Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has met Russian President Vladimir Putin to talk over defence and trade relations as India aspires to stabilize its ties with the United States. The motive behind the annual summit comprised political and defence issues, according to India’s Ministry of External Affairs. India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla announced that India and Russia ratified 28 investment pacts comprising deals on steel, shipbuilding, coal and energy. India has also started to receive S-400 missiles from Russia this month, Shringla said, adding that supplies would go on. Speaking during the meeting, Modi said the agreements entered would be “beneficial across various sectors”.“Under the ‘Make in India’ initiative our co-development and co-production projects are giving rise to our defence cooperation robust. Our cooperation is also progressing in the space and civil nuclear sectors,” Modi said.
Putin’s visit to India emphasizes that a reorientation of defence cooperation is exceptionally underway to
cater to India’s quest for self-sufficiency. The emphasis is on cooperative research and development, co-development and combined production of advanced defence technology and systems.
“We perceive India as a great power, a friendly nation and a time-tested friend,” Putin said.
India and Russia have a long history of intimate ties and have already set a mark of $30bn in bilateral trade by the end of 2025.
Putin and Modi also talked about the situation in Afghanistan, expressing their commitment to ensure that the country will never become a harbour for international “terrorism”.
There has been a lot of deduction about the nature of the India-Russia relationship. Some might be assuming that splitting can be the cause because of Russia’s closeness with China and India’s with the US, but this visit puts all that to rest. Russia, meanwhile, has expressed qualms over the formation of the Quad, a grouping comprising the US, India, Japan and Australia moulded in response to China’s growing vehemence in the Indo-Pacific region. Moscow sees no justification to get paranoid about India’s close ties with the US. That said, the geopolitical background has become noticeably entangled as a result of several other issues. The conflict between the US on one side and Russia and China on the other has emerged in the US trying to detach India from Russia and to exploit to its benefit the Sino-India tensions, which are at their worst in half a century, to create an edge for Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy.
Russia for long been a key arms supplier to India, which is striving to modernise its armed forces, and one of their most high-profile current contracts is for the long-range S-400 ground-to-air missile defence system. The US has coerced sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which is intended at reining in Russia, and the US State Department said last week that no decisions had been made on any disclaimers for India.
“It is quite remarkable that India still decided to go ahead with the S-400 deal, despite the US disapproval,”
The US must be feeling disheartened that the deployment of the S-400 system will effectively shut the Indian market for its pricey F-35 stealth aircraft, erode significantly the likelihood for ‘interoperability’, support India’s strategic engagement with Russia in the military domain for the foreseeable future and enhance Russia’s defence industry.
In the context of the contentious mode of its ties with the US and the unevenness in the Sino-Russia partnership, Russia requirement to improve its engagement with India and insinuate greater clarity into their mutual discourses. Russia’s latest National Security Strategy identifies the ties with both Delhi and Beijing as priorities. These positive trends get blurred in the US-driven narratives regarding Indo-Pacific, which are both China-centric and also subtly loaded with Russophobia. The Sino-Russia alliance stands at its highest level in history, but Moscow’s priority is, nonetheless, to remain impartial vis-a-vis China’s rising tensions with Washington. Ideally, Russia would have wished to be a ‘balancer’. It is against such a complicated background that Putin’s recent citation to India as a ‘great power’ needs to be understood.