A Special Relationship- India & Russia

21 Apr 2021

Curtain Hug

The strategic relationship upgraded to a “Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership” in December 2010 when President Putin visited India.

There are various aspects of this “special relationship”:

India has a long-standing military cooperation with Russia. Initially based on a buyer-seller framework, this has transitioned into joint ventures. These operations focus on the development of advanced technologies for the defense system.
The production of the BrahMos Missile System, SU-30, and T90 tanks are examples of such partnerships. At the 17th Annual Bilateral Summit
( Goa 2016), both sides signed shareholders agreement to establish a joint venture. This venture focused on making Ka-226T helicopters in India.
India consented to produce spare parts for the Russian military equipment at the 20th Annual Bilateral Summit (Vladivostok, September 2019).
PM also announced the JV–Indo-Russian Rifles Pvt. Ltd for manufacturing AK Series Assault Rifles in India(Amethi, March 2019). This is a component of the flagship “Make in India” program.
The countries also encourage training between their armed forces.

The trade between the countries saw a positive increase in 2017 by 21.6%. In 2018, the trade value rose to USD10.969 Bn. From January-September 2019, the total bilateral trade value was USD 7.55 billion.
India imports mineral fuels, mineral oils, machinery, and mechanical parts of appliances, fertilizers, nuclear reactors, and boilers from Russia.
It also exports pharmaceutical products, machinery, mechanical parts of appliances, organic chemicals, and vehicles other than railways to Russia.
Trade-in services have also occurred in the past 5 years. It remains stable but in Russia’s favor. In 2017, the trade value was USD 1095.4 million. This figure fell to USD 633.68 million in 2019 (January-June).

Bilateral Investment:
The countries have set a target of USD 30 billion in bilateral trade by 2025. By 2017, India had invested 13 bn USD in Russia, whereas Russia invested 18 bn USD. India’s major investments were in the Hydrocarbon sector. But Russia invested more in the telecommunications (AFK Sistema) and automotive (KAMAZ) sector.
Both countries have an active interest in the Hydrocarbon sector. India invested USD 5.5 billion in Russia’s Oil and Gas sector in 2016.
Indian Oil Corporation Limited (OIL), Indian Consortium of Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL), and Bharat Petro Resources Limited (BPRL) acquired a 23.9% stake in Vankorneft, a field operated by Russian national Oil Company(in 2016). This cements the building participation of the countries in each other’s oil sectors.

Nuclear Energy:
Russia and India agree on the peaceful use of Nuclear energy. Russia believes India has a well-regulated, advanced nuclear technology.DAE and Russia’s Rosatom signed the Strategic Vision for strengthening cooperation in December 2014. This showed commitment from both countries to achieve peaceful applications of nuclear energy.
Russia also supported the construction of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP). It is the largest nuclear power station in India. It has two operational units (Unit 1& Unit 2) and others (Unit 3& Unit 4 ) that are under construction.

Russia has a well-known tradition of teaching Indian languages at their institutes. Russian schools and universities teach Hindi to at least 1500 students. They also teach Tamil, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, Urdu, Sanskrit, and Pali. Russians also show interest in Indian culture, dance, music, and Yoga.

Science and Space:
Like Nuclear energy, both countries have cooperated for the peaceful use of outer space. This involves collaboration in launching satellites. As well as remote sensing and use of the GLONASS navigation system operated by Russia. The science academies of both countries provide exchange programs. This promotes cultural and scientific exchange. Several new programs operate to bridge the sci-tech gap between the countries. These include the India-Russia Bridge to Innovation, the Russia-India Network (RIN) of Universities, and a Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL).

India has maintained a healthy relationship with Russia. But, the political context of any relationship makes it difficult to meet absolute cooperation. Russia also has eyes towards Beijing.

India purchased Russia’s S-400 missile system. This anti-air-craft weapon was also bought by China. This puts India in a tough spot. It faces competition from China. Moreover, Russia-China bonds are stronger. India-Russia trade was USD 10.11 billion in 2019-2020. This is less compared to $110 billion between China and Russia. Russia and India’s opinions remain different on global power. Both Russia and Chinese mirror the similar belief of displacing the US from the top.

As China’s influence in Russia grows, India needs to be practical about its relations with Russia.

Overall, the relation seems cordial at the moment. But no one knows how the race to the top will shift the dynamics.