Global diplomacy has changed rapidly over the past three decades. If you think of it, countries have undergone a sea change in their relationships after the US-Soviet Cold War ended and the USSR disintegrated in 1991. In the last thirty years, India and the US have come closer to the surprise of many, China has become a global pariah, and most recently, the Arabs befriended the Jewish nation of Israel.
Yet, some things never change – the perpetual friendship between New Delhi and Moscow, for instance. The two countries remained close friends when the Cold War was at its peak even though India didn’t take sides and remained neutral. Over the recent past, India has warmed upto the US, but still, it has not curtailed its relationship with Russia. In fact, Putin’s visit to India and the 2+2 dialogue between the Defence and Foreign Ministers of the two countries showcase how Russia and India are best friends forever, and an answer to the west.
Putin meets Modi:
Russian President Vladimir Putin visited India on Monday for the 21st Indo-Russia summit. This was Putin’s second overseas trip since the pandemic started last year. While attending the summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Putin focused on the critical sectors of energy, defence and technology. The Russian President said, “We are working on very promising sectors, including energy and space. We are also working and cooperating in areas of military and technology.”
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On the other hand, Prime Minister Modi asserted the longstanding relationship between India and Russia. He said, “Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, there has been no change in the relationship between India and Russia.”
India lodges protest against Chinese belligerence:
Interestingly, New Delhi also brought up the issue of Chinese military aggression in eastern Ladakh in a bid to isolate Beijing. During the 2+2 Ministerial dialogue held alongside the Modi-Putin summit, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said, “The pandemic, the extraordinary militarisation and expansion of armament in our neighbourhood and the completely unprovoked aggression on our northern border since early summer of 2020 have thrown in several challenges.”
The 2+2 summit involved Foreign and Defence Ministers from both sides. Without naming China, Singh further said, “India is confident of overcoming these challenges with its strong political will and inherent capability of its people. Recognising that its development needs are colossal and that its defence challenges are legitimate, real and immediate, India seeks partners who are sensitive and responsive to India’s expectations and requirements.”
By criticising Chinese aggression and also making it clear that India expects its partners to understand its sensitivities, New Delhi has asserted that it plans on reaching a broad understanding with Moscow against Beijing’s militarism.
Putin seeking India’s support against Western interference:
While India is looking to capitalise on its close relationship with Russia to isolate China, Russia itself is looking to use its relationship with India to battle western interference. Putin ensured that there was show of camaraderie during his visit to India, in backdrop of the ongoing tensions between Russia and the west over Ukraine.
US President Joe Biden has been repeatedly using Ukraine as an issue to isolate Russia. Presently, the Biden administration is seemingly planning to unleash a fresh wave of economic countermeasures against Russia. A miffed Putin therefore seems to be banking on India to counteract American pressure.
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Moreover, Putin is looking to find more common ground with India in view of the recent US troops withdrawal from Afghanistan that has left both India and Russia at the risk of terror threat posed by the Taliban regime in the wartorn country. During his summit with PM Modi, Putin said that India and Russia continue to cooperate on the global agenda. The Russian President said, “We are naturally concerned about everything related to terrorism, terror funding, and drug trafficking and that is why we are naturally concerned about the situation in Afghanistan.”
Western actions like piling pressure on Russia over Ukraine tensions, or abruptly withdrawing from Afghanistan have created strategic issues for both Moscow and New Delhi. And therefore, it is no surprise that India and Russia stay best friends, and as an answer to western manipulations.