Trusted friend

The impressive outcome of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to India underlines not only the strengthening of the friendship between the two countries but also a welcome determination to deepen and widen its scope. Medvedev’s visit is the latest in a series of high-profile visits by leaders of almost all major countries, which is an acknowledgement of India’s growing importance. But the relations between India and Russia are ‘special and privileged’, as noted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and endorsed by Medvedev. There was an uncertain phase in the relationship immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but soon the old ties were restored.  In the recent past there were reports of apprehensions in Moscow about India’s growing ties with the US. But these have also been put away by the realisation that their mutual engagement is not affected by the relationship of either country with others.

A slew of 30 agreements signed by the two sides, covering areas ranging from nuclear and space co-operation, defence and business to counter-terrorism and culture, attests to the expanded scope of the relationship. The multi-million dollar programme for joint production of a fifth generation fighter aircraft could be a milestone in collaboration. India’s traditional defence relationship with Russia was that of a customer, with Moscow meeting 70 per cent of its arms and equipment requirements. But the fighter aircraft programme takes it to a new level of partnership marked by  joint development and collaboration. Russia has also offered the best terms in its defence deals, supplying India with technologies and hardware, like nuclear submarines, which other countries were not willing to give, and without restrictive conditions like end-user clauses. There has only been one difficult deal, related to the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, and it has now been sorted out.

The strong political underpinning of the relationship was evident during the visit. Both countries have many common geostrategic interests and concerns. Medvedev did not mince words in demanding that Pakistan should bring those behind the Mumbai terrorist attack to book and shared India’s view that Afghanistan can be stabilised only if the terror havens in Pakistan are eliminated. He also extended full support for India’s bid for permanent membership of the UN Security Council and other bodies like the Nuclear Suppliers Group. The visit made it clear that bilateral ties are not only strong but are poised to become stronger.

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