Russia- India relations

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This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.

Contents

History, views

President Putin on 1947-2017

Vladimir Putin, Seventy Years Together: Russia And India, May 31 2017: The Times of India


In 2017, we are celebrating the anniversary of a truly historic event.Seventy years ago ­ on April 13, 1947 ­ the governments of the USSR and India announced their decision to establish official missions in Delhi and Moscow. This step on our part logically followed up on our course for assisting India on its way to national liberation and contributed to strengthening its independence.

In the decades that have followed, our bilateral partnership has further intensified and strengthened, and has never been subject to expediency . Equal and mutually beneficial relations of the two States have steadily developed. This is quite natural. Our peoples have always had mutual sympathy and respect for each other's spiritual values and culture.

Today , we can take pride in what we have achieved. With Russia's technical and financial assistance, the pioneers of Indian industrialisation came into existence: metallurgical complexes in Bhilai, Visakhapatnam and Bokaro, the mining equipment plant in Durgapur, the thermal power station in Neyveli, the electromechanical enterprise in Korba, antibiotics plants in Rishikesh and the pharmaceutical plant in Hyderabad. Soviet and, later on, Russian scientists and academics participated in the establishment of research and education centres in India. These include the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay , research institutes of petroleum industry in Dehradun and Ahmedabad.

We are proud our specialists helped develop India's space programme. Thanks to this fruitful bilateral cooperation, in 1975 India's first satellite, Aryabhata, was launched, and Indian citizen Rakesh Sharma travelled into space in 1984 as a crew member of Soyuz T-11.

In August 1971, our countries signed the Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation, which set forth the fundamental principles of bilateral relations, such as respect for the sovereignty and each other's interests, good neighbourliness, and peaceful coexistence. In 1993, the Russian Federation and the Republic of India confirmed the inviolability of these basic principles in the new Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation.The Declaration on Strategic Partner ship signed in 2000 provides for close coordination of approaches to ensuring international peace and security and resolving pressing global and regional issues. Annual summits have become an established practice in the IndianRussian bilateral relations allowing us to discuss in a timely manner the efforts taken to accomplish our objectives and set long-term goals. In early June, we will have another summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in St Petersburg. He is expected to attend the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, in which India will for the first time participate as a partner country .

The legal framework comprising more than 250 documents is being updated on a regular basis. Effective work is carried out within intergovernmental commissions on cooperation in trade and economy , science and technology , as well as culture and military-technical field. Ministries of foreign affairs, security council offices and line ministries maintain continuous dialogue. The interparliamentary and interregional ties, as well as business and humanitarian contacts are actively developing. Military cooperation is also being enhanced: joint land and naval exercises are conducted regularly .

Cooperation in peaceful uses of atomic energy is one of the fundamental components of the relationship between India and Russia. The construction of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant with our assistance is a flagship project in this field. In 2013, the first nuclear power unit was put into operation. In October 2016, the second unit was transferred to the Indian side, and construction of the third and fourth power units began. All of this contributes to the implementation of the plans to develop nuclear energy in India involving the construction of at least 12 power units in its territory by 2020. These goals are stipulated in a joint document ­ the Strategic Vision for Strengthening India-Russia Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy . We intend to further share best practices in this important industry with India and contribute to enhancing its energy security .

Collaboration in the traditional energy sector is successfully developing.The purchase of a block of shares in the Russian company “Vankorneft“ made by the Indian consortium of companies has become the biggest bilateral deal in the oil industry . The possibilities for the participation of Indian companies in joint hydrocarbons exploration and production projects in the Russian Arctic shelf are currently under consideration. There are also good prospects for cooperation in the solar energy filed, modernisation of the existing power plants and construction of new ones in the territory of India. Large-scale projects are carried out in mechanical engineering, chemical and mining industries, aircraft construction, pharmaceutics and medicine.

One of the priorities is to boost the trade turnover and improve its structure, as well as stimulate economic activity of our business communities. I am referring to enhancing industrial cooperation and increasing supplies of high-tech products, creating a better business and investment environment, and using systems of payments in national currencies.

The decision to start negotiations on a free trade area agreement between the Eurasian Economic Union and India adopted in December 2016 is of particular importance. The possibilities of creating the International North South Transport Corridor are being explored. All these factors should promote the development of our bilateral and regional cooperation.

