PM Modi visit to Russia: Bilateral bonhomie reiterated through significant takeaways
Paris [France], June 3 (ANI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi will return home later tonight after undertaking a hectic almost week-long visit to four European countries – Germany, Spain, Russia and France.
In terms of outcome, the visits to these four nations have been impactful not only for India and Europe bilaterally, but in the larger context, for the world as well.
Out of these trips between May 31 and June 3, the visit to Russia on June 1 and 2 takes pride of place, given that Prime Minister Modi has shared a great political and personal chemistry and equation with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin since assuming office in May 2014.
And, as was expected, bilateral ties between the two nations were given a fresh impetus not only through the signing of five key agreements, but also through messages to the international community that both were on the same page in terms of responses to issues like terrorism, climate change, the urgent need for reform of the United Nations, an assessment of the state of the world economy, concerns over global security and defence etc.
Let's have a look and what were the key takeaways from the visit to Russia:
For starters, this was Prime Minister Modi's second state and summit-level visit to Russia, having last visited Moscow in December 2015.
When it was officially announced that he would be visiting St. Petersburg towards the end of last month, speculation in media was rife that Modi would primarily be focused on mending New Delhi's drifting partnership with Moscow, seek to restore parity in a once robust bilateral economic relationship and aim to temper down tensions arising from both countries shifting alliances with other nations across the globe.
It was not farfetched to say and feel last week at the start of the trip that a relationship of 70 years standing between the two countries was at the cross-roads, and in dire need of accelerated transformation.
India's veering over to the United States over the past three years, and Russia going forward with its relationships with Pakistan and China respectively, and Moscow's open support to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project appeared to be creating a political spanner, and this could be seen in the drop in people-to-people exchanges, a decline in student exchanges and doubts over whether both nations could take their partnership forward in so far underdeveloped areas like energy and information technology.
Two-way trade too had slumped to below USD eight billion in 2015, and the ambitious bilateral target of achieving USD 30 billion by 2030 appeared to very distant, if not unachievable. There was also a parting of ways on Afghanistan, with Russia favouring the brokering of a peace deal with the Taliban to which India has always viewed with skepticism.
What eventually emerged from the Indian Prime Minister's visit to St. Petersburg was a reiteration of bilateral reliability, a greater cementing of understanding on key regional and multilateral issues and significant economic takeaways.
Backed by five significant agreements, the St. Petersburg Declaration announced on June 1, was in effect an action plan for deepening bilateral and multilateral relations in all areas, including political and economic, and also to ensure that existing ties contribute to the establishment of a more peaceful and just world order.
The declaration said both countries will "advance the comprehensive development of the Indian-Russian relations", with a special focus on working towards a higher level of military-to-military cooperation through the holding regular joint land and sea military exercises.
From a security point of view, both Prime Minister Modi and President Putin strongly condemned terrorism in all of its forms and manifestations, and stressed that "there can be no justification whatsoever for any acts of terrorism, whether based upon ideological, religious, political, racial, ethnic or any other reasons."
The two leaders urged all countries and entities to "work sincerely to disrupt terrorist networks and their financing, and stop cross-border movement of terrorists".
They called for the "early conclusion of negotiations on the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) to strengthen the global counter-terrorism normative and legal framework to combat this scourge".
On the economic front, it was emphasized that both India and Russia complement each other in the energy sector, and a commitment was made to "strive to build an 'Energy Bridge' and expand bilateral relations in all areas of energy cooperation, including nuclear, hydrocarbon, hydel and renewable energy sources and in improving energy efficiency."
Emphasis was placed on cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, which both Modi and Putting described as "one of the hallmarks of the strategic partnership between the two countries", and contributing to India's energy security and "energizing broader scientific and technological cooperation."
There was an acknowledgement from both sides of the steady and demonstrable achievements of the civil nuclear partnership, including the advancement of nuclear power projects in Kudankulam, Tamil Nadu, transforming the site into one of India's largest energy hubs.
Both sides welcomed the conclusion of the general framework agreement and credit protocol for Units 5 and 6 of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant.
It was projected that the growing nuclear power partnership between India and Russia would offer opportunities for developing advanced nuclear manufacturing capabilities in India in line with its 'Make in India' initiative and joint projects, which would be launched on exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons in the Arctic Shelf of Russia.
Major economic objectives were announced, including expanding trade and investment; diversification of trade in goods and services; increasing the share of high-technology products, fostering industrial cooperation, improving the environment for entrepreneurship and investments and developing cooperation in banking and financial matters.
A commitment was made to build an effective infrastructure for the International North-South Transport Corridor, as also for the implementation of the Green Corridor.
In the maritime sector, Russia was approached and it agreed to offer its shipbuilding and river navigation prowess, and desalination technologies for developing joint projects through transfers of technology, as also to share its experiences with India on developing inland waterways, river embankments, ports and cargo containers.
In the railway sector, it was agreed that negotiations would take place for the establishment of high speed railways, dedicated freight corridors and application of newer technologies for efficient rail transport.
Both countries also agreed to upgrade and intensify defence cooperation through joint manufacture, co-production and co-development of military hardware and military spares, with increasing reliance on the adoption and sharing of future technologies, in compliance with existing obligations and agreements. The commitment was made by India to buy Russia's advanced S-400 air defence systems. Talks on the exact volume of supplies and other details are being discussed by both countries.
The S-400 uses four missiles to fill its performance envelope: the very-long-range 40N6 (400 km), the long-range 48N6 (250 km), the medium-range 9M96E2 (120 km) and the short-range 9M96E (40 km). The S-400 has been described as one of the world's best air-defence systems.
The two sides reiterated their call for the establishment of a multi-polar global order reflecting interstate relations as they should exist in the 21st century. In this regard, emphasis was placed on the need for a more democratized system of international relations, based on the principles of the rule of law and the central role of the United Nations.
Russia also reaffirmed its support for India's bid for a permanent membership in the UN Security Council (UNSC) and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
An announcement was made for the creation of a dedicated desk for handling Russian investments, and the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) was quite emphatic in reiterating that India and Russia have a vital global role as world powers to cooperate and consult, and take collective initiatives, while at the same time remaining steadfast in their opposition to unilateralism.
On the Paris Climate Accord, Prime Minister Narendra Modi categorically said that New Delhi remains committed to it so that the future generations are able to breathe fresh and live a harmonious life.
"We cannot exploit nature. We should leave earth for our future generation so that they can live a harmonious life and be able to breathe fresh air," he said at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF).
On President Trump's decision to move the U.S. out of the accord, Modi said, "Don't think I will take sides on this subject, but would rather take the side of our future generation."
In saying this, the Indian Prime Minister appeared to reject Trump's contention that New Delhi has been extracting "billions and billions and billions" of dollars in foreign aid from the developed world to sign up for the climate accord.
The other significant highlights of Prime Minister Modi's visit to St. Petersburg were cultural in nature, such as presenting 104 volumes of the Urga edition of the Tibetan Kanjur to the Datsan Gunzechoinei Buddhist Temple, a unique xylographed bibliographic rarity, and dropping in at the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, which has some of India's priceless historical and holy manuscripts.
The Prime Minister also wrote a message in Gujarati, wherein he appreciated the work and achievements of the institute.
"The progress of humanity is full of colour. In every era, the human race has remained committed to development. The simple meaning of life is progress and of death is stillness. This wonderful collection is a comprehensive view of the different identities of the human race and the philosophy of its continuous development. It is the effort of compiling the great heritage of India," wrote Prime Minister Modi. (ANI)