PM Narendra Modi with Russian President Vladimir Putin in New Delhi on Monday evening (All images courtesy: Ministry of External Affairs, India)
India on Monday reassured Russia that New Delhi will not dilute its ties with Moscow, despite sweeping changes in the geopolitical landscape.
“In the last few decades, the world witnessed many fundamental changes and different kinds of geopolitical equations emerged but the friendship of India and Russia remained constant,” PM Narendra Modi said at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in New Delhi.
The PM’s remarks signalling that India’s ties with Russia are immune to its external relationships come with a loaded subtext. It lays to rest the speculation that New Delhi’s ties with the United States have become more important than the traditional friendship between India and Russia.
In fact, PM Modi made it loud and clear that India and Russia’s “special and privileged strategic partnership is getting stronger”. He also spotlighted that there “is no change in pace of relations between India and Russia despite Covid-19”. The reference to the pandemic is important to reinforce speculation that the cancellation of the summit last year between the two leaders was only because of the spread of the disease, and not a sign of cooling of ties between the two countries.
The Russian President also signalled that Moscow was not perturbed by the reworking of the geopolitical equations as India was a “great power,” implying that New Delhi does not pursue a zero-sum game in its diplomatic engagements. Putin, in fact, reinforced this point by calling India a “time-tested friend”. Instead of looking backwards, Russia was looking forward to a future-oriented partnership with India.
“We perceive India as a great power, a friendly nation, and a time-tested friend. The relations between our nations are growing and I am looking into the future,” Putin said.
The Russian President stressed that India and Russia have a unique military relationship, which was unrivalled.
"We also cooperate in the military sphere like no other country, by that I mean we develop technologies," the Russian president added.
By pointing to the special military relationship, the Russian President was apparently assuaging India’s concerns that Moscow’s ties with China could come at India’s expense.
The Russian president said that the countries have been cooperating on important matters including energy, space and high-tech sectors.
On the global plane, both Russia and India were concerned about the spill over of terrorism from Afghanistan.
“Naturally, we're concerned about everything that has to do with terrorism. Fight against terrorism is also fight against drug trafficking and organized crime. With that regard, we are concerned about the developments of the situation in Afghanistan.”
PM Modi in his statement praised President Putin for personally steering the India-Russia ties in a positive direction for the last two decades. “You have been the main facilitator of the India- Russia relationship for the last 20 years. Both the countries cooperated strongly even during the pandemic,” the Prime Minister said.
“Your visit is a reflection of your commitment to ties with India,” he observed.