To encourage reciprocal capital inflow, a working group on priority investment projects was established under the Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation. 19 most promising projects have already been selected. Russia is committed to long-term participation in the “Make in India“ programme initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Our countries cooperate intensively in the production of multipurpose weapons and military equipment. Coproduction of a unique supersonic cruise missile “BrahMos“ is our special pride.Since 1960, the overall value of contracts within the framework of military and technical cooperation has amounted to over $65 billion, while the portfolio of orders in 2012-2016 exceeded $46 billion.

India and Russia are equal partners in international affairs. Our countries support the establishment of a multipolar democratic system of international relations based on strict compliance with the principles of law and resting upon the UN central role. We are willing to further jointly counter challenges and threats of the 21st century , promote the unifying agenda and contribute to maintaining global and regional security .

We effectively interact within BRICS ­ an association that thanks to our collective efforts is increasing its weight and influence. This June, India will become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. It will considerably enhance the potential of the SCO. India and Russia also work together within the G20 and other international formats.

I would also like to note that our countries closely coordinate positions on such complex issues as settling the situation in Syria and ensuring stability in the Middle East and North Africa region. They significantly contribute to the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

I am convinced that the enormous potential of cooperation between the two great powers will be further explored for the benefit of the peoples of India and Russia and the international community in general. We have everything necessary to achieve this ­ political will of the sides, economic viability and shared global priorities. All this is based on the glorious history of the Indian Russian friendship.

Prime Minister Modi 1947-2017

PM Modi on seven decades of India-Russia friendship, May 31, 2017: The Times of India


Article by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the 70th Anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between India and the Russian Federation published in Russian newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazetta on May 31, 2017

Seven decades ago, on 13 April 1947 to be precise, even before India gained independence, India and Russia established diplomatic relations with each other. I convey my warm greetings to the people of Russia and India on the 70th anniversary of this momentous milestone. which we are celebrating this year. e in 2017.

India-Russia relations have been the one constant in a world that has changed dramatically since 1947. They have withstood the test of time, and grown from strength to strength. The resilience of our relationship is based on the fact that it rests on the principles of equality, trust and mutual benefit. We have adapted our partnership to the different stages of our national development and to the changing realities of the international context. We have been together in times good and bad.

Our relations of course go well beyond the last seventy years. They are steeped in history. They also go well beyond the governments. Afanasei Nikitin travelled from Tver to India in the 15th century to connect Russia to India. Later, in the mid-18th century, Indian merchants travelled between India and Russia and established settlements in Astrakhan. Gerasim Lebedev, who was a pioneer of Indology and Bengali theatre, visited India around the same period. He was followed by Ivan Menayev in the mid-19th century, who introduced Sanskrit to the people of Russia, studied Vedic literature, the edicts of Ashoka the Great, Pali grammar and Buddhist studies. Scholars like Sergei Oldenburg and Fyodor Shcherbatskoy continued that tradition during the following decades, translating and studying many Indian epics and classical texts.

In later years, Rabindranath Tagore's poetry was translated into Russian and Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation, and Leo Tolstoy corresponded with each other. The immortal works of Nikolai Roerich and his love for India remain a part of our rich cultural legacy. Russian writers like Dostoevsky, Pushkin and Chekov influenced Indian thought and drama. Yoga, Indian films, songs and dances remain an abiding bond between our people.

The Soviet Union helped India build its industrial base. The factories at Bokaro and Bhilai, the hydroelectric dam at Bhakra-Nangal, and the images of Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma on board the Soyuz T-11 as the first Indian cosmonaut, are etched in the minds of every Indian.

In the last seventy years, India has developed a large and diversified industrial and technological base. We are among the fastest growing large economies of the world. The potential for India's accelerated growth has never been greater, nor the optimism higher. Russia has re-emerged from the events of 1991 as a global power with international reach and influence. Its economy has been modernized and a new generation is driving the country forward.

In 2000, India and Russia signed a Declaration on Strategic Partnership. In 2010, we elevated our partnership to the level of a Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership. These documents are more than just words. They contain an ambitious blueprint for our cooperation. Our cooperation in the military technical field is a pillar of great strength in India-Russia relations. Russian equipment and technology is the mainstay of our defence forces. The symbols of our contemporary partnership today include Indian investments in Sakhalin 1, and now the Vankor and Taas-Yuryakh oil fields, the nuclear power plant at Kudankulam and the Brahmos Joint Venture Project. In the economic field we are moving in the direction of increasing mutual investments in manufacturing, development of the International North-South Transport Corridor and creation of a Green Corridor. India has been an important contributor to the pharmaceutical industry of Russia.

