11.07.2024 Author: Anvar Azimov

On Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s official visit to Russia

 Narendra Modi’s official visit to Russia

The head of the Indian government paid a two-day visit to Russia, during which the leaders of the two countries held purposeful talks, first at the residence of the Russian leader Novo-Ogarevo and then in the Kremlin. They discussed economic relations between the two countries, the opening of a new Indian consulate in Russia and issues related to the conflict in Ukraine. 15 documents and a number of memoranda were signed. In addition, Putin and Modi visited the Rosatom pavilion at VDNKh together.

A distinctive feature of Russia’s specially privileged strategic partnership with India, which has been developing steadily and dynamically for decades, is regular alternate bilateral summits. They are important for the entirety of the multifaceted Russian-Indian relations and give the necessary impetus to their steady development in various fields.

Relations are defined as a ‘specially privileged strategic partnership’

Since 2000, when the parties agreed to hold annual summits within the framework of the Declaration on Strategic Partnership, 21 summits and meetings between the leaders have been held during the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Forum in Samarkand (September 2022). Prior to that, Narendra Modi visited Vladivostok in 2019 to participate in the Eastern Economic Forum and hold talks with the President of Russia, and Vladimir Putin was in Delhi at the end of 2021 at the 21st Russian-Indian summit. The summit did not take place in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and in 2023 in connection with the well-known situation around Ukrainian, preparations for the presidential elections in Russia and for voting in India, first in a number of states, and then in the country’s parliament.

Despite these circumstances, dialogue and telephone contacts between the leaders continued and relations progressed, especially in the spheres of trade and economy – primarily a result of unprecedented large supplies of Russian energy to India (about 70 million tonnes of oil and petroleum products). The bilateral trade turnover reached a record level in 2023: almost $65 billion, with a large surplus in favour of Russia. Indian exports also increased slightly to $4 billion, but such a trade imbalance naturally caused dissatisfaction on the Indian side, which is understandable.

Certain problems in bilateral military-technical cooperation have arisen, largely because of the active efforts of the West to strengthen its military presence in India and the Indian leadership’s steps to diversify sources of arms imports. Attempts by the collective West to exert influence on New Delhi in terms of its involvement in anti-Russian sanctions in connection with the conflict in Ukraine have not been successful and, despite the efforts made, India has not turned its back on pursuing an independent foreign policy and keeps the development of relations with Russia as a priority.

Delhi’s foreign policy in multifaceted and pragmatic

At the same time, New Delhi admittedly continues its course towards further rapprochement and strengthening cooperation with the United States and key Western countries, as well as Japan and Australia within the framework of the quadrilateral dialogue on security issues in the Asia-Pacific region, in which Washington plays a key role. Such a multi-vector and pragmatic foreign policy course of the Indian leadership, it seems, satisfies the national interests of the country. It does not signify the exclusively pro-Western orientation of New Delhi nor are there any significant adjustments made to the dynamically developing Russian-Indian relations, which are based on long-standing traditions of mutual trust and respect and which are not subject to turbulence and fluctuations in international life.

In the current tense geopolitical situation and in the context of open confrontation between the West and Russia, India continues to maintain a friendly position towards Russia, has an objectively neutral approach to the situation surrounding Ukraine, has not joined anti-Russian Western sanctions, is a supporter of building a multipolar and just world order and takes an active part in the activities of SCO and BRICS.

During his inauguration ceremony in Delhi after the victory of the ruling alliance in the recent parliamentary elections and being sworn in as Prime Minister for the third time in a row, Narendra Modi met with the leaders of friendly neighbours and states particularly close to India. He also participated as an invitee in the G7 meeting in June. For objective reasons, i.e. participation in the important first session of the new parliament, he was unable to participate in the recent SCO summit in Astana, instead sending Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar there. However, N. Modi has yet to visit any country since winning the election. All the more significant is his decision to accept the Russian president’s invitation and come to Moscow on an official visit on July 8-9, 2024.

