Modi’s Russia visit: Where is the focus?

Modi's Russia visit appeared less of one aimed at strengthening strategic ties and more like one aimed at a tightrope walk.

What was the main reason behind Modi's Russia visit this week? Did he want to strengthen the ties or do damage control after skipping SCO?

Photo: PIB

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Moscow for two days to attend the India-Russia Annual Summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He was received by the First Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov. Mr Modi’s Russia visit features the 22nd Annual Summit between India and Russia, which would facilitate the leaders to review multiple bilateral issues including trade and education.

During Mr Modi’s Russia visit, Mr Putin awarded him the Order of St Andrew the Apostle, five years after he signed the decree to confer the Indian prime minister with the honour in April 2019. Mr Putin had mentioned in the document then that he wanted to give the award to Mr Modi for his “outstanding service in the development of a particularly privileged strategic partnership between the Russian Federation and the Republic of India and friendly ties between the Russian and Indian peoples”. 

Mr Putin had told Mr Modi in Vladivostok in Russia’s far-east in September 2019 that he’d confer this award to him during a ceremony in the Kremlin.

The Russian president also commended India-Russia strategic ties. “Our countries have enjoyed decades of a good friendship,” he mentioned citing the fact that the present ties have their roots in the history when India strengthened ties with the Soviet Union following its independence.

“Today, our relations have the nature of a privileged strategic partnership,” Mr Putin claimed.

Mr Modi had mentioned Mr Putin as his friend in a statement he made before leaving India for Russia and Austria.

Both leaders also expressed happiness over the growing bilateral ties, especially the fact that despite the West’s unilateral sanctions on Russia, India-Russia trade saw a 66% growth last year and it reached $23.1bn in the first four months of this year, a 10% growth compared to the same period last year.

According to Mr Putin’s top economic advisor Maxim Oreshkin, the bilateral trade between both countries will reach $100bn by 2030.

Modi’s Russia visit: Renewing ties, strengthening bonds

New Delhi has been emphasising the India-Russia Annual Summit as the key reason behind Mr Modi’s Russia visit.

“Annual summit between the two leaders is the highest mechanism to steer and drive the cooperation between our two countries,” Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said.

According to Mr Kwatra, this visit “would provide an opportunity to the two leaders to review the whole range of bilateral issues”, which include trade linkages, investment ties, energy cooperation, etc. The two leaders would also “share perspectives on regional and global developments of mutual interest.”

The two leaders are also expected to evaluate the status of bilateral activities in international intergovernmental organisations including BRICS, SCO, G20 and the UN.

The underlying problems in India-Russia relations

Mr Modi’s Russia visit comes days after the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, which concluded with the adoption of the “Astana Declaration” and 25 prominent documents ranging from the “Energy Cooperation Development Strategy Until 2030” to the “Program of Cooperation in Countering Terrorism”. 

The SCO summit was successfully carried out in the presence of the heads of all member nations, except India. Mr Modi skipped the SCO summit and chose to send the External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar in his stead. Many argue that Mr Modi’s avoidance of the SCO Summit was done to appease the US-led collective West with which it has been putting great effort to stand in line. 

After skipping the important SCO Summit in Astana, was Mr Modi’s Russia visit planned hastily as a damage control measure? 

Maintaining ties with Russia is one of the foreign policy goals of Mr Modi due to various reasons. But New Delhi doesn’t eventually increase engagement with Russia to be an integral part of the new multipolar world order, rather to use its ties with Moscow have been used to bargain deals with the US-led West, with which Mr Modi wants stronger strategic ties.

It’s apparently to not offend the West, which bitterly opposes the rise of Russia and China and their promotion of multipolarity, that Mr Modi avoided the SCO Summit, which discussed the collective security of member nations.

Due to its excessive engagement with the US-led Indo-Pacific security architecture, which runs against China and is strongly opposed by Moscow, India is already getting isolated in the emerging multipolar forums.

New Delhi has probably been engulfed by a foreboding feeling as Russia has invited Pakistan to join the International North-South Trade Corridor and the Chinese President Xi Jinping has decided to invite the country to join BRICS. 

This would not only make India uncomfortable but act as a threat to India’s position in the global south.

With such developments, Mr Modi has been more than eager to attend the bilateral summit, even at the risk of irking some sections of the West.

A journalist interested in national and international news. She aspires to highlight the common people's concerns through human interest stories and deep-dive articles on geopolitics.

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