Event ReportsPublished on Jun 26, 2018
India and Russia in a changing world order
India and Russia have had extraordinarily close relations as they have shared a historic strategic partnership during their long period of international engagement. However, in recent times, various issues, ranging from strategic to political, have begun to strain this relationship. Russia’s growing closeness to China, according to many, has emerged as a major impediment in further strengthening Indo–Russian relations. Against this backdrop, ORF organised a session on ‘India and Russia in a Changing World Order’ on 19 June, 2018. The panel comprised of Anuradha M. Chenoy, former Dean, School of International Studies, JNU and Himani Pant, Junior Fellow, ORF. The roundtable was preceded by a closed-door interaction with the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to India, Mr. Nikolay Kudashev. The session began with Prof. Chenoy examining how both India and Russia had contributed towards multipolarity in the current global system. She elaborated on the dual aspects of multipolarity i.e. multilateralism and global governance, stating that both countries had a common understanding of the same. While outlining the importance of multilateralism in the current global architecture, she emphasised the role played by multilateral organisations, using the example of BRICS, where both India and Russia are involved. She also mentioned how no other international forum had developed institutions like BRICS had, and asserted the importance of other regional organisations such as ASEAN. Speaking on the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative, Prof. Chenoy mentioned the genuine concerns that India had especially regarding issues of sovereignty, and how India needed to engage with Russia on this issue. She additionally spoke about Russia’s regional interests in West Asia and India should consider how it wants to address this issue. She noted that India’s policy positions had been changing, and that it would not like to see an escalation of tensions in Iran. Quoting a scholar’s opinion, she examined how Russia had historically favoured its western half. This, in her opinion, gave both India and Russia the opportunity to jointly collaborate on the Russian Far East and Eurasia in the future. Prof. Chenoy additionally spoke of areas of divergence in Indo–Russian relations, such as that of Russia keeping a quiet or diplomatic stance on the South China Sea issue, while India would prefer a stronger position due to its relation with Vietnam. The need for India to give clarification on the militarisation of the Indian Ocean was also highlighted. She ended on a positive note, emphasising how both countries were important to each other while mentioning the historic strategic partnership that both countries have shared. Himani Pant began her presentation with a series of observations, such as that of Russia’s arms exports. She noted a downfall in arms transfers to China, but a steady growth in the same for Pakistan. The speaker pointed out that during the period of 2008–12, 79% of India’s total arms imports were from Russia. She also spoke about trade relations between India and Russia, highlighting the fact that there was a 22% growth in the period of 2016–17. While the numbers might be small compared to other countries, it nonetheless showed an effort to pick up trade relations. She pointed out bilateral inconsistencies from both sides, and asserted the need for diversifying areas of cooperation in fields such as information technology, pharmaceuticals and energy. Himani Pant, however, cautioned that while arguments for diversification are important, they can also be overstated. Outlining the importance of Russia for India, she examined how Russia is the only country that has offered India a critical transfer of technology and how it would be a game-changer if any other country offered that to India. She ended her talk by stating the importance of multilateral frameworks and how it offers both India and Russia an opportunity to look forward to regional cooperation. In the Q&A session, the panellists were asked questions on a variety of issues. Of particular focus were questions regarding Russia’s closeness to China and its working relationship with Pakistan, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and India’s role within it as well as future areas of cooperation between Russia and India.
This report is prepared by Mahananda Ray, Research Intern, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi
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