Russian-Indian partnership: new prospects

Thus, the next Russian-Indian summit – the 22nd of its kind – took place in Moscow. In the dense agenda for negotiations, issues in bilateral relations naturally took centre stage, namely overcoming problems in the fields of trade, economy, military and technology, which would give additional impetus to building up multi-format and mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation in various fields. It should also be noted that trusting personal relations between the two leaders go back years and in Moscow, they once again discussed the most pressing issues of bilateral relations, as well as international and regional problems in an informal tête-à-tête meeting, as well as the following day during negotiations in a narrow format. Parties agreed to further strengthen the specially privileged strategic partnership and mutual trust, as well as the role of the two states and members of the SCO and BRICS in promoting a multipolar world order. Solutions to eliminate the large imbalance in mutual trade were found, i.e. expanding Indian exports to Russia and regulating the payment and money transfer system. It was agreed that by 2030, the trade turnover between the two countries should reach $100 billion. At the talks, special attention was paid to issues relating to increasing mutual investments in specific economic projects totalling tens of billions of dollars. So, during this visit, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, in cooperation with its Indian partners, agreed to invest 20 billion roubles into infrastructure for shipbuilding in Russia and India.

Another important joint project in the field of medicine is an agreement on multibillion-dollar investments into the localisation of Indian production of haemodialysis products in Russia. Other areas of joint investments and cooperation have also been outlined. The important role of Russia in the construction of new Kudankulam NPP units in India was confirmed (V. V. Putin and N. Modi visited the Atom pavilion at VDNKh), as well as in the development of the space and rocket industries.

The Indian Prime Minister stressed his country’s interest in further developing military-technical cooperation, expanding the licensed production of modern Russian weapons and military equipment and assured the Russian side that recent military contracts concluded by India with the United States and a number of European countries will not affect the volume of bilateral cooperation with Russia. During the conversation, vectors for the upcoming work of bilateral intergovernmental commissions in the fields of trade, economic, scientific, cultural and military-technical cooperation were outlined.

As a result of the negotiations, an extensive joint statement was adopted, encompassing all aspects of bilateral relations and international issues. Additionally, 14 other documents were also adopted, mainly covering issues of economic cooperation.

It was also agreed to open Indian consulates in two more cities, Yekaterinburg and Kazan.

The situation surrounding Ukraine and other conflicts in the world were discussed

When discussing global international and regional problems, the situation surrounding Ukraine had special importance, including in the context of India’s well-known active position on ending the conflict and its peaceful settlement through negotiations. One may positively note the balanced and constructive position of the Indian partners on this delicate topic. The Russian side appreciates this approach of the Indian leadership and shares its continued interest in a political settlement of the situation surrounding Ukraine without detriment to Russian interests.

The Russian side welcomed N. Modi’s detailed proposals on ceasing armed hostilities in Ukraine and establishing a peace.

It should be noted that when discussing other conflicts in the world, as well as global and regional problems, the positions of the parties were close, once again confirming the strategic nature of bilateral cooperation and the focus of the two states on strengthening European and Asian security, multipolarity and international cooperation. They also agreed to coordinate efforts to expand the activities of SCO and BRICS and to participate actively in the upcoming BRICS summit in Kazan this autumn.

Putin presented Modi with the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle

The visit ended with a celebratory ceremony at the Kremlin, where Narendra Modi was awarded the highest order of the Russian Federation, the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle, which was another remarkable moment of the 22nd Russian-Indian summit. The trusting talks in Moscow and the new agreements reached on expanding the multifaceted and mutually beneficial strategic partnership once again confirms the specially privileged nature of bilateral cooperation, a significant factor in world politics. The latest Russian-Indian summit became yet another bright page in the history of unique and fruitful bilateral diplomatic relations, which date back 77 years.


Anvar Azimov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Senior Scientific Researcher at the Moscow State University of Foreign Affairs (MGIMO), exclusively for the online magazine «New Eastern Outlook»

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