Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov ended his visit to India on the 6th. Lavrov’s visit coincided with a joint military exercise between the United States, Japan, India, Australia and France in the Bay of Bengal, less than two weeks before U.S. Defense Secretary Austin visited India.
Paving the way for Putin’s visit to India?
Lavrov held a meeting with Indian Foreign Minister Su Jiesheng on the 6th. According to Russian media reports, Lavrov conveyed a message from Russian President Putin to Indian Prime Minister Modi during the meeting.
Lavrov and Su Jiesheng focused on the planned bilateral high-level meetings, including Putin’s visit to India and the meeting of the Intergovernmental Cooperation Committee between the two sides. The foreign ministers of the two countries also discussed joint arms production, vaccine production, the situation in Afghanistan, India’s rotating presidency of the BRICS mechanism, etc.
Turning to Russian-Indian military technical cooperation, Lavrov stressed that Russia did not feel that India had wavered in this regard. He said that Russia is the only country in the world that provides India with the most advanced military technology.
Experts believe that Lavrov’s visit is largely in preparation for Putin’s visit to India this year. It is expected that during Putin’s visit to India, Russia and India will sign a new arms sales contract.
In addition, Lavrov appeased India’s dissatisfaction with Afghanistan. The International Conference on Afghanistan held in Moscow on March 18 triggered a disturbance. Russia, the United States, China and Pakistan attended the meeting, but India, which has strategic interests in Afghanistan, was not invited. During his visit to India, Lavrov stressed in an interview with the Indian media that India is an important participant in the reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
Russia-India relations have been impacted
Last December, Russia and India announced the cancellation of the annual summit meeting, the first time in nearly 20 years that the two sides cancelled the summit meeting. Analysts believe that the Russian-Indian relations have been impacted by factors such as the US-Indian relations.
Speaking to the Russian Council for International Affairs at the end of last year, Lavrov said that the United States tried to undermine the strategic partnership between Russia and India through the Indo-Pacific strategy. Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Srivastava responded that India’s relations with each country do not depend on its relations with third countries, and it is hoped that all India’s partners can understand this.
Han Wei, deputy director of the Eurasian Institute of the Chinese Academy of International Studies, pointed out that the strengthening of cooperation between the United States and India has aroused Russia’s dissatisfaction and concern. On the one hand, the United States increased arms sales to India, which affected Russian-Indian military technology cooperation. The United States repeatedly warned India not to buy Russia’s S-400 air defense system.
believes that India hopes to maintain a certain balance between the United States and Russia. While deepening cooperation with the United States, India will not overly snub Russia, a traditional strategic partner.
Expert: Russia-India mutually beneficial cooperation will continue
The Russian-Indian cooperation originated from the close relationship between the Soviet Union and India. During Putin’s visit to India in 2000, the two sides announced the establishment of a strategic partnership. In 2013, when Putin met with Indian Prime Minister Singh, he proposed that Russia-India relations are “special preferential strategic partnerships”. Experts believe that although Russia and India have differences on geopolitical interests, the mutually beneficial cooperation between the two sides in military technology and other fields will continue, and Russia will try its best to preserve India’s traditional arms sales market.
First of all, military technical cooperation will remain the cornerstone of Russian-Indian cooperation. According to the Indian Express, more than 80% of the Indian army’s armaments come from Russia and are heavily dependent on Russian-made weapons. In recent years, the largest arms sale on both sides has been the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system. In October 2018, the two sides signed an agreement on the procurement of S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems, with a total value of more than $5.4 billion. In addition, the two sides have also carried out joint arms research and development projects such as Bramos cruise missiles, fifth-generation fighter jets, nuclear submarines and so on. Although India is gradually strengthening arms cooperation with other countries, Russia’s dominant position will not be shaken in the short term.
Secondly, energy cooperation is expected to deepen. In recent years, Russian-Indian energy cooperation has developed rapidly. Oil and gas trade and nuclear energy projects are promoting the rapid growth of economic and trade cooperation between the two countries, which has become a new driving force for the development of bilateral relations. Russia plans to help India build new nuclear power plants and expand the trade with India in liquefied natural gas.
Third, Russia and India have mutual needs in the political field. Li Ziguo, director of the Eurasian Institute of China Institute of International Studies, believes that India needs Russian support on many issues such as joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group. And Russia needs India’s support for its Greater Eurasian Partnership.