Russia and India are successfully and dynamically developing traditionally friendly relations of special privileged strategic partnership based on mutual trust, understanding and respect. In the history of our close, trusting and unique ties, there have never been any insurmountable problematic issues, and both sides are always energised to build up multi-vector mutually beneficial cooperation. Regular bilateral contacts at various levels are key in this regard. The last Russian-Indian full-scale summit was held in New Delhi in December 2021. Another summit was planned for autumn 2023, but the Russian President, who has limited his travel abroad due to the special military operation in Ukraine, was unable to attend the G20 summit in New Delhi in September 2023 and the resulting pause in contacts was filled by a visit to Moscow on 25-28 December 2023 visit to Moscow by Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar.
He began his regular visit to Moscow with an Indian-initiated meeting on 25 December with prominent representatives of the Russian expert and academic community, organised by the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC). The Indian minister was apparently interested in hearing the views of our leading political analysts on the current world order and the situation in hotspots, Russia’s relations with the United States and other key players, and the situation around Ukraine. The role of the global North and global South in the current complex international processes, India’s foreign policy priorities and the main areas of bilateral co-operation between Moscow and New Delhi were also discussed.
On 26 December, a working meeting of the co-chairs (S. Jaishankar from the Indian side and Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Industry and Trade D. Manturov from the Russian side) of the Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technical, Scientific and Cultural Cooperation was held. Jaishankar from the Indian side and Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Industry and Trade D. Manturov from the Russian side) of the Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technical and Cultural Cooperation, where the key topics of the bilateral agenda were discussed. In particular, the sides discussed topical issues of cooperation in trade, investment, finance and banking, transport and logistics, energy and food security. The unprecedented growth in bilateral trade turnover of $54.7 billion was welcomed, making Russia India’s fourth-largest trading partner. This result has been achieved mainly on account of Russian oil supplies in 2022-2023 and has resulted in a large surplus of billions of rupees in Russia’s trade with India. The Indian side is extremely concerned about the current situation where its exports to Russia are currently only about $3.3 billion and is understandably in favour of expanding the range of Indian supplies to our country. Among the possible items of Indian exports, S. Jaishankar named the fields of pharmaceuticals, agriculture, mechanical engineering, supplies of auto parts and information technology products to Russia. It was agreed to consider the whole range of these issues at the next plenary session of the bilateral Intergovernmental Commission. The two sides also agreed to start talks between India and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) in the very near future to reach a free trade agreement.
The talks resulted in the signing of a memorandum of understanding to control compliance with the standards of Indian medicines supplied to Russia. Finally, an important agreement was signed concerning the construction of the next units of the Kudankulam NPP in southern India.
The talks between the two foreign ministers were productive and informative. This was their seventh meeting. The “checking of the clock” on a wide range of global, regional and bilateral topics once again confirmed the similarity of the positions of the parties and the confidential and constructive nature of the talks. They showed that our relations are in no way subject to any opportunistic fluctuations, are successfully passing the test of time and are aimed at promoting the formation of a just multipolar world order. Delhi, despite the pressure from the collective West, continues to pursue an independent, albeit multi-vector foreign policy course and is not joining sanctions against Russia. On all acute problems, including the situation around Ukraine, New Delhi is taking a balanced and wise position, so typical of this important power, whose status in the world is steadily growing and India really deserves to be included in the enlarged Security Council, which was confirmed by Sergey Lavrov during the talks. The sides noted the importance of close co-operation between the two countries at various international platforms, including within the BRICS and SCO frameworks. Following the talks, the sides signed a plan of inter-Ministerial consultations for 2024-2028.
Traditionally, the Indian Foreign Minister was received by Russian President Vladimir Putin, which once again testifies to the special nature of relations between the two close and strategically important powers. Such a political gesture by the Russian leadership is gratefully received by our Indian partners, who have never let Russia down. Vladimir Putin reiterated the invitation to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to pay a friendly visit to Russia in 2024 and emphasised that the two leaders share strong ties of close and trusting co-operation.
In 2024, around the same time, Russia and India will hold crucial presidential and parliamentary elections, respectively, and a new summit is likely to take place after the elections. However, irrespective of the outcome of these elections, both sides are confident of the unchanged course of fully strengthening mutually beneficial strategic partnership, the role and importance of which is particularly high in the current geopolitical environment. In this context, the visit of Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar to Russia acquires special significance and great weight. It convincingly confirmed the determination of the parties to further build up close co-operation in the whole range of multifaceted ties.
The author of these lines in 1979-1982 had an opportunity to meet and co-operate with the current Indian Minister of Foreign Affairs, who spent his first diplomatic trip in the Indian Embassy in Moscow, while the author of this article worked in the South Asia Division of the USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Anvar AZIMOV, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Senior Researcher, MGIMO, especially for the online magazine «New Eastern Outlook»