PM Modi visited Russia on December 24-25, for the India-Russia summit that is held annually, between the Indian Prime Minister and the Russian President.
It is a fact that trade between India and Russia has fallen behind India’s trade with many other smaller countries such as Belgium, Vietnam and South Korea. The total annual trade turnover currently stands at $10 billion. Even on the front of military supplies, the US had overtaken Russia in 2014 for the first time as India’s main supplier of military armaments. However, it is also a fact that the ruling class of both India and Russia put great emphasis on the strategic importance of their relationship.
Modi affirmed during the visit that Russia remained India’s “principal partner” in defence. During the summit, India and Russia signed the single biggest deal for joint development of defence equipment since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power promising domestic military manufacture as a key component of his strategic policy.
It has been estimated that the total value of the deals and MOUs signed by India and Russia during this visit amount to the huge sum of $150 billion. The major military deal was for the manufacture in India of Russia’s Kamov Ka-226T light helicopters. Other military deals being negotiated include the lease of another Akula II class nuclear submarine and the acquisition of the S-400 air defence system and three more Krivak III class stealth frigates.
A new feature in Indo-Russian military ties is the development of joint ventures between Russian corporations and private Indian big capitalists. This was witnessed for the first time during Putin’s visit to India for the summit in December 2014. For example, Reliance Defence is partnering the Russian Almaz-Antey to manufacture air defence systems for the Indian military, while the Tatas are in discussion with Sukhoi to manufacture spare parts for the Sukhoi fighter jets in India.
Apart from military deals, the visit was an occasion to step up collaboration in the nuclear energy sector. A major deal finalized was for the setting up of six more Russian nuclear reactors in India, to be located in Andhra Pradesh.
Russia is one of the world’s largest sources of petroleum and gas, while India is in desperate need for energy sources. India and Russia have over the years been collaborating in the field of oil and gas exploration in Siberia. A significant deal signed during this visit was the agreement to give ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) a 15% stake in the Russian Vankorneft oil fields in eastern Siberia, which is Russia’s second largest oilfield. Essar completed the process of selling 49 per cent of stock it held in a Russian field to Russian oil and gas company Rosneft. Russian corporate giant Gazprom agreed, in a separate deal, to a long-term supply of liquefied natural gas to India. India signed a key pact with Moscow that will give Indian firms access to Russia's continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean for exploring and hunting for minerals, oil and gas.
During the Cold War period, India had closer military, strategic and economic ties with the Soviet Union than with any other major power, even while the Indian ruling class strove to maintain a position of ‘non-alignment’ in the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, from the 1990s, the Indian state has steadily built up its ties with the US and other Western powers, including in the military sphere. Indo-Russian trade had also been badly hit by the end of the rupee-rouble trade and the crisis in the Russian economy. Russia on its part also concentrated on building up its ties with the West. Although Russia continued to be a major collaborator of India in the fields of military armaments and nuclear energy, the Indian side had many difficulties with Russia on issues like cost escalation, technology transfer and failure to meet delivery schedules.
However, over the past 15 years, the ruling circles of both Russia and India have realized the importance of building a strategic alliance between the two states, even while each of them pursues its own imperialist interests. The annual summit between the leaders of the two countries is one expression of the importance given to this strategic alliance. The two countries also coordinate their activities in different multinational forums such as the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
In recent months, the growing confrontation between Russia and the Western powers, over the crisis in Ukraine, Syria and other matters, has compelled Russia to look elsewhere for markets for its military, hydrocarbon and other products.
During Modi’s visit, much attention was paid to boosting trade. A target of reaching $30 billion by the year 2025 was set. The Indian capitalists are hoping to take advantage in the reduction of Russia’s trade ties with the Western countries and Turkey arising from political tensions between them. For the same reason, Russian state and private firms are eyeing the Indian market.
The Indian ruling class is pursuing its imperialist aims in a world situation marked by sharpening contention over markets, sources of raw materials, and spheres of influence, between the US imperialists who are pushing for a unipolar world under their domination, and Russia, China and others who are fighting for their own interests.
In these conditions, the Indian state is not ready to rely exclusively or even mainly on the US and its allies in strategically important spheres. Russia continues to be a major source of support for the Indian state in the military and political spheres, as well as in the crucial field of energy. This was clearly apparent in Modi’s visit to Russia.
Of significance during this visit was Prime Minister Modi’s open declaration of political support for Russia at a time when it is facing sanctions from the US imperialists and the European Union. Modi publicly stated his agreement with Russia’s official position on the shooting down of the Russian plane by Turkey – that the plane was in Syrian airspace – and not in Turkish airspace as the Turkish government has claimed. Modi also expressed agreement with Russia’s position on the solution to the Syrian crisis.
The Indo-Russian strategic relationship is a relationship between the biggest monopoly capitalists of both countries, by means of which each is striving to fulfil its aspirations of becoming a leading economic and military power. The Indian bourgeoisie is playing a dangerous game in the present world situation in pursuit of its interests to sit at the high table along with the other major imperialist powers headed by the US. It is colluding and contending with the US, China and other powers to advance its aims, and rapidly ,marching on the road of militarization. The course being pursued by the Indian ruling class is resulting in heightened danger to peace and security for our people and all the people of the region.