Long-Lasting Ties

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 06 Aug 2017 13:47:57


India and Russia have long shared cultural ties and now after the comparative lull in the relationship in the 90s, under the new NDA dispensation in India, greater cooperation is being envisaged.

 
The possibilities have further been bolstered by Putin’s declaration that Russia’s ‘trust-based’ relations with India — which he described as one of its ‘closest friends’ — will not be diluted by Moscow’s growing ties with Pakistan and other countries.

 

IN A candid interaction with reporters on diplomacy and global politics, Russian President Vladimir Putin recently spoke highly of India and stressed Russia’s indelible relationship with India. Putin asserted that Russia’s ‘trust-based’ relations with India would not be diluted by Moscow’s ties with Pakistan or other countries. There is no doubt that Russia has been one of India’s oldest and trusted friends with long-standing mutual cooperation in several fields of technology and defence. Way back in the Nehruvian-era, India was modelled on the Russian socialist system in several ways and in the lean years after India’s Independence, Russia was India’s most dependable partner which helped her establish her industrial and technological base. We cannot deny Russia’s role in helping India lay her foundations in the 1950s. Indian and Russian economic and social standards were almost on par during those days because both had evolved from the ruins of violence
and bloodshed.

A new Russia was also born through much pain and struggle in the revolution years and it was trying to chalk a progressive roadmap for itself, breaking the shackles of a feudalistic dominion of the czars.
The scars of violence were as fresh in Russia’s psyche as it was for India after Partition in 1947, just 30 years after the Russian revolution. The shared experiences of bitterness and uncertainty had haunted both the countries at different times and hence both the countries found a common resonance in their aspirations and future possibilities. This common misery brought the countries together and India-Russia formed a strong anti-US block, though officially India was a non-aligned nation, without any obligation towards any ‘group’ per say.

But this Indo-Russian co-operation early on established the foundation for a long-lasting relationship because the technological and industrial tie-ups and commitments between the countries by default brought them in constant interaction, which continues till today.
Though the discourse in between shifted towards the US, China and Pakistan which also had to do with growing menace of terrorism from the 90s and change in Russia’s political alignments etc.
Russia played a subdued role in global affairs for quite some time, before the assertive Putin started to make its presence felt. In this new emergent situation, where along with India and China, Russia too is eyeing a major role in the Asian-Eurasian region, India’s relation with it holds great importance.

India and Russia have long shared cultural ties and now after the comparative lull in the relationship in the 90s, under the new NDA dispensation in India, greater cooperation is being envisaged. The possibilities have further been bolstered by Putin’s declaration that Russia’s ‘trust-based’ relations with India — which he described as one of its ‘closest friends’ — will not be diluted by Moscow’s growing ties with Pakistan and other countries.

During the interaction, Putin told PTI that there is no other country in the world that Russia has “deep co-operation” in delicate areas such as missiles, and it benefits from co-operation with India. “India is a huge country with more than one billion population. Russia is also a huge country. Both Russia and India have a lot of context and mutual interests.

“We are respectful toward all Indian interests,” he said, citing the deep defence relations between the two countries Pakistan-Russia recent hobnobbing has been taken note of by India which raises her concerns but Vladimir Putin’s stakes are much higher in India by virtue of the possibilities she offers, thanks to its economic, geographical and demographic size which is way more than Pakistan’s, even if we sideline the historical commonalities and shared interests.

“We not only understand each other but also support each other,” the leader said in the context of India. Russia has also categorically said that it was opposed to terrorism and stands with India in her fight against the same. Russia too has borne the brunt of terror strikes and its commitment towards ending terrorism has to be serious. “It (terrorism) is unacceptable and we will always support India in its fight against terrorism,” Putin said.

Russia has economic deals with Pakistan but, as Putin put it, “We do not have any tight (military) relations with Pakistan.” Russia certainly will not directly or indirectly help Pakistan in fuelling terrorism.
In Russia’s commitment towards fighting terrorism, India finds a strong ally, which is an important development in the region. Russia’s rise is counterproductive in some ways to Chinese expansionist ambitions and the more India unites with Russia, greater will be the pressure on China and subsequently Pakistan, which rides piggybank on China’s diplomatic highhandedness. Russia has more global acceptance than China and more clout in affairs of the West, which also portends well for India’s diplomatic reach. It was clear from Putin’s overtures that Russia has a long willingness to share high-end defence technology including missile technology with India, which most other countries restrict.

This will make India militarily better equipped to wield power in international and border diplomacy. Russia too wants to undercut China’s hegemony in the region and push a strong counter-narrative to downplay China’s self-proclaimed supremacy. China’s rise is a collective threat for both India and Russia as well as the US and European interests.

Therefore Russia’s newfound warmth for India has certainly to do something with China’s moves as well. Putin, shrewd as he is, will never allow Xi Jinping hijack the discourse and dictate terms in South East Asia, with Russia, being a part of Asia too as it is, sitting mute. Russia’s best bet is therefore to strengthen ties with India, the most important country in the region after China and much more open, flexible and democratic
than China.

India also holds more promise for possibilities of the future due to its vast youth population against an ageing Chinese populace. Russia must be factoring in these positives in India’s favour. By the way, more importantly, Russia must be sensing that the new Government in India is proactive not only in fostering ties but also in ensuring all-round development of the country including scientific, technological and defence advancements and it makes economic and strategic sense for Russia to co-operate with India in technology sharing and research collaborations.