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Bilateral ties between India and Russia
Dec 29, 2014

The term ‘Druzhba-Dosti’ signifies a shared vision for strengthening the Indian-Russian Partnership over the next decade. India deeply values the contributions made by Russia to India’s developmental and defence needs since the second half of the twentieth century. The Declaration on Strategic Partnership of 2000 and the Annual Summits it initiated between the two countries, have allowed the two countries to redefine and strengthen their partnership in the twenty-first century. Annual Summit meeting between the Prime Minister of India and the President of the Russian Federation is the highest institutionalized dialogue mechanism under the Strategic Partnership between India and the Russian Federation. The scope of bilateral ties and cooperation has been extended to include the following.

Oil and Gas:

  • Russia is the world`s top source for hydrocarbon resources and, India one of the world`s largest importers. Yet, despite close friendship, the bilateral collaboration in this sector has been disappointing. But a new start with a few important agreements has been made.

  • The bilateral program ‘on enhanced cooperation in oil and gas sphere’ underlines the serious commitments of the two countries to develop cooperation in this area of great promise. 

  • The two countries will study the possibilities of building a hydrocarbon pipeline system, connecting the Russian Federation with India.

  • Besides, ONGC Videsh Limited has substantive investments in oil and gas projects in Russia and its Arctic offshore.

Nuclear energy:

  • The two countries have a joint vision for cooperation in nuclear energy, aimed at serial construction of nuclear power units, based on Russian design. Russia offered 12 nuclear reactors to India. 

  • Towards this objective, the Indian side has agreed to identify a second site, in addition to Kudankulam, for the construction of the Russian-designed nuclear power units in India.

Regional multilateral cooperation in energy:

  • The first Asia-Pacific Energy Forum (APEF), held in May 2013, laid the foundation for an enhanced regional energy dialogue under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).

Energy Efficiency:

  • The energy efficiency agencies of the two countries will engage more closely to exchange experiences and best practices.

  • India and Russia will also cooperate in the development and efficient use of renewable energy.

Space Technology:

  • The space agencies of India and Russia will engage more actively on space technology applications, space transportation, satellite navigation, space science, planetary exploration and peaceful uses of outer space.

  • India launched its first satellite ‘Aryabhata’ in 1975 using Soyuz launch vehicle.

  • The two countries are currently engaged in cooperation on GLONASS and other space applications.

Defence:

  • The two countries have already moved to a phase of joint design and development of defence systems (for instance, Brahmos). 

  • India has permitted foreign direct investment in the defence sector up to 49 per cent. 

  • The two countries will enrich bilateral interaction through regular joint military exercises, training in each other’s services institutions and institutionalized consultations between the armed forces.

  • Russia has offered to fully manufacture in India one of its most advanced helicopters. It includes the possibility of exports from India. It can be used for both military and civilian use.

Scientific and technological cooperation:

  • The two countries will develop various support mechanisms for joint research aimed at creating institutional linkages between scientific research institutions of the two countries. 

  • In view of the importance of safeguarding food security, the two countries would expect to conduct further joint research in the fields of horticulture and biotechnology. 

  • Further academic exchanges will also be promoted through schemes for visits by scientists that will enhance human resource capacity building in the science and technology sector.

Arctic region:

  • The two countries are to facilitate scientific cooperation to study the challenges (like melting ice, climate change, marine life and biodiversity), facing the rapidly-changing Arctic region.

Rare-earth minerals:

  • Given the strategic importance of rare-earth minerals and their economic and commercial utility, the two countries will enhance cooperation in rare earth minerals’ mining, technology development and research. They will explore joint development of technologies for processing rare earth materials.

Expanded economic engagement:

  • The two countries have an enormous untapped potential in bilateral trade, investment and economic cooperation. India’s ‘Make in India’ programme provides wide range of opportunities of economic engagement to Russia.

  • The International North-South Transport Corridor can vastly improve the efficiency of bilateral trade by significantly reducing transit time and freight costs. 

  • The two countries have promoted mutual direct trade of diamonds. The opening of India’s rough-diamond procurement policy by India will mean Mumbai can dream of becoming a worldwide hub for the industry. Both the countries have jointly inaugurated ‘World Diamond Conference’. India’s diamond sector has established itself as the world’s largest manufacturing centre of cut and polished diamonds for the last many years. It is generally believed that diamond is India`s gift to the world. Till about the 18th century, India was considered to be the only source of diamond. 

