From the time `India-Russia Strategic Partnership’ was inked in 2000, the leaders of the two countries have never skipped the annual meeting.
Two developments have fuelled speculations about the deterioration of ties between Moscow and New Delhi. One is the cancellation of the Annual Summit between India and Russia and the second is the statement of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov against the US designs in Indo-Pacific- especially the Quad. From the time `India-Russia Strategic Partnership’ was inked in 2000, the leaders of the two countries have never skipped the annual meeting.
“This is an important instrument of bilateral mechanism and shows the level of the enhanced strategic partnership between the two countries. Japan is another country with which India has developed such a mechanism,” opines Prof Rajan Kumar, School of International Studies, JNU.
Some of the commentators began to speculate that this may have been due to Moscow’s unease with the Quad- a group consisting of the US, Japan, India and Australia in Indo-Pacific to check the rising influence of China. However, the Ministry of External Affairs stated COVID as the reason for the “mutually agreed decision to cancel the summit”.
This is indeed a fact that Russia is concerned about the US designs in Indo-Pacific. Sergey Lavrov, the foreign minister of Russia, stated earlier that the US is putting pressure on India to join its networks in the Indio-Pacific, and is trying to create a rift between India and Russia.
The US would like India to lower the level of its ties with Russia. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to assume that India is doing this under external pressure, or that it will impinge on its ties with Russia.
New Delhi considers its ties with Moscow as independent of its ties with other countries. The Quad is not geared towards Russia and Moscow is aware of its objectives. Given strategic concerns arising out of Chinese expansionism, collaboration has become a necessity in the Indo-Pacific.
India regards Russia as a unique and special partner, but its security concerns are different in the Indo-Pacific and in its neighbourhood. The Quad remained dormant until China pursued a moderate policy in the Indo-Pacific and at the Himalayan borders. China’s recent assertiveness has pushed India closer to the US.
However, according to Prof Rajan Kumar, “There is no serious deterioration in ties between the two countries. The Quad is not the primary security concern of Russia. Russia’s primary security concerns emanate from its neighbourhood.”
Sharing his views on Indo-Russia relations and its impact on CIS and other countries, Prof Rajan says, “India’s relations with the Central Asian states are to a large extent contingent upon its ties with Russia. Russia has an overbearing economic and security presence in Central Asia. India’s connectivity projects from Chabahar to Afghanistan and the North-South Transport Corridor will get affected if the ties between the two countries deteriorate. India’s other economic projects will also suffer if ties downslide.”
“But since there is no clear indication of deterioration of ties between the two countries as yet, we are still in the realm of speculation. India has strong ties with Russia, and continues to be a member of the SCO in the region,” he states.
“India should communicate clearly to Russia its geopolitical compulsions in the region. It has a strategic threat from two of its neighbours, and therefore, it looks for other partners in the Indo-Pacific. Russia’s neutrality does not help the cause of India. Its ties with the US will not come at the cost of its relationship with Russia- this needs to be articulated,” Prof Rajan suggests.