- Amid the ongoing standoff with China along LAC, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s second visit to Moscow this year scheduled next week has put the back on Indo-Russian strategic partnership as a pillar of stability in the region.
- Singh is expected to attend SCO defence ministers meet September 4-5 in the Russian capital, which will also see the participation of his Chinese counterpart. Singh and his Russian host are expected to hold a bilateral meet with two sides expediting joint defence production projects and critical defence supplies. Later in the year, the Russian defence minister could visit India for the joint commission meet.
- “Russian Defence Minister said that he looked forward to meeting Raksha Mantri Shri @rajnathsingh in Moscow next week. This was conveyed to Ambassador today,” the Indian Embassy tweeted on Friday following a meeting between the defence minister and the Indian envoy at the Army-2020 exposition. ET had first reported that Singh could visit Moscow for SCO defence ministers meet.
- Less than a week after Singh’s visit, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will be in Moscow for the SCO foreign ministers meet September 9-11. This would be an Indian foreign minister’s maiden visit abroad since the outbreak of a pandemic. ET was also the first to report about this trip being held in the backdrop of LAC standoff.
A Russia-India-China (RIC) foreign ministers’ meet is being explored on the sidelines of SCO defence ministers conclave and the visit by Jaishankar would give an opportunity to keep the channel of communication open between the two sides.
- All eyes will, however, be on the SCO Summit being planned in October that could see the participation by PM Narendra Modi alongside the Chinese President in St Petersburg. Russian President Vladimir Putin could visit Delhi for his annual summit also in October. This edition of the summit would take forward proposals of the 2019 summit held in Vladivostok. Key deliverables could include Mutual Logistics Services Pact for the two navies, investments in the energy sector, expansion in space cooperation, and creation of new maritime connectivity networks.
- The LAC standoff of the last few months with China has added momentum to the Delhi-Moscow partnership that has been reinvigorated since Modi came to power, shaped both by the personal chemistry between the two leaders and a focus on newer areas of cooperation.
- Russia has emerged as a political player involved in back-channel diplomacy to defuse Sino-Indian tensions. India, on its part, has decided to strongly support this year’s Russian presidency of SCO-BRICS-RIC. Russia had played a quiet role in securing the release of Indian soldiers after the June 15 incident at Galwan Valley that created conditions for RIC meet in the virtual format at the end of June.
- In the backdrop of this, Delhi has decided to send tri-services contingent for Kavkaz multilateral military exercise in the Russian Caucasus region. Russia plays host to nearly 18 participating countries including India, China, and Pakistan. Other countries for the exercise include Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Belarus, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan. The exercise will be conducted in Donguz training ranges in Russia’s Orenburg. It is a strategic command-post exercise or otherwise called war games.
- When Defence Minister Singh traveled to Moscow in June at the height of crisis with China coinciding with Victory Day Parade, he became the first Indian minister to travel anywhere abroad since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. The visit enabled him to get assurances on critical defence supplies during the crisis.
- The SCO heads of government meet planned to be held here at the end of November could see the new Russian PM traveling to India for the first time. While senior officials from the two sides have been in regular contact either virtually or physically, both in Delhi and Moscow, India is among countries present at the ongoing army expo in Russia. The two sides are also working on India’s access to anti-COVID vaccines produced by Russia.
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