Modi Putin Meeting, 2+2 Dialogue Expected to Strengthen India-Russia Ties

Posted by Written by Naina Bhardwaj Reading Time: 4 minutes

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited India on December 6, 2021 for the recently concluded 21st India–Russia Annual Summit. Putin’s meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came hours after the first ever India-Russia 2+2 ministerial meeting took place between the foreign and defense ministers of both countries.

The bilateral talks and senior-level engagement included multifaceted conversations on how India and Russia can achieve cooperation in space, civil nuclear energy, economy, energy, military and security, science and technology, culture etc. The two countries signed 28 agreements, included government-to-government pacts, in several areas.

Why is Putin’s visit to India significant?

Putin’s physical visit to India marks his second visit outside Russia since the COVID pandemic broke out. It has been closely watched across the world as it signifies the importance Putin accords to India. The only other visit Putin made was to Geneva to meet US President Joe Biden. This India–Russia summit is the first in-person interaction between Modi and Putin since they last met on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in 2019 in Brasilia. The Russian President had skipped the G20 and COP26 summits this year.

The India-Russia partnership is likely to have a global impact, particularly in the Asian geopolitical theatre with respect to economic and military dynamics.

What is the India-Russia Annual Summit?

The India–Russia Annual Summit is held alternately in India and Russia ever since its inception in 2000. On December 6, 2021, it was held in New Delhi. During the summit, both Modi and Putin emphasized new drivers of growth for long term predictable and sustained economic cooperation. These include need for increased bilateral investment and augmentation of infrastructural connectivity through the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and the proposed Chennai – Vladivostok Eastern Maritime Corridor.

Furthermore, both statesmen appreciated ongoing bilateral cooperation in the fight against the COVID pandemic, including humanitarian assistance extended to each other.

The two countries echoed similar positions on various international issues like the post pandemic global economic recovery, Afghanistan crisis, fight against terrorism, drug trafficking, and organized crime. 

Addressing India as a “great power”, a “friendly” country and a “time-tested friend”, Putin declared Russia’s commitment to tackle these challenges with India as its major partner. Modi, too, stressed on the evolving pace of India-Russia relations as well as strengthening the special and privileged strategic partnership, which forms an anchor of peace and stability in the region.

At the end of the summit, a Joint Statement “Russia-India: Partnership for Peace, Progress and Prosperity” was adopted, with Putin extending invitation to Modi to visit Russia for the 22nd India-Russia Annual Summit in 2022.

Major areas of cooperation between India and Russia

Economic integration

As per Indian embassy figures, Indo-Russian bilateral trade during April 2020-March 2021 amounted to US$8.1 billion. Indian exports were valued at US$2.6 billion while imports from Russia were worth US$5.48 billion. As per Russian figures, bilateral trade in the same period amounted to US$9.31 billion, with Indian exports worth US$3.48 billion and Russian imports amounting to US$5.83 billion.

While the bilateral trade trajectory between India and Russia has been on an upward trend, registering an increase of about 38 percent in the first half of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, there remains plenty of untapped potential. Both sides now want to achieve a trade target of US$30 billion by 2025. At the annual summit, the necessity for commencement of negotiations on Trade Agreement between India and The Eurasian Economic Union was agreed to by both sides. 

Earlier in the year, the third edition of the India-Russia Strategic Economic Dialogue (IRSED) was held virtually on April 15, 2021, where prospects for cooperation were sought in the areas of transport, agriculture, digital transformation, tourism, industry, banking, and small and medium enterprises.

India and Russia are also working on ways to further streamline and fast-track cargo customs clearances and have agreed to replace the discussions on the ‘Green Corridor Project’ with an Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Authorized Economic Operators (AEO) and an MoU on Exchange of Pre-Arrival Customs Data.

Cooperation in the Russian Far-East 

Russia has welcomed India’s participation as a reliable partner in the development of the Russian Far-East, identifying sectors such as energy, transport and logistics, maritime connectivity, diamond processing, forestry, pharmaceuticals and healthcare, tourism, and humanitarian fields. Many Indian businesses have expressed interest to explore these sectors in the Russian Far-East. India’s intention to engage in these areas come under its Act Far East policy.

Transport and connectivity

Russia is also contributing towards the electronification of toll collection on highways in India through technology that is based on satellite navigation. This technology is being developed by the joint Russian-Indian company Bharat Telematic Systems Pvt Ltd. Additionally, Russian companies are also investing in the modernization of Indian Railways.

Furthermore, Russia has supported India’s stand for inclusion of Chabahar in the INSTC. Both the countries have also welcomed the signing of agreement between Russian Railways (RZD) and CONCOR in 2020 to jointly develop multi-modal logistics services along the INSTC route.

Other negotiations between India and Russia

2+2 dialogue

Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi agreed on the creation of the 2+2 dialogue in April 2021. Russia has become the fourth country with which India works in this format – along with QUAD (Quadripartite Security Dialogue) partners Australia, the United States, and Japan.

Negotiations in the 2+2 format (foreign and defense ministers) involved Sergei Lavrov and Sergei Shoigu from the Russian side and Subramaniam Jaishankar and Rajnath Singh as their Indian counterparts.

It is being speculated that launch of 2+2 dialogue with Russia is part of India’s balancing act with Moscow vis-à-vis Washington DC. India’s Defense Minister Rajnath Singh also used this forum to take a dig at China, accusing Beijing of unprovoked aggression, and soliciting Russian acknowledgement of India’s call for “sensitive and responsive” partners. While Russia accorded acceptance to the QUAD format based on economic, transport, and infrastructure interests, they expressed concerns regarding the newly formed partnership between Australia, Great Britain, and the United States (AUKUS). Russia believes the AUKUS to be a disguise for transfer of nuclear submarine technology to Canberra, under the garb of US’ Indo-Pacific strategies.

Further, India and Russia pledged solidarity in hindering attempts by various blocs to diminish the importance of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) – they agreed to “support an ASEAN-centric format of security architecture and cooperation in the region that suits everyone without exception.”

India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military and Military-Technical Cooperation

Both India and Russia lauded the successful implementation of the 2011-2020 Long-Term Program for Military and Technical Cooperation and welcomed the signing of a new long-term program for the period 2021-2031.

The two countries reiterated their commitment to upgrade the defense cooperation, including facilitating joint development and production of military equipment, components and spare parts, enhancing the after-sales service system, progress towards mutual recognition of quality control, and regular joint exercises of the Armed Forces of the two countries. 

In November 2021, Russia began supplying S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft missile systems to India, at a deal worth over US$ 5 billion. Further, agreement has been reached on contracts for the production and delivery of Russian AK203 assault rifles and Igla-S portable anti-aircraft systems to India.

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