rajan Kumar, School of International Studies, JNU.
In his opening remarks the Russian minister talked about building up investment cooperation under the national programmes of both the countries as well as giving special attention to energy, including nuclear energy, peaceful space exploration and transport infrastructure projects in the Far East and the Arctic.
Besides increasing the use of national currencies in mutual settlements, Russia is keen for an early start of the talks on a free-trade zone between the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and India along the lines of mutual benefit.
The bilateral military-technical cooperation (MTC), including the joint production of the latest weapons in India is one of main pillars of the India-Russia relations. He had also told the media persons that Russia is India’s leading external contractor in the strategically critical area and only partner giving India cutting-edge military technology.
Both countries are working in various fields including rocket engine production, satellite navigation, peaceful space exploration, and laying special emphasis on such areas as manned flight programmes.
Sharing his thoughts on the remarks made by the Russian minister, according to Prof Rajan “ Lavrov clarified that Russia and China have the “best relationship ever”, but it does not presage a military-alliance between the two countries. It is a fact that the two countries do not have a military alliance as yet, but some Russian scholars argue that if pushed further Russia might forge an alliance with China.”
“On the controversial issue of defence procurements from Russia, Lavrov referred to the open announcement of the US to put pressure on countries importing weapons from there. He re-emphasised the role of Russia in providing cutting edge military technology to India. The joint statement reiterated the continued defence cooperation between the two countries. India is unlikely to come under the US pressure on the commitments which have already been made, including the S-400 defence missiles,” Prof Rajan says.
Lavrov’s meeting is seen as a preparatory one for the summit meeting between the Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi sometime later this year.