But we cannot and should not be satisfied with our achievements and must strive to open new vistas. We should fully exploit our mutual complementarities based on our large markets, resource endowments and industrial and technological base. We are focusing on increasing our bilateral trade which is considerably below our potential. We are opening new areas of cooperation in the energy sector, telecommunications and science and technology. We have set up funds to facilitate investment in high technologies. We look upon the Arctic as another area of cooperation with Russia. We wish to expand cooperation between the regions of Russia and the States of India, and especially with the Russian Far East. We are working on expanding our trade ties with the Eurasian Economic Union. We are exploring new areas of cooperation like railways, innovation, IT, diamond trade, and infrastructure. There are efforts towards greater joint production and technology transfer from Russia to India. We are working together to enhance physical connectivity as also intensify contacts between our scientists, universities and intellectuals, particularly the younger generation. Russian companies are welcome to join our flagship programmes such as Make in India, Start Up India, Skill India and Digital India.

The significance of our relations goes beyond the bilateral sphere. This is natural and has always been so. Our partnership has contributed to global peace and security. We have supported each other's key interests. We are important stakeholders in upholding the stability of the international political, security, economic and financial order. We cooperate closely in forums such as the United Nations, BRICS, G-20, East Asia Summit, RIC and the IAEA. India looks forward to becoming a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation that became possible with wholehearted Russian support.

At a time of multiple global challenges, our cooperation becomes all the more necessary. There is loosening of the traditional power balance in the world. New centers of influence and new engines of growth are emerging. The United Nations Security Council no longer reflects these changing realities, and direly needs reform. The world is plagued by multiple regional hotspots. Their effects are being felt across the world. The biggest threat to civilized societies comes from terrorism that is today more lethal and more organized than ever before. Terrorism is challenging our way of life. India and Russia are natural partners in fighting terrorism unitedly and with determination and to promote a multi-polar international system based on the central role of the United Nations and international law.

In India, the policy of building strong relations with Russia enjoys crosscutting national consensus. Every government in India since 1947 has accorded the highest priority to developing close relations with the government and people of Russia. My government is not only committed to following this policy, but taking our relations to newer heights.

I will never forget my first visit to Russia in 2001 with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. I was struck by the achievements of Russia, its sense of history and the pride of its people. I have visited Russia a few times thereafter, and every time I have felt the immense goodwill towards my country and people. We deeply value the leadership and support that President Putin has given to our relationship.

As we commemorate seven decades of our close partnership, we have an occasion to celebrate our achievements and plan the future trajectory of our relationship. When President Putin visited Goa in October 2016 for the 17th annual bilateral Summit, we agreed on a roadmap to celebrate this momentous occasion. I am happy to note that the road map is well on its way to implementation and that many new elements are being enthusiastically added to the celebrations.

I pay homage to all those, known and unknown, who have toiled and contributed to the development of the unique relationship between our two nations. We are the inheritors of their legacy and beneficiaries of their hard work and above all, their unwavering faith in this relationship. We are committed to building on this legacy and bequeathing to our youth a strong and vibrant partnership that will contribute to changing the world for the better.

I eagerly look forward to my visit to the beautiful city of St. Petersburg, and to my meeting with President Putin for the 18th Annual India-Russia Bilateral Summit and the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

1959: Khrushchev blasted Mao for tension with India

Aug 5, 2017: The Times of India

'Khrushchev blasted Mao for 1959 border skirmish with India'


HIGHLIGHTS

Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev blamed China's Mao Zedong for the border skirmish in 1959 with India, a media report has said.

The Post attributed the Cold War International History Project of Wilson Centre as the source of the transcript of the meeting between Khrushchev and Mao.

A Chinese paramilitary guard stands in front of a portrait of late communist leader Mao Zedong at the Forbidden City in Beijing. (AFP Photo)A Chinese paramilitary guard stands in front of a portrait of late communist leader Mao Zedong at the Forbidde... Read More

BEIJING: Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev squarely blamed China's Mao Zedong for the border skirmish in 1959 with India and the subsequent escape of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, absolving then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of any blame, a media report said on Saturday.

According to a transcript of a stormy meeting between Khrushchev and Mao published by Hong Kong's South China Morning Post, the Soviet leader bluntly told the then chairman of China's ruling Communist Party that he was responsible for the situation in Tibet and the tension with India.

