Russian President Vladimir Putin’s brief but important visit to India is being watched by the world. Putin, who has not travelled much outside Russia during the pandemic, is making the trip to Delhi, at a time when the pandemic is still raging in his country. He has only travelled to Geneva for the summit meeting with US President Joe Biden. This is his second visit outside Russia this year.
India, however, has a historical relationship with Russia, spanning over the last seven decades. While the relationship has stagnated in some areas and atrophied in some others, the strongest pillar of the strategic partnership is of the defence basket.
Although New Delhi has consciously diversified its new purchases from other countries, the bulk of its defence equipment is from Russia. Estimates say 60 to 70 per cent of India’s supplies are from Russia, and New Delhi needs regular and reliable supply from Russia for the spare parts from the Russian defence industry.
In fact, Modi has held informal summits with only two countries — Xi and Putin. At this time of tension at the border, Defence minister Rajnath Singh had discussed the issue of defence equipment supply and purchase of new systems — like the S-400 missile defence system — with the Russian top brass in the military and government.
So, flowing from the understanding that Russia has leverage over Beijing because of recent proximity, and New Delhi has had a history of robust bilateral ties with Moscow, the present outreach is significant.
The two sides also have a shared concern of terrorism, as the security situation emanating out of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan remains challenging.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the visiting Russian President will on Monday focus on terrorism as a common threat to both countries and the region.
Top government sources told The Indian Express on Sunday that the two sides have worked “very closely” on the issue of threats of terrorism, terrorist financing, flow of arms and drugs trade, and that is expected to be reflected in the joint statement after Putin meets Modi.
The top government source pointed out that Delhi and Moscow have worked together on at least three major multilateral groupings — Russia-India-China (RIC), BRICS and SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation), and the conversation will be carried forward at the bilateral meetings as well.
In fact, to strengthen the bilateral mechanism — a new format, the 2+2 ministerial meeting between the Foreign and Defence ministers of both sides will also take place on Monday, ahead of the Putin-Modi bilateral summit in the evening. So far, India has 2+2 ministerial formats with only the Quad countries — US, Japan and Australia.
Officials said that in the recent Russia-India-China meeting, India had negotiated hard on including reference to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
The two sides are also stepping up defence cooperation. Ahead of the summit, India has cleared the long-pending AK 203 Kalashnikov rifles deal worth nearly Rs 5,000 crore for production of over five lakh such rifles at Korwa in Amethi by an Indo-Russian joint venture.
On cooperation in areas of defence, sources said the two sides are set to focus on co-production and co-development of military equipment and platforms.
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