“Our Strategic Partnership with Russia has very deep historic roots which provide stability, trust and confidence strong enough to navigate the complexities of the current world. We have a global strategic partnership with the United States. Each of these relations stand on their own merits. All the major powers recognize fully India’s tradition of an independent foreign policy. I do not wish to comment on specific defence contracts but let me state clearly that all the contracts concluded with Russia are being implemented according to schedule. These are consistent with India’s defence and security needs and interests,” Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla told Russia’s leading daily Kommersant following his high-level meetings.
When asked about Moscow’s reservations against Quad & Indo-Pacific concept, Shringla explained India’s inclusive vision and role of Russia in it. “India’s concept of Indo-Pacific was spelt out by Prime Minister Modi’s seminal speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in 2018. India’s approach focuses on a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific. We emphasize respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations in the region, peaceful resolution of disputes, avoidance of use or threat of use of force, and adherence to international laws, rules and regulations.”
India does not see the Indo-Pacific Region as a club of limited members nor as a new theatre for geostrategic contestation. It includes all nations in this geography as also others beyond who have a stake in it aimed at Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR), he emphasised.
“As such, we see this concept as a framework for engagement with Russia. Russia is an important Pacific power. During his speech in Vladivostok in September 2019, Prime Minister Modi referred to Vladivostok as a junction between Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific. The Chennai-Vladivostok Maritime Corridor which will further link to the Northern Sea Route and the Pacific will create a connectivity continuum that will bind India and Russia together from the Arctic to the Indian Ocean. Therefore, contrary to certain speculation, we feel that in reality, India and Russia have more in common on the concept of Indo-Pacific. A multi-polar world, and multi-polar Asia has to recognize the indispensable role of India and Russia.”
With respect to Quad, as vibrant and pluralistic democracies with shared values, India, US, Japan and Australia have collectively affirmed the importance of maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific, Shringla noted.
Referring to the expansion of the Indo-Russian agenda, the Foreign Secretary stated, “My discussions in Moscow confirmed the vitality of our relations with Russia. We have an active agenda to carry forward the decisions of the last Summit during Prime Minister Modi’s highly successful visit to Vladivostok in September 2019 at the Eastern Economic Forum where he was also the Chief Guest. Annual Summits, regular consultations between the Foreign Ministries, cooperation in Defence, Nuclear and Space sectors, Energy, Science & Technology are key facets of our relationship.”
India is looking at substantial investments in each other’s Energy sectors including looking at new opportunities for supply of Russian Coking Coal for Indian steel sector, he said, adding, “We are also looking forward to major substantial Russian investments in the Make-in-India projects in India including in Defence, Railways, Inland Waterways, Highways, Petrochemical sector. Our people-to-people contacts are also evolving. We intend to have a special program for cooperation with the Buddhist regions of Russia. We would be opening an Indian Energy Center in Moscow and a Tourism Office by summer this year. We are also happy that Aeroflot and Air India will commence flights between our two countries which will facilitate the return of a large section of Indian students who study here in Russian universities. Most importantly, we look forward to an active bilateral schedule of meetings including a Bilateral Summit during the course of this year.
When asked about bilateral cooperation against Covid-19, Shringla noted, “ Russia was the first country to register a vaccine against Covid-19. Of the 500 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine that Russia plans to produce in 2021, a significant portion is expected to be produced in India. So far, Russian Direct Investment Fund has signed a distribution contract for 100 million doses with a prominent Indian company and a (separate) production agreement for 100 million doses with other companies. In addition, RDIF is in negotiations with several other Indian producers to manufacture higher doses of vaccines in India for use in Russia, India and other countries as well. The phase-3 trials of Sputnik V are ongoing in India and we expect regulatory approvals for emergency use authorization in India in due course.”