The acrimonious meeting towards the end of September that year - a little over a month after the skirmish between Indian and Chinese troops - reportedly forced the Soviet leader to cut short his visit to Beijing.

The Post attributed the Cold War International History Project of Wilson Centre as the source of the transcript. The meeting began with Khrushchev telling Mao: "You have had good relations with India for many years. Suddenly, here is a bloody incident, as a result of which Nehru found himself in a very difficult position."

"If you let me, I will tell you what a guest should not say: the events in Tibet are your fault. You ruled in Tibet you should have had your intelligence [agencies] there and should have known about the plans and intentions of the Dalai Lama," Khrushchev told Mao. Mao shot back: "Nehru also says that the events in Tibet [were] our fault. Besides, in the Soviet Union they published a TASS declaration on the issue of conflict with India [supporting India]."

He was referring to a report in the Russian state-run news agency TASS, urging India and China to reach a negotiated settlement. Khrushchev also told Mao that he was "outraged" by the Chinese calling the Soviet Union "time-servers".

"Take back your accusations; otherwise we spoil relations between our parties. We are your friends and speak the truth. We never acted as time-servers with regard to anybody... If you consider us time-servers, comrade Chen Yi, then do not offer me your hand. I will not accept it," Khrushchev told Mao and other Chinese leaders who attended the meeting. After that visit, relations between China and then Soviet Union appeared to deteriorate leading to Beijing warming up to the US.

2018/ PM-Putin meet elevates ties to ‘privileged strategic partnership’

PM-Putin meet elevates ties to ‘spl privileged strategic partnership’, May 22, 2018: The Times of India


Leaders Talk For 6 Hrs, Ride Yacht During Informal Sochi Summit

Bilateral and global issues jostled for space during an informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin when on Monday the two leaders met for almost six hours in Bocharev Creek in Sochi.

Finishing the meetings, which ranged from one-onones, to delegation level talks, from a ride on a yacht, to a visit to an educational centre, Modi tweeted: “Extremely productive discussions with President Putin. We reviewed the complete range of India-Russia relations as well as other global subjects. Friendship between India and Russia has stood the test of time.”

Exuding the same confidence in relations as was visible during last month’s Modi-Xi informal summit, Modi said, “Our ties will continue to scale newer heights in the coming years.”

In a late evening statement, an MEA spokesperson said the two leaders “decided to intensify consultation and coordination with each other, including on the Indo-Pacific Region”. The concept of “Indo-Pacific” is something pushed by US, India and the “quad” countries, but not China, currently Russia’s closest partner.

Modi arrived in Sochi Monday morning and returned to Delhi at night.

In a significant departure from looking at the India-Russia relationship through the Soviet lens, Modi dated the India-Putin relationship to the year 2000. “Eighteen years ago, you and PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee planted the seeds of strategic Russian-Indian partnership. We can say proudly now that this partnership, the seeds of which you planted, has grown into a huge tree of privileged strategic partnership. It is a major achievement in itself.”

In his welcome remarks, Putin said a lot of momentum had been added to the bilateral relationship, and placed it fir mly in the strategic/ defence sphere. “We have established close contacts and collaboration between our defence agencies. All this is indicative of the high level of strategic relations between our countries,” Putin said.

The easy body language of the two leaders conveyed that they may have found a way forward to deal with thorny problems like Af-Pak and Russia’s purported outreach to the Taliban. “Both leaders expressed their concern over terrorism and radicalisation, and their determination to combat terror in all its forms and manifestations. In this context, they endorsed the importance of restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan in an atmosphere free from the threat of terror, and agreed to work together towards achieving this objective,” the MEA said. Currently, Russia and India are at odds over Af-Pak.

The summit was also expected to discuss issues like US sanctions on Russia but this did not find a mention in the statement. Officials had said earlier India would not allow its defence ties to be determined by a third country.

In another bid to breathe life into a moribund economic relationship, the two agreed to set up a strategic economic dialogue between NITI Aayog and Russia’s economic development ministry. The first LNG consignment under a Gazprom-GAIL deal is expected to land in India next month.

Both countries are looking at entering the nuclear business together in third countries, beginning with the Rooppur plant in Bangladesh. India has been investing much more in Russia’s energy sector in the past few years. While Russia’s Rosneft has bought into Essar’s oil business, India has invested in upstream businesses in Russia.

