India has made it clear that its strategic partnership with Russia is one that it considers “special and privileged” and that it “attaches the highest importance to its relations with Russia”.
This observation assumes particular significance given the growing strategic convergence between India and the U.S., reflected most recently in the first 2+2 dialogue held in New Delhi earlier this month.
This reaffirmation of the importance India attaches to its ties with Russia was enunciated in External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s concluding speech at the 23rd India-Russia Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technical and Cultural Cooperation in Moscow on Friday.
While the Commission meets every year to take stock of cooperation in various fields, this one was of particular significance. It came days after the first India-U.S. 2+2 dialogue, reflecting the growing strategic convergence between the two countries. Secondly, it comes amidst the threatened U.S. sanctions if India acquires five advanced S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems from Russia. Third, the meeting also discussed the possibility of India and Russia working together on infrastructure projects in third countries as part of their strategic partnership.
India has been under pressure from the U.S. to call off its proposed deal to acquire the air defence missile systems from Russia. The acquisition would invite U.S. sanctions under Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
Earlier this week, the United States said it had taken no decision yet on extending a CAATSA waiver to India. However, it also said that it does understand the legacy issues that India has with Russia in the defence sector. Though India has widened its defence acquisitions basket over the years, Russia still remains its biggest supplier of defence equipment.
The deal to acquire the S-400 is expected to be inked during the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to New Delhi early next month for the 19th India-Russia annual summit.
Swaraj, who is on her third visit to Russia in less than a year, also told her Russian co-chair, Deputy Prime MinisterYuri Borisov: “This partnership has strengthened over time and covers a vast agenda involving all sphere of human activity.”
As part of New Delhi and Moscow’s resolve to retain their close partnership, India also proposed that the two sides work to reach a higher two-way investments goal of US $50 billion by 2025. “Two-way investments have already crossed the US $30 billion target which we had set for 2025,” said Ms Swaraj.
Noting that New Delhi and Moscow have been traditionally cooperating the field of energy, Ms Swaraj said that earlier this year India got its first shipment of LNG from Russia.
In their quest to strengthen ties, the two sides also agreed to explore new areas of cooperation, among them in sectors such as agriculture, infrastructure, transport and science and technology.