India and Russia sign Protocol on Consultations

News Excerpt:

Recently, India and Russia have signed a Protocol on Consultations for the next four years (2024-28).

About the news:

  • The objective of signed protocol is to make progress in economic cooperation, energy trade, connectivity, military-technical cooperation, and people-to-people exchanges.
  • The protocol was signed during the India’s External Affairs Minister's official visit to Russia.
    • Various issues, including the Indo-Pacific region, Ukraine, and the Israel-Gaza conflict, were also discussed.
  • Earlier, India and Russia also signed two important agreements to take forward the further implementation of Kudankulam nuclear power projects in India.

Significance of current visit:

  • The Indo-Russian relationship has been exceptionally steady amidst oscillations in relations between other major powers.
    • India and Russia have not had any serious bilateral disputes, and their geopolitical interests have often converged on maintaining a stable balance of power in Asia since the middle of the 20th century.
  • The current visit of the Minister of External Affairs to Russia seeks to maintain the intensity of high-level political engagement with the Russian leadership at a time when the annual summits between the PM of India and the Russian President could not be convened in the last two years amidst the war in Ukraine.

Trade statistics between India-Russia:

  • Bilateral commercial economic engagement has surged in the last two years.
  • Bilateral trade grew from about $12 billion to $50 billion last year, mainly because of the massive oil imports from Russia, which could no longer sell oil in its traditional European markets because of sanctions.

Deft balancing by India:

  • India came under widespread criticism in the West for not condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine and for expanding its energy and economic cooperation with Russia.
  • India withstood those pressures because of the conviction that preserving a productive relationship with Russia was a critical element of India’s national security strategy.
  • The context of the bilateral relationship with Russia has fundamentally changed. India is no longer a deferential junior partner looking up to Russia for support.
    • India’s GDP in 1991 was half that of Russia’s — $270 million to $518 million; India’s economy today is bigger than Russia’s by a large margin — $3.6 trillion to $2.2 trillion.
    • This gap will continue to grow in India’s favour.
  • India and the West:
    • India is diversifying away from its traditional military dependence on Russia France and the US have emerged as major arms suppliers to India.
    • India’s commercial and technological relationships are deeply tied to the US, Europe and the UK.
    • A large section of the Indian diaspora resides in the English-speaking world.
    • India is not abandoning these consequential ties with the West to please Russia.
    • India is reconstituting its relationship with Russia as an equal.
  • China factor:
    • At a time when India’s ties with China were low, Russia’s engagement with China rapidly expanded.
    • India and Russia are conscious that they are on opposite sides of the world’s main geopolitical faultline today — between the USA and China.
    • Yet India and Russia value sustaining a sensible bilateral relationship that will expand their room for manoeuvre in the increasingly bipolar world.

Conclusion:

Russia has been a longstanding and time-tested partner for India. Development of India-Russia relations has been a key pillar of India's foreign policy. Russia continues to support India’s candidacy for the permanent membership of a reformed UN Security Council. In relation to the conflict in Ukraine, India has been consistently calling for complete cessation of all hostilities and has advocated the path of peace, dialogue and diplomacy.

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