Mutual trade:

  • The two countries target a bilateral trade of goods and services of US$30 billion by the year 2025. The level of mutual investments by then is expected to be over US$15 billion each way.

  • The two countries will encourage payments in national currencies for bilateral trade. The Working Group established for this purpose will make recommendations on eliminating the existing barriers and stimulating transactions in national currencies. 

  • The two countries agreed on mutual trade facilitation measures, particularly with regards to simplified customs procedures. In this context, they agreed to finalize shortly a protocol on a "Green Corridor” project.

Mutual investment:

  • India-Russia mutual investment is expected to become a new point of growth in bilateral economic cooperation. 

  • Emphasis will be laid on promoting Russian investments in India in major infrastructure projects like DMIC, Smart Cities and Freight Corridors, as well as in broader sectors like telecom, power and roads. 

  • Similarly, Indian participation in Russian economy will be encouraged.

Global order and world peace

  • India and Russia will work for democratization of global political, economic, financial and social institutions so that these institutions better represent the aspirations and interests of all segments of the international community. 

  • India and Russia oppose economic sanctions that do not have the approval of the United Nations Security Council.

Cooperation in UNSC reforms:

  • Both the countries support the UN Security Council reform in order to make it more representative and effective in dealing with emerging challenges and reflective of contemporary realities. 

  • Russia will extend its support for India’s candidature for permanent membership of the Council.

Cooperation in other multilateral fora:

  • The two countries will consult and coordinate in multilateral fora such as G20, EAS, BRICS and RIC. 

  • Russia looks forward to India becoming a full member of the SCO following the completion of all required negotiations procedures. 

Counter-terrorism:

  • The two countries agreed to work together for the adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism by the UN. 

  • Both the countries hope that all safe havens and sanctuaries for terrorists will be wiped out without delay and terrorism would be completely eradicated from the common region within a decade.

Support to India’s membership:

  • Russia confirmed its support to India’s intention to seek full membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group. 

  • Russia also supported India’s interest in full membership in the MTCR and Wassenaar Arrangement.

People-to-people ties:

  • The two countries supported enhancing measures by their governments to promote and support cultural exchanges through annual festivals of culture, exchanges between cultural institutions, think tanks, tourism promotion events and other initiatives.

Cooperation in education:

  • Education ties will be strengthened by supporting the establishment of institutional linkages between universities and academic institutions of the two countries. The two countries will promote in this context the development of network partnerships between universities. 

  • Early conclusion of agreements on mutual recognition of education, qualification and degrees should further encourage leading universities and research institutions of India and Russia to support greater exchanges of student research scholars, post-doctoral candidates and faculties.

Simplified visa regime:

  • The Russian side welcomed the simplified visa regime introduced by the Indian side in November, 2014 under which nationals of Russia will be granted electronic visa on arrival at designated airports in India. 

  • Both countries agreed to further ease visa requirements for mutual travels of certain categories of citizens of the two countries, including business visas. This will further enhance people-to-people contacts and boost tourism. The character of global politics and international relations is changing. However,

    the importance of this relationship and its unique place in India`s foreign policy will not change. In many ways, its significance to both countries will grow further in the future.

Some irritants in the relationship:

There is no denying that the old lustre of the India-Russia friendship has dimmed somewhat, and many of the affirmations in the “Druzba-Dosti” joint statement of friendship they issued seem problematic. 

  • Even before his arrival in Delhi, President Putin’s decision to decline the offer to address a joint session of Parliament indicated that all is not well in the relationship. The problems seem evident: Russia has watched with displeasure as India has diversified its military imports, especially when it comes to helicopter and aircraft purchases. 

  • The slide is not recent, and last year a senior Russian official had called the decision to buy fighter aircraft and missiles from France, the U.S. and Israel “illogical and unfair”. 

  • India was outraged by the Russian decision to lift its embargo on defence sales to Pakistan, and the first-ever Russia-Pakistan framework agreement that was finalised recently. 

Given that India still maintains about 70 per cent of its defence inventory from Russian hardware, and is one of Russia’s biggest buyers, the unhappiness on both sides may not change the equations of dependence between them, but it must be addressed.

With 15 successful years of strategic partnership, India and Russia are poised to increase the level and quality of engagement and cooperation in bilateral, multilateral and global issues.


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