India and Russia are set to raise the bar for their time-tested strategic partnership this year with Prime Minister Narendra Modi set to visit Russia many times, which will unveil next steps in bolstering this multi-faceted relationship.
The diplomatic calendar for India-Russia relations kicks off next week as Russia’s long-standing Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov holds talks with his Indian counterpart S. Jaishankar in New Delhi amid fresh tensions in the extended West Asia region. Mr Lavrov will be a key speaker at “Raisina Dialogue,” India’s annual foreign policy-strategic dialogue, which will also be attended by foreign ministers and senior officials from several countries.
With the US-Iran tensions escalating in the wake of the killing of a top Iranian commander by a US drone strike, the two countries are expected to exchange views on the fraught situation in the region and jointly push for deescalating the crisis. Besides discussing regional issues, the two foreign ministers are expected to finalise the calendar for a string of high-profile bilateral visits this year. Prime Minister Modi will visit Russia for celebrations in Moscow’s Red Square on May 9, dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War, and BRICS and SCO summits under the Russian chairmanship. Russian President Vladimir Putin will travel to India for the next annual bilateral summit with PM Modi.
“These summit and upcoming intense ministerial level discussions will present opportunities for making new solid steps in bilateral trade and investment, energy, military and technical, space, science and technology, innovation, diamond, film industry, culture and tourism as well as inter-regional cooperation,” said Russia’s Ambassador to India Nikolay Kudashev in New Delhi.
Intensifying Economic Ties
This year, the major focus will be on scaling up India-Russia economic ties, which have not kept pace with the high level and quality of strategic and security partnership between the two countries. In this regard, the two sides are intensifying negotiations for an early conclusion of the Free Trade Agreement between the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and India. This issue will figure prominently in talks during Mr Lavrov’s visit to India next week. This agreement is crucial as it opens new avenues for third country partnership in the Central Asia-Eurasian regions. The EAEU is also bracing to begin talks on a preferential trade agreement with India. EAEU has signed free trade agreements with Serbia and Singapore.
The next round of the Russian-Indian Strategic Economic Dialogue will be held this year, with the focus on transport, agriculture, small and medium enterprises, industrial collaboration and digital transformation.
India’s development partnership with Russia is also set to be strengthened further in the coming months. “We see much potential for cross-sector cooperation springing from such Indian national programs as Make in India, Digital India, Smart Cities, as there is a lot of common ground and mutually enriching experience,” said the Russian envoy. “We are examining ambitious projects in metallurgy and engineering, pharmaceuticals, infrastructure, transport, e-governance, information technologies and many other,” he added.
Looking ahead, given the new volatility in international relations and the shifting geopolitical landscape, as the recent US-Iran stand-off shows, India and Russia are set to enhance their coordination on a range of regional and global issues, including shaping an inclusive and multipolar international order.
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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