(This was originally posted in Economic Times by Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury)
Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to visit New Delhi in December for the next edition of the India-Russia bilateral summit and slew of deals are expected to be signed during the trip including a document on Military-Technical cooperation for the next decade — 2021-2031 besides mutual logistics pact. There is a strong possibility that India and Russia will hold their annual summit here next month and Putin is expected to visit on the occasion, ET has learnt. The last edition of the Summit in 2020 had to be postponed due to the pandemic. A slew of pacts in the fields of defense, economic, trade, science and technology are expected to be signed during the visit, ET has further learnt.
“There will be a bilateral summit between India-Russia. Both sides are actively working on it. There is a high possibility that the Summit is taking place in December,” DB Venkatesh Varma who retired as India’s envoy to Moscow on Sunday told state run news agency TASS before his departure. Varma informed, “We expect a number of agreements in the defense, economic, trade, science and technology spheres. We expect the Joint Commission on Technology and Science to be announced. Military-Technical cooperation for the next decade 2021-2031 will be announced. We also have an agreement on reciprocal logistic support for each other’s armed forces so that the armed forces that come for each other’s exercises will have good logistic support both in Russia and in India. And this year, in the last five months, India has participated in each and every major Russian exercise. INDRA Navy, INDRA Army, Zapad, and Peace Mission.”
He further pointed out, “We have major defense contracts already under implementation. The S-400 is one of them. We also have a contract relating to the manufacture and production of 1135.6 frigates…The production of more than 700,000 AK-203 rifles, will be done in India. It’s a Make in India program. We are going to buy an additional Su 30-MKI as well as additional MiG 29s and 400 more T-90 tanks. So there has been a fundamental change in how our defense relationship has moved on in the last 3 years. Russia has moved back again as the top defense partner of India.”
It may be noted that since August India-Russia have received additional impetus with a series of engagements. While Putin was the only head of state among UN Security Council members to attend India convened session on maritime security during New Delhi’s rotating presidency for the UNSC, PM Narendra Modi sent a special message on the 2021 edition of Eastern Economic Forum (EEF). Oil Minister Hardeep Puri represented India at the EEF with both sides deciding to expand burgeoning energy ties. Modi and Putin also held an extensive conversation in August including evolving situation on Afghanistan.
With Afghanistan emerging as an area of cooperation following the Taliban takeover and over common concerns over terrorism, Russian NSA Gen Nikolay Patrushev visited India in September to meet his Indian counterpart AK Doval for the maiden high level mechanism meet on Afghanistan. The two decided to expand security cooperation with regard to the Afghan theatre. Earlier Deputy NSA Pankaj Saran was in Moscow to discuss several issues of cooperation including Afghanistan. Both sides have ruled out formally recognising Taliban.
Last month India took part in Moscow Format meet on Afghanistan and held maiden meeting with Taliban for first time since the group formed the interim cabinet. “…at the NSA’s level, General Patrushev visited India in September. This would most possibly be followed by India hosting a meeting of the senior security officials on November 10 on Afghanistan of regional countries. General Patrushev has been invited and there’s a very strong possibility that he may actually visit. We are still awaiting confirmation, but he will be a very welcome participant in the dialogue,” Varma said in his interview. Meanwhile, India has permitted allow of export of Sputnik vaccines. “…I think in the next couple of weeks production will rise to a sufficient level where the external demands of Sputnik will be exported out of India for use, including Russia.”