The world is definitely witnessing a struggle in the world order from a unipolarity to multipolarity. An increase in the momentum to dismantle the unipolar world order post-Cold War is going on. The influence of the unipolar hegemony has helped other countries such as India, Russia, Europe, Japan and China to push towards a multipolar world order, threatening the hegemon.
The transition and the upheaval attached to it are visible. During the Munich Security Conference of 2019, Wolfgang Ischinger Ambassador, Chairman of MSC, spoke about protecting the international institutions from eroding. There is a return of great power competition. Though every country is trying its best to become powerful and influential, however some clear players in this marathon are the US, India, China, Russia, Germany and France. America is trying to keep its hold, India and China are rising in a fast pace and Russia is not left behind with its focus on economic and military power. Germany and France are also equipping themselves despite the chaos within the European Union with a Brexit in waiting.
With power competition, US trying to retain its hegemony hold, discomfort with the Chinese rise, protectionism, threat to multilateralism, deepening income inequality, persistent jobless growth, escalating violence and conflicts around the world, transnational crime, threats to state stability, refugee crisis, issues on environmental sustainability and climate change, a ‘winter’ is inevitable.
Against this background, India-Russia relationship is a special and privileged strategic partnership, rendered even more important. The bonhomie shared by the two leaders Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin has pushed the bilateral relationship to further growth and development. The informal meet on 2018 at Sochi helped accelerate the partnership as the meeting manifested the role of interaction and cooperation between India and Russia.
India-Russia relationship has traveled a long distance since the Cold War period based on deep trust, mutual respect and cooperation, close understanding of each other’s national interests and stakes, and common visions on global and regional issues. In defence sector, from a buyer-seller relationship it has upgraded to a joint partnership. The various agreements including the latest on opening for Kalasnikov rifles, a joint venture, in Uttar Pradesh and signing of a nuclear submarine whose delivery is slated for 2025, is a testimony to the robust defence ties, despite the diversification on India’s import.
On economic ties, India-Russia is hopeful in achieving the $30 billion target set towards 2025. Though this area is seen as a weaker sector given the potential it has however, it is trying for an optimal output. According to Russia’s Federal Customs Service, the trade volume between India and Russia in 2017 was $9.4 billion, a 22 per cent increase in comparison to 2016. In order to achieve this target, India and Russia through successful conduct of annual bilateral summits, establishment of various institutions and mechanisms have aimed to strengthen the economic relations further. Their joint initiatives in the International North South Corridor (INSTC), Chabahar and the consultations on Eurasian Economic Union (EaEU), involvement of Niti Ayog and Ministry of Economic Development of Russia and the decision to do a Joint Strategy of Action between Indian Institute of Foreign Trade and the All-Russian Academy of Foreign Trade and the regional cooperation holds promise to strengthen the economic aspect of the bilateral relationship.
Revival of rupee trade agreement is taking shape in the talks between India and Russia. On October 2018, Russian Economic Minister, while accompanying Russian President Vladimir Putin during the Annual Summit, spoke about the revival of trade in national currencies. It definitely stands to benefit both the sides however; closer study and negotiations will be needed for the premium output for both sides.
To bring the strategic partnership closer, India-Russia is also rejuvenating and focusing on areas such as space cooperation and migration apart from other sectors of energy (including nuclear), trade and commerce, financial investments, regional cooperation including in Arctic and Far East, cyber security, artificial intelligence, robotics, educational exchanges (Russia has proposed a dual diploma certificate with Indian institutions) etc.
India-Russia also connects on security and socio-economic threats such as terrorism, transnational crime, narcotics and poverty etc. The two countries can cooperate further in the future to tackle threats such as cyber attacks, militarization of outer space, xenophobia, migration etc. Overall the relationship between the two countries is in an upswing mode.
With the contestation in the world order, it will be of importance for India-Russia to further strengthen their partnership to stop the world from moving to one unipolarity to another unipolar pole.
The new challenges which the world will be witnessing with a transition in the global order along with the various threats emerging from it, including new areas of cooperation and contestation such as Arctic and Indo-Pacific, will be a test for the India-Russia strategic partnership. Hence, the continuation of informal meets between the heads of the state, annual summits and the various mechanisms of strategic communications the two countries have, should be a strong shield for the special and privileged strategic partnership against any threats.
*Dr. Indrani Talukdar is a Research Fellow at ICWA, New Delhi. Disclaimer: The views are that of the authors and not of the Council.