GS Mains Model Question & Answer: BRICS Goa summit showcased the strength of India-Russia ties. Comment

GS Mains Model Question & Answer: BRICS Goa summit showcased the strength of India-Russia ties. Comment

Q. BRICS Goa summit showcased the strength of India-Russia ties. Comment. (12.5 Marks)

(General Studies Mains Paper II – International Relations : Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India's interests)

Model Answer :

The India-Russia summit in Goa was high on both symbolism and substance. The joint dedication by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin of Unit 2 of the Kudankulam power plant and the “pouring of concrete” for Units 3 and 4 projected a unique partnership in nuclear energy: eight years after India’s foreign collaborations in civil nuclear energy were legitimised, Russia remains the only foreign country involved in nuclear power production in India.

Pillars of the partnership

The bilateral agreements and the joint statement contained significant substance. The three defence cooperation projects are notable, not only for their functional importance, but also for the speed of their progress from announcement to agreement.

The decision to jointly manufacture Kamov Ka226T helicopters in India was announced in 2014, an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) was concluded in 2015, and a shareholders’ agreement was signed in Goa. The S-400 air defence system and building of naval frigates have taken an even shorter time from conception to IGA. This is a refreshing departure from the glacial progress of most defence projects. Two other decisions could have a far-reaching impact on India-Russia defence cooperation: the establishment of a ministerial-level Military Industrial Conference to identify new projects and resolve pending issues, and a Science and Technology Commission to facilitate development and sharing of cutting-edge technologies.

These agreements consolidate Russia’s position as India’s principal defence partner. Over the past 10 years, Russia provided 70 per cent of India’s defence imports; the U.S. was next with 14 per cent. About 70 per cent of our weapons and equipment are of Russian or Soviet origin. Diversification of defence acquisitions will necessarily be an extended process.

The effort to strengthen non-defence pillars of the India-Russia partnership shows progress. Agreements for Units 5 and 6 in Kudankulam are under finalisation and six more units are in the pipeline. There are major developments in hydrocarbons: in the last four months alone, Indian companies have invested about $5.5 billion in the Russian oil and gas industry. Equally significant is the acquisition, by a consortium led by Russian oil major Rosneft, of about 98 per cent of Essar Oil and its Vadinar port in a cash deal worth $13 billion. A joint fund of $1 billion, equally shared by Russian sovereign fund RDIF and our National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF), is to promote investment in infrastructure and technology projects. The agreement for information security cooperation should enable India to benefit from Russia’s globally acknowledged expertise in cyber technologies. There has been a significant increase in university exchanges and joint science and technology research projects funded by the two governments.

Areas that need improvement

As yet, however, the effort to broad-base the India-Russia economic partnership has not percolated fully to our private sector industry, whose attitudes are shaped by some experiences of the past and unflattering images of Russia in the international media.

The popular narrative of a floundering Russian economy distorts reality. International Monetary Fund (IMF) statistics highlight some strong fundamentals of the Russian economy: a healthy current account surplus, low unemployment (under 6 per cent), undervalued corporate stocks and external sovereign debt of only 13 per cent of GDP. The IMF has progressively upgraded its outlook on the Russian economy, now predicting growth of over 1 per cent in 2017.

There is also misinformation about sanctions. The sanctions against Russia bind only a few countries — G7 and the European Union — and are specific in their application. European businesses have found channels to circumvent them. Recent investments in Russia by our hydrocarbons companies have also shown the way. The RDIF-NIIF fund provides an opportunity to cast off misconceptions about the Russian economy and sanctions.

Diplomatic norms preclude public airing of areas of “concern” in the relationship that were discussed in the closed-door meetings. On the Indian side, these relate to aspects of Russia-China relations and Russia-Pakistan defence links — dramatically highlighted by joint military drills barely a week after the Uri attack. India’s Foreign Secretary confirmed in his press briefing that India received satisfactory assurance that Russia will not take any step detrimental to India’s security interests.


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