After he was received by Putin, Modi said, “I am happy that today I got the opportunity to be a guest of President Putin and that too in Sochi... Russia has always remained a true and fast friend of India,” he said. “...I am grateful to Putin for inviting me for an informal summit which has taken our relationship to a new level.” The summit happened after Moscow invited Modi.

Economic relationship

As in 2017

Arun Srivastava, Dailyexcelsior

Posted on 31/05/2017 by Dailyexcelsior


The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) is a unique event in the world. It has been held since 1997, but since 2005 the event is being organised under the auspices of the President of the Russian Federation. This is enough to underline the global importance attached to the summit. The Forum has become a leading global platform to meet and discuss the key global economic issues facing the emerging markets.

SPIEF provides the unique opportunities to meet with high-ranking international policy makers, leaders, government representatives, and members of foreign delegations, including from BRICS, SCO, and CIS countries. The fundamental issues and trends affecting Russia, emerging economies, and the world are identified, analysed, and publicized. In addition to the regional events in Russia, each year the Roscongress Foundation also runs a series of overseas events aimed at maintaining cooperation between Russian and foreign officials. Foundation’s outreach events make an important contribution to tackling the economic challenges facing Russia and the world today. In 2015-2016, events were held in Italy, India, China, Germany, and Uruguay, and the 2016 programme concluded with the Russia-Iran Business Forum, which was held in Tehran.

Putin intends to carryout a serious technological modernization and looks forward to procure new technologies and attract foreign investment. Russia has not imposed restrictions on capital flow and has no plans to do so in future. If the expansion of the outreach and groundwork of the Forum during last ten years is an indicator Russia expect high-level participation at the 2017 meet and hope to make further achievements and continue the dialogue

It is a coincidence that a Russian plane maker has unveiled a new passenger jet that it believes will be able to compete with Boeing and Airbus. The new MC-21 passenger plane is scheduled for serial production from early next year. For Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev “This is a huge victory for our aviation industry and Irkut Corporation, our scientists, designers, engineers and workers”. Russian media reported that the corporation has confirmed orders for 175 aircraft from domestic and overseas clients. India must really work on big investment projects with Russia and use the Forum to enhance defence cooperation. The SPIEF programme includes the BRICS Business Forum and B20 Forum on international trade and investment besides a Russian-Indian Forum of Corporate Executives.

On January 30, 2016, two St. Petersburg International Economic Forum panel sessions on bilateral relations between Russia and India took place in New Delhi: “Fulfilling the Indian-Russian economic promise” and “BRICS growth agenda: investment hot spots in Russia”.

India-Russia relationship has progressed beyond the traditional pillars of defence and space to a robust civil nuclear cooperation, collaboration in the sphere of hydrocarbons as well as long-term LNG sourcing interest. More recently, Russia has shown interest in the development of infrastructure in India with an intent to invest in Indian Railways, shipbuilding, urban development and transport & logistics. Incidentally Make in India and to transform India into a global design and manufacturing hub, is the theme of the ‘India lounge’ at SPIEF 2017.

The political leadership of the two countries has strongly reaffirmed the importance of the relationship. India’s defence equipment is 60-70 per cent of Soviet/Russian origin. Their maintenance and technological upgradation are a significant part of our defence cooperation. No country has so far matched the level of sophisticated weaponry that Russia supplies to India. The latest example is the S-400 air defence system under acquisition, which NATO acknowledges as state-of-the-art. Even with our recent diversification of arms imports, Russia supplied 68 per cent of India’s arms imports in 2012-16.

In 2015-16, Indian companies invested about $6 billion in Russia’s oilfields. In the other direction, Russian oil giant Rosneft acquired Essar Oil’s Vadinar refinery and port for an estimated Rs 86,000 crore. Rosneft now owns about nine per cent of India’s oil refining output. The Forum in fact is an effective mechanism to foil and frustrate the American and British sanctions. USA and UK are at the forefront of the sanctions regime; yet their banks participated in the investments in Russian oil companies. India must use the opportunity to emerge stronger which it was deprived by the Obama administration. (IPA)

Importance of Russia to India

As in 2018

May 21, 2018: The Times of India

HIGHLIGHTS

Russia has been a strong and time-tested partner of India.

Both the countries have a long history of strong strategic, military, economic and diplomatic relationship.


As Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives in the Russian city of Sochi for an informal summit with President Vladimir Putin, we analyse the significance of ties between the two countries.

Russia has been a strong and time-tested partner of India. Both the countries have a long history of strong strategic, military, economic and diplomatic relationship.

