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  • Context (TH): The recent visit of the External Affairs Minister to Russia points towards strong ties of India-Russia.

India-Russia Relations: Convergences

Economic and Investment

  • India-Russia trade hit a record of about $40 billion in 2022–23. Both countries aim to increase bilateral investment to US$50 billion and bilateral trade to US$30 billion by 2025.
  • Strategic Economic Dialogue: Agreement to jointly invest resources in projects in the Far Eastern region of the Russian Federation. India has provided a $1 billion line of credit.

Connectivity

  • Collaboration on Projects such as the Chennai – Vladivostok Maritime Corridor, International North-South Corridor (INSTC) etc.

Space

  • Both countries are partnering in space exploration through the Gaganyaan program.

Strategic

  • Russia has supported India’s bid for a permanent seat in the UNSC and entry into the Nuclear Supplier Group.
  • Inclusive Indo-Pacific regional strategy: Consultations on “integration and development initiatives in the greater Eurasian space and in the regions of the Indian and Pacific Oceans” denotes emerging strategic convergence between India and Russia.
  • Track-II dialogue on India-Japan-Russia Trilateral Cooperation in the Russian Far East.

Defence and Security

  • 10 Year Defence Pact signed for military technology cooperation for the next decade (2021-2031).
  • About 70% of India’s defence forces are equipped with Russian weapons, including S-400 Missiles.
  • Cooperation in the manufacture of the “Brahmos” missile system, AK-203 assault rifles, SU-30 aircraft and T-90 tanks.
  • Military Exercise: Indra.

Energy Cooperation

  • Nuclear energy: New reactors being constructed by Russia at Kudankulam as a “flagship joint project”.

Diaspora and Cultural Exchanges

  • Approx. 4,500 Indian students are currently enrolled in medical and technical institutions in the Russian Federation.
  • Hindustani Samaj: The oldest Indian organization in Russia, functioning since 1957.
  • Programmes like ‘Namaste Russia’ promote educational collaboration between India and Russia, facilitated through institutes like Jawaharlal Nehru Cultural Centre.

India-Russia Relations: Divergences

  • Small and stagnant trade volumes: India-Russia trade ($10 billion) and connectivity considerably lag behind those between China and Russia ($110 billion) and between India & US ($120 billion).
  • Growing India-US proximity: Russia is apprehensive of India strengthening ties with its partners in the Quad, and deepening defence cooperation with the US, pushing Russia into China’s orbit.
  • Russia’s growing alignment with China in the form of defence agreements, energy projects (cross-border gas pipeline between China & Russia’s Far East), endorsement of the Belt & Road initiative, etc.
  • Chinese Factor: Since 2015, China has accounted for 85% of foreign investment in the Russian Far East. China is also the top trading partner of the Russia-steered Eurasian Economic Union.
  • Growing Russian cooperation with Pakistan. E.g. Russia conducted a military exercise with Pakistan.
  • Connectivity challenges: INSTC projects were delayed due to unilateral sanctions by the US on Iran and Russia.

Way Forward

  • Diversify collaborations and deepen their relations to mutual benefit, including Chabahar, the Arctic, Chennai-Vladivostok Eastern Maritime Corridor, manufacture of Sputnik V in India, etc.
  • Cooperate at the multilateral level, such as on regional and global issues in multilateral bodies including UNSC, SCO, G-20, BRICS, ASEAN-led fora and others.
  • Exploring policy convergence involving strategic coordination between Russia’s concept of Greater Eurasia and India’s espousal of an inclusive Indo-Pacific framework.
  • Promoting trilateral cooperation between Russia, China, and India (RIC) to reduce mistrust between India and China.
  • Ensuring regional security: India and Russia should work together to achieve stability and security in the region especially in Afghanistan through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.
  • Re-establishing the Rupee-Rouble Payment Mechanism to facilitate trade in local currencies, bypass US sanctions, and enhance competitiveness.

 

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