Towards Closer Delhi-Moscow Ties

Russian President Vladimir Putin will arrive in Delhi on Tuesday to further push post-Yeltsin diplomacy to adjust to a world caught between the forces of globalization and terrorism. India and Russia are in the process of redefining their relations with each other and with the rest of the world, now rid of cold war, old antagonisms and nonaligned rhetoric. Pragmatism and self-interest have become the motors of international relations. They recognize neither friends nor foes. Countries have only interests, evident from the manner in which old ideological enemies are shedding fossilized mindsets to come to terms with daunting realities. The changes in China enabling it to negotiate globalization without abandoning its communist moorings indicate the beginning of a new order. Putin’s second visit to Delhi has to be seen in this background.

After the break-up of the Soviet Union, Delhi-Moscow relations have entered a new phase replete with both convergences and divergences. The convergences are fertilized by 40 years of Indo-Soviet friendship and collaboration in championing third world causes. The Delhi summit is expected to give a new strategic depth to bilateral ties paving the way for mega projects in defense and economic spheres. Prospects are bright for pooling efforts and resources for big-time projects in defense, energy, hydrocarbons, diamonds and metallurgy. Other areas include technological co-operation for peaceful uses of atomic energy and outer space. Russia has agreed to supply and help jointly manufacture T-90 tanks, supply SU-30 fighter jets, MiG 29K-air defense planes and transfer aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov.

A significant chunk of military hardware of India’s three armed services is of Russian or Soviet manufacture. Russia has supplied India military hardware worth $ 30 billion since 1960. According to Dr Nick Evsenkin, co-chairman of the Indo-Russian Strategic Forum, “India and Russia have approached such a high level of defense co-operation that is possible only between close allies, for example, the Anglo-Saxon nations, the United States and Great Britain, whose companies Lockheed-Martin and British Aerospace have joined forces for a fifth generation fighter.” In his last visit, Putin signed with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee the Declaration on Strategic Partnership, a long-term perspective on bilateral relations based both on geostrategic realities and economic opportunities.

Allies during the cold war, Russia remains India’s main defense supplier and as A.I.Nikolaev, chairman of Russian Duma’s committee on defense, says “ Russia needs India as much as India needs Russia. We understand perfectly well that in strengthening the defense of India we thereby strengthen our own security.” The heart of Indo-Russian relations is defense co-operation and it embraces joint production of Brahmos cruise missile and joint manufacture of advanced submarines. The SU-30 project is engaging almost all production capacities of the Hindustan Aeronautics. Consequently, aviation industry in both countries has acquired the capacity to undertake joint development, production and marketing of medium range transport aircraft.

Putin’s visit is expected to expand the range and content of Indo-Russian collaboration against secessionism and cross-border terrorism, to monitor and respond to India’s concerns relating to Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and to impart greater depth and strength to the existing matrix of many-sided partnership. India and Russia have agreed to complement each other’s efforts at the UN to finalize the conventions against terrorism and make them mandatory. These convergences are the result of common perceptions relating to the creation of a multi-polar world based on a co-operative security order. Both the countries share belligerent neighbors and security threats from across the border. Both view with great concern unilateral interventions in the name of human rights, protectionism in the garb of labor and environmental standards.

Delhi and Moscow have shed old prejudices and are separately opening up to strengthen relations with China, the United States, European Union and Asean constituents. Putin is dedicated to reviving his country’s economy and make it a power to reckon with. The recovery of political equations with former allies in East Europe and Central Asian Republics has become important for Russia in the context of Nato overtures and the rush of American companies to exploit oil and natural gas resources in the region. It is true that Russia’s foreign policy has become Eurocentric but this tilt is balanced by its reported desire to forge a triangular axis with India and China as other members.

One area of concern for Putin and Vajpayee is the low level of bilateral trade that figured in the talks a senior member of Putin’s cabinet Ilya Klebanov had with senior Indian officials recently. He indicated that the Russian President’s itinerary in Delhi would pave the way for closer co-operation in the fields of telecom and hydrocarbons. There is indication that Russian steel majors may help Indian metallurgical units in the public sector recover commercial viability. Under consideration are joint ventures in telecommunications. With such projects in the pipeline, both countries may expect rapid growth in bilateral trade from the $ 1.5 billion to a potential $ 5 billion in 2005.

The Indian side acknowledges underachievement in bilateral trade, much of which is through the rupee repayment track helping India repay the rouble debt of the Soviet Union days. According to India’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Digvijay Singh “bilateral trade between the two countries is stagnating. Both of us are looking into ways and means of diversifying bilateral trade so as to step up the turnover beyond last year’s $ 1.4 billion.” Moscow and Delhi are gradually shifting from traditional areas of economic interaction like power, steel, coal and pharmaceuticals to space, information technology, robotics and oil exploration. They have already signed a memorandum on setting up a 2000-megawatt nuclear power plant Kundankulam in Tamil Nadu.

A highlight of Putin’s visit will be to affix his signature on the Declaration on the lines of Moscow Declaration, which Vajpayee had signed during his visit to the Russian capital. It will be a comprehensive document spelling out the convergence of perspectives in the light of post-September 11 scenario. The Declaration will reiterate the determination of the two countries to fight terrorism and reaffirm common concerns in the security and political areas. The Moscow Declaration signified complete agreement on this issue and acknowledged that terrorism was a crime against humanity.

There are honest differences between the two countries on issues such as Kashmir. Russia seems to have the same dilemmas as the United States in negotiating Indo-Pak discord. It needs the co-operation of Islamabad to combat terrorism. But Russia has been consistent in its support of India’s candidature for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Regardless of these divergences, both countries share common perceptions and concerns in many areas and look to the positive side of their co-operation.

Dasu Krishnamoorty Special for PRAVDA.Ru

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