Modi’s visit to Russia and the path ahead

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to visit Russia on July 8, marking the first bilateral visit of his new term in office. This visit underscores the deep-rooted and historically robust relationship between India and Russia. Despite the global turbulence marked by geopolitical contests, ongoing conflicts, and other global challenges, the bond between Moscow and New Delhi remains strong, characterized by a high level of trust and cooperation.

The India-Russia relationship is one of the most stable and enduring bilateral relationships globally. It is supported by a well-established institutional framework and mutual trust. Both nations have navigated various global challenges together, maintaining a steady partnership even as the global geopolitical landscape has evolved.

One of the key areas of collaboration between India and Russia is their frequent consultations on China-related issues. As China’s ambitions become increasingly evident in the emerging global order, both Moscow and New Delhi find it essential to coordinate their strategies and responses. This aspect of their relationship is becoming more salient, reflecting the changing dynamics of global power structures.

Russia’s role as the chair and host of the upcoming BRICS+ Summit highlights its commitment to multilateralism and regional cooperation. The summit, preceded by over 200 meetings, will serve as a platform for discussing various global and regional issues. Modi’s visit comes at a time when he has just returned from the G7 summit in Italy, where he engaged with several world leaders, including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. This interaction highlights India’s potential role in mediating the Russia-Ukraine conflict, given its unique position and relationship with both nations.

Modi has consistently advocated for respect for the UN charter, dialogue, and diplomacy, emphasizing that “this is not an era of war”. Despite this stance, India’s representative at the peace summit in Switzerland declined to endorse the gathering’s communique, deeming it divisive and counterproductive to peace efforts. This nuanced approach underscores India’s commitment to genuine diplomacy and conflict resolution.

India and Russia’s strategic autonomy has been a cornerstone of their bilateral relations. President Putin has frequently praised Prime Minister Modi and India’s growth trajectory, highlighting the mutual respect and strategic alignment between the two leaders. Economic cooperation has seen significant strides, with bilateral trade reaching an unprecedented US$65 billion last year, driven by India’s increased purchases of Russian crude oil. This economic partnership is poised for further growth, with Indian companies actively exploring opportunities in Russia’s hydrocarbon sector.

The Arctic region represents a critical zone of geo-economic competition where Russia is a major player. India, recognizing the importance of the Arctic, has devised an Arctic Policy and is keen to collaborate with Russia in this strategically significant area. Additionally, Russia’s support for India’s ‘Make in India’ initiative and the transfer of sensitive technologies in defense, security, space, cyber, and the civil nuclear domain further strengthens bilateral ties.

Defense cooperation remains a key pillar of the India-Russia relationship. The two nations have long-standing defense agreements and are working towards finalizing the Reciprocal Exchange Logistics Agreement (RELOS) in the maritime domain. This agreement will enhance operational coordination and logistical support between their armed forces, reinforcing their strategic partnership.

Modi’s previous visit to Russia as the Chief Guest at the 2019 Far Eastern Economic Summit highlighted the importance of the Russian Far East in bilateral relations. The region offers significant opportunities for investment and cooperation, and both nations are keen to accelerate their engagement in this strategically important area. A $1-billion Line of Credit extended by Indian businesses could serve as a catalyst for deeper collaboration.

Connectivity is another critical aspect of the India-Russia relationship. The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and the Chennai-Vladivostok corridor are key initiatives aimed at enhancing connectivity between the two nations. These corridors will facilitate trade and investment, fostering closer economic integration. India’s recent long-term agreement to manage Iran’s Chabahar port is also consequential, providing strategic connectivity to Afghanistan and Central Asia and complementing the INSTC.

However, challenges remain. The threat of US secondary sanctions looms over these initiatives, requiring careful navigation by both India and Russia. Despite these challenges, the commitment to enhancing connectivity and economic cooperation remains strong.

India’s foreign policy has consistently emphasized the welfare of the Global South. The Moscow-Kiev conflict, Middle Eastern tensions, and the lingering impacts of the pandemic have disproportionately affected the developing world. India’s philosophy of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (The whole world is one family) and its role as a ‘Vishwa Bandhu’ (Friend of the world) reflect its commitment to addressing these challenges.

Modi’s visit to Russia offers an opportunity to discuss ways to mitigate the adverse impacts of these crises on the Global South. Worker welfare, especially in the context of Indian workers reportedly deployed in conflict zones, is another important issue that Modi and Putin are expected to address.

The India-Russia relationship is characterized by a realistic understanding of each other’s strategic visions and limitations. This pragmatic approach ensures that both nations can collaborate effectively while managing their respective national interests. The strong personal rapport between Modi and Putin further reinforces the trust and cooperation between their countries.

As Modi embarks on his visit to Russia, the agenda is packed with crucial discussions on economic cooperation, defense and security, connectivity, and regional and global issues. This visit is expected to further deepen the strategic partnership between India and Russia, contributing to regional stability and global peace.

In conclusion, the India-Russia relationship, anchored in mutual trust and strategic alignment, is poised for significant growth and diversification. Modi’s visit to Russia is a testament to the enduring and dynamic nature of this partnership, reflecting the shared commitment to a stable, prosperous, and peaceful global order.

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