New Delhi: Russian President Vladimir Putin will come to New Delhi on a hurricane tour for the 21st annual summit between India and Russia on 6 December. The summit comes after a one-year gap that has seen many developments, from the onset of Covid-19 to the inauguration of a new administration in the US to the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan.
On the same day, India and Russia will also hold their first ever 2+2 format talks on the sidelines of the summit. These talks will be held between the two countries’ foreign and defence ministers. President Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will also have a bilateral meeting during the course of the day.
Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson, Ministry of External Affairs, announced Friday that the annual summit between President Putin and PM Modi would be held on 6 December. The summit was last held in 2019.
While highlighting that defence cooperation continues to be one of the key components of the bilateral relationship between India and Russia, Bagchi said talks on procuring the S-400 missiles from Moscow would gain prominence. India and Russia signed the $5.43 billion deal to procure the S-400 ‘Triumf’ missile systems in 2018.
The US, under President Biden, has indicated many times that procuring the S-400 missiles from Russia could result in India being subject to sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), a piece of legislation introduced by the previous Donald Trump administration. New Delhi is hoping that, due to the growing strategic partnership between India and the US, it will be able to obtain a waiver under CAATSA. When Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman visited India in October, she said that the S-400 is dangerous for the security interests of countries that procure it.
“Regarding the CAATSA waiver, let me say that India and the US have a comprehensive global strategic partnership, and India has a special and privileged partnership with Russia … We also pursue an independent foreign policy. This also applies to our defence acquisition and supplies, which are guided by our national security interest,” Bagchi said.
Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry also issued a statement on the upcoming visit.
“During the negotiations with Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, it is planned to discuss further development of relations of the special and privileged strategic partnership between the two countries. The leaders will exchange views on topical issues on the international agenda, including joint work within the G20, BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation,” the ministry said.
It added that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu will hold talks in New Delhi with their Indian counterparts, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
Russia, India still friends?
While India and Russia have a historical relationship, bilateral ties between the two have undergone a paradigm shift in the context of New Delhi’s clear tilt towards the US with its participation in the Quad, or Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, and the Indo-Pacific strategic construct.
Russia has been vehemently opposed to the concept of the Indo-Pacific, even though India is keen that Moscow also become a part of it.
Russia has grown much closer to China, but despite Beijing’s opposition to the S-400 deal, Moscow has gone ahead with the deal for India.
Bala Venkatesh Varma, former Indian Ambassador to Russia, who left Moscow in October, said in an interview with Newsweek that the “traditional strengths of India-Russia relations which are defence, nuclear, space, and energy, have been further strengthened, while new drivers of growth have also been added, so there has been a distinct diversification of relations”.
At the height of the India-China border standoff in Ladakh, Indian and Chinese defence and foreign ministers held a series of in-person meetings in Russia to mitigate the issue even as New Delhi and Beijing came up with a ‘Moscow Agreement’.
On Afghanistan too, after the Taliban takeover in August, India found a friend in Russia to reach out to the Islamist group in order to send humanitarian aid and assistance to the Afghan people.
(Edited by Rohan Manoj)