The two nations have contributed towards the enhancement of cooperation in the fields of economics, politics, defence, civil nuclear energy, anti-terrorism co-operation and space.

1. The bilateral ties

In October 2000, former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and President Putin signed the “Declaration on the India-Russia Strategic Partnership”, the first major political initiative signed between the two countries since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The declaration set the tone of ties between the two countries by the development of institutionalised dialogue mechanisms at various levels in order to strengthen bilateral interaction and follow up on activities related to cooperation in different areas.

2. Moscow's increasing closeness to Islamabad

As New Delhi warmed its ties with the United States, Russia started to increase its closeness with Pakistan as a counter-measure. In 2016, the two countries held their first joint military exercise, despite India's request to postpone due to the terrorist attacks in Uri.

In 2015, Russia and Pakistan signed an inter-governmental agreement for the construction of a gas pipeline from Lahore to Karachi.

China is one of the main and the most powerful allies of Russia and also India's arch-enemy Pakistan. A closer relationship will Pakistan is important for Moscow to increase its clout in the region.

3. Military partnership

Russian hardware represented 62 per cent of the country's total weapons imports during the past five years, compared with 79 per cent in 2008-2012, the Stockholm Peace Research Institute said in a report last month. Some of India’s legacy weapons system are of Soviet and Russian origin and it needs to maintain defence ties with Moscow to keep them operational.

4. Economic partnership

In December 2014, the two countries set a target of $30 billion bilateral trade by 2025. According to Russian Federal Customs Service data, bilateral trade during in 2016 amounted to $7.71 billion (decline of 1.5 per cent over 2015)

5. Nuclear energy

Russia recognises India's need to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. In December 2014, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Russia’s Rosatom signed the Strategic Vision for strengthening cooperation in peaceful uses of atomic energy between India and Russia. Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) is being built in India with Russian cooperation.

6. Space energy

India-Russia partnership in space dates back to about four decades. The year 2015 marked the 40th anniversary of the launch of India's first satellite "Aryabhatt" on a Russian (then USSR) launch vehicle "Soyuz". Both sides are also exploring the possibility of cooperation in manned space flight.

Russian people’s perception

2018/ India among top 5 friends: Russia poll

Indrani Bagchi, June 28, 2018: The Times of India


HIGHLIGHTS

Identifying the top enemies of Russia, the poll picks on the US, specifically Donald Trump for top spot, with Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania and Germany occupying the big ‘foes' spaces.Afghanistan remains a designated enemy, though the Russian system is now reputed to be working closely with the Taliban

Despite a significant cooling between traditional strategic partners Russia and India + , India can still count itself as one of the top five "friends" of Russia. And for all the talk about Russia moving towards Pakistan, an annual opinion poll by one of Moscow's most respected think tanks shows Pakistan does not yet cross Russian consciousness.

The Levada Centre, the only non-governmental pollster in Russia, and labelled a "foreign agent" by the Kremlin in 2016 is distinguished by the comprehensive Russian opinion polls they publish. In their latest 2017 poll, which came out in 2018, Russians identified Belarus as their country's top ally, followed by China, Kazakhstan, Syria and India.

While Indians may feel reassured that the "druzhba-dosti" relationship remains intact, it is more important to note that China is seen as Russia's top ally. At the government level, Russia in China's embrace is a common sight, this poll makes it clear that this embrace has percolated to the popular level too. The declining ties between India and Russia received a fresh lease of life after an informal summit between Modi and Putin + several weeks ago, where the two leaders spent a lot of quality time together to reaffirm strategic convergences.

Identifying the top enemies of Russia, the poll picks on the US, specifically Donald Trump for top spot, with Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania and Germany occupying the big ‘foes' spaces. Afghanistan remains a designated enemy, though the Russian system is now reputed to be working closely with the Taliban. Interestingly, the average Russian identified radical Islamism and Islamic extremism as an important threat/enemy. They consider Trump, Ukraine, Europe, ISIS and radical Islam and corruption to be the greatest threats to Russia.

Fewer Russians identify themselves as European but want Russia to effect some sort of rapprochement with the West. Trump has already signalled he wants a Singapore-style summit with Putin soon, dispatching his NSA John Bolton, a well-known Russia sceptic, to Kremlin to prepare for the visit.

Russian foreign policy priorities, according to the poll should first concentrate on Russia's own security, followed by a desire shared by almost half of those polled for Russia to regain its former influence in the world.

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