India can't stand with one nation in a multipolar world. This is why it isn't willing to abandon the longstanding partnership with Russia and isn't ready to let Russia have a veto over India's relations with the United States, either.
India's relationship with Russia is Historical, cultural, economic, military, strategic and diplomatic. No common Indian or Russian people see India or Russia negatively. According to a 2014 BBC World Service Poll, 85% of Russians view India positively. A 2017 opinion poll by the Moscow-based non-governmental think tank Levada-Center states Russians identified India as one of their top five friends.
The relationship between the two countries is based on trust and faith. So in the time of testing and different multipolar world, the relationship is getting stronger than better with a special and privileged strategic partnership. After Vladimir Putin became President of Russia, this relationship has crossed more trajectory with strong roots.
The Annual Summit meeting between the Prime Minister of India and the President of the Russian Federation is the highest institutionalized dialogue mechanism in the strategic partnership between India and Russia. So far, 20 Annual Summit meetings have taken place alternatively in India and Russia. According to the former Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai, the Indo-Russian strategic partnership has been built on five major components: politics, defence, civil nuclear energy, anti-terrorism cooperation and space. However, in recent years, a sixth economic component has grown in importance, with both countries setting a target of reaching US$30 billion in bilateral trade by 2025 from about US$9.4 billion in the year 2017. To meet this goal, both countries are looking to develop a free trade agreement. Bilateral trade between both countries in 2012 grew by over 24%.
The powerful IRIGC (India-Russia Intergovernmental Commission) is the main body that conducts affairs at the governmental level between both countries. India is the second-largest market for the Russian defence industry. In 2017, approximately 68% of the Indian Military's hardware import came from Russia, making Russia the chief supplier of defence equipment.
Russia was a reliable partner for New Delhi when no one else was. There was also the bonus that India and the Soviet Union did not impose their morals on one another. Not one but two chapters of the second volume of The Mitrokhin Archive, a look at the KGB files and plans from Soviet times, is dedicated to India, suggesting how important Delhi was to Moscow.
When China or, until more recently, the United States might have censured India over Kashmir at the United Nations, the Soviet Union (and now Russia) could use its veto to protect India. And it did. In 1957, 1962, and 1971, the Soviet Union was the only country to veto resolutions seeking UN intervention over Kashmir. In the summer of 2019, when India revoked Kashmir's special status and plunged the state into lockdown and information blackout, Russia was the first to describe it as an internal matter.
For the Annual Summit on Dec 5-6, the Russian President is going to visit India. The two countries will discuss Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the recent Delhi Dialogue, India's border issue with China (Russia also has a big border with China and its periphery in Asia), terrorism, ransomware, cryptocurrency, drug trafficking, to name a few along with trade, economic, scientific, technological and cultural issues.
The delivery of the first squadron of S-400 air defence systems, part of a $5.4-billion contract with Russia for five systems, is expected to coincide with Putin's visit. India and Russia are also expected to renew their military-technical cooperation arrangement for 2021-31 and sign several defence-related agreements. A key pact that could be inked is the Reciprocal Exchange of Logistics Agreement (RELOS), which will allow militaries of the two nations to access logistics and support facilities at each other's bases. India is also looking to acquire additional Su 30-MKI and MiG-29 combat jets and 400 more T-90 tanks from Russia.
The most notable factor is during the Russian President's visit, India is working towards concluding a ₹5,100-crore deal with Russia to jointly manufacture AK-203 assault rifles at a facility in Uttar Pradesh's Amethi. The joint venture between Kalashnikov and a new weapon manufacturing division carved out of the erstwhile Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) seeks to push the government's Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan. The project envisages the production of up to 700,000 AK-203 assault rifles.
India and Russia have several major joint military programmes, including the BrahMos cruise missile programme, 5th generation fighter jet programme, Sukhoi Su-30MKI programme (230+to be built by Hindustan Aeronautics), Ilyushin/HAL Tactical Transport Aircraft, KA-226T twin-engine utility helicopters, some frigates.
Additionally, India has purchased/leased various military hardware from Russia like S-400 Triumf, Kamov Ka-226 200 to be made in India under the Make in India initiative, T-90S Bhishma with over 1000 to be built in India, Akula-II nuclear submarine (2 to be leased with an option to buy when the lease expires), INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier programme, Tu-22M3 bombers (4 ordered, not delivered), US$900 million upgrades of MiG-29, Mil Mi-17 (80 ordered) more in Service, Ilyushin Il-76, Candid (6 ordered to fit Israeli Phalcon radar) and the Farkhor Air Base in Tajikistan currently jointly operated by Indian Air Force and Tajikistan Air Force.
This year, India has set aside ₹70,221 crores for domestic defence procurement, accounting for 63% of the military's capital budget. Last year, the ministry spent more than ₹51,000 crores, or 58% of the capital budget, on domestic purchases. The maiden India-Russia 2+2 dialogue on defence and foreign ministers, which was earlier held during November, is expected to be held around the same time as the annual summit. India currently has 2+2 dialogues only with the US, Australia and Japan.
Space and nuclear are among the success stories of India Russia relationship. The Kudankulam project was the first beneficiary of India's resumed civil nuclear collaboration with international partners. Production of the Sputnik vaccine showed cooperation is not only limited to defence and security but also health.
Connecting India with North-South Corridor, the Chennai-Vladivostok maritime corridor or the Northern Sea Route are some issues that are seen. India-Russia National Security Advisers are coordinating on a high level now than before. Russia's NSA Chief Nikolai Patrushev came to Delhi to meet National Security Advisor Ajit Doval on many contentious issues. Patrushev, who hails from St Petersburg, was part of the Soviet spy agency KGB, which became the FSB when the Soviet Union disintegrated.
Areas like Defense Modernization, up-gradation, lease of Military related, Artificial Intelligence (AI), big data, 5G, robotics, drones, space, nuclear, gas, digital economy, biotechnology, Pharmacy, Information and Communications Technology (ICT), economics, logistics, terrorism, the rule of law, freedom of navigation, terror, drug traffics, ransomware, intelligence sharing are going to be present in the talks.
Finally, one can say that India's relations with Russia are strong and solid. In International Politics, there is no Friend or no enemy; it is only National Interest. However, in a multipolar world, PM Narendra Modi cannot take a uniform stand and stand with any one nation. So he is not willing to abandon the longstanding partnership with Russia, despite other nations' views. But he also isn't ready to let Russia have a veto over India's relations with the United States.
India knows Russia's growing strategic partnership with China, Turkey and Pakistan, but India-Russia's relations are deep with trust, which will not bulge the present. New Delhi and Moscow are adapting to the changing dynamic in their respective relations with Washington and Beijing. This new geopolitical dynamic is vastly different from the great power politics that brought India close to Russia in the past. For now, India and Russia are moving forward for peace, zero terror, check authoritarian military rules in Asia and the world.