India-Russia ties among 'steadiest' of major relationships in the world: EAM Jaishankar

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Moscow, Jul 8 (PTI) External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday said that the bilateral ties between India and Russia have been among the 'steadiest' of the major relationships in the world after the second World War, and New Delhi was looking forward to hosting President Vladimir Putin in the country for the annual bilateral summit.

Jaishankar, delivering a speech on India-Russia ties in a changing world at the Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations here, said that this relationship is sometimes taken for granted.

“The case for its constant nurturing” is powerful, he said.

“There’s no doubt that relations between India and Russia have been among the steadiest of the major relationships in the world after the second World War,” he said.

“The direction and progress of major relationships is very much dependent on our leadership,” he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin have met 19 times since 2014, Jaishankar said.

“That itself speaks a lot,” he said.

“We, of course, look forward to hosting the President (Putin) in India for the annual bilateral summit,” Jaishankar said.

Speaking about the issue of terrorism, Jaishankar termed the menace as one of the bis issues of the present time.

“The big issues of our time -- combating terrorism, addressing pandemics and acting on climate change. On all of these, India and Russia are unquestionably on the same page.

“We have both been victims of fundamentalist thinking. I know well the dangers of radicalisation and extremes. As pluralistic societies, we must be especially on guard against the revival of such forces,” he said.

Where global health is concerned, a history of scientific collaboration can today be repurposed to meet this new priority, Jaishankar said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commenting on vaccines against the coronavirus, Jaishankar said: “Collaboration can surely add to the options before the world as we have already seen in the case of vaccines.

“If you are to continue influencing the direction of global developments positively, it is imperative that we always pay adequate attention to the constant strengthening of our bilateral cooperation”.

“If I would have to give you examples of the collaboration underway, I would particularly point out to Sputnik vaccine and we should recognise, that this has benefits not just for public health in India but actually larger gains for the international community,” Jaishankar said.

Russia has always been a 'dependable defence partner' of India, he said.

“The enormous experience of past cooperation is today being applied to a more contemporary requirement, including the Make in India programme.

“This transition can accommodate the interests of both sides and even lead to new areas of military technical collaboration. This needs to be accompanied by a greater focus on military-to-military ties, including in the maritime domain,” he said.

On climate change, Russia can really be an indispensable partner as India transitions towards greater energy consumption and renewables.

“Reforming multilateralism is also in our common interest and we value Russia's support for India's permanent membership in the UN Security Council,” Jaishankar said.

Regional issues like Afghanistan and the Middle East have seen convergence previously. That may be mutually beneficial to continue, he said.

On the political front, Jaishankar said it is essential for India and Russia to work together to ensure the stability and diversity of the world.

“This includes insistence on honouring agreements and observing laws,” Jaishankar said, in an apparent reference to China, which has been behaving aggressively in the Indo-Pacific region and was engaged in a protracted military standoff with India.

On the economic side, there is a growing realisation of the importance of resilient and reliable supply chains amidst the pandemic, he said.

“Our relationship rests on the foundation of a more democratic and diverse international order -- one that is committed to sovereign equality of all states.

“We are looking at a world where each pole has its own needs but its pursuit is to be moderated not by the balance of power, but by the balance of interest. This is not just a preference but a compulsion in a world that is more interdependent,” Jaishankar said.

Changes to the capabilities and interests of major players naturally lead countries to reassess the global arena. Whether it is Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Eurasia, the Arctic or the Indo-Pacific, he said.

“None of us can afford to be in denial of the shifting realities. After all, international relations can never be change-proof. If there are enhanced capabilities in some cases, or contractions in others, strategies and diplomats need to adjust their calculations accordingly,” Jaishankar said.

In the last few decades, India and Russia may have pursued the national trajectories energetically. But at the same time, they have harmonised them well, both intuitively and as a policy. Related to this is the rebalancing of the global order -- economically, politically and even culturally, he said.

“We have been respectful, we have been appreciative of each other's identities and interests because there is no burden of history nor an ideological agenda,” he said.

“If our ties have been stable, this is not to say that we have remained static as nations and societies,” he said.

In the last quarter century, India has become the sixth largest economy, a nuclear weapon power, an IT center, a reservoir of global talent and an 'active shaper' of global debates, the minister said.

“Our interests and influence have grown well beyond the subcontinent and we are often perceived as first responders in crisis situations,” Jaishankar said.

Russia has, meanwhile, transitioned fully into the post-Soviet era and all that it implies, he said.

“Its inherent strength as Eurasia and a Euro Pacific power and its longstanding global status whether as a P5... makes it unmistakably critical to the world order,” Jaishankar said.

Equally important, Russia has regularly demonstrated an ability to influence outcomes across regions and issues, he said.

“Indeed, both our nations have evolved even as our existence has become more globalised economically, connected virtually and driven technologically.

“It is not just that India and Russia are a good fit, it is equally (important) that this continues dynamically even as both of them and the world itself undergoes continuous changes. Now as practitioners and analysts of international relations, it is not enough that we recognise or even appreciate trends,” Jaishankar said.

Russians will surely recall the ups and downs in the ties with the US, Europe, China or Japan or Turkey and Iraq, the minister said.

“On their part, objective Indians would also recognise that this was the case with them as well.

“Where India-Russia bilateral ties are concerned, there have been many changes, even issues from time to time. But at the end of the day, the logic of geo-politics was so compelling that we barely remember these even as minor aberrations,” Jaishankar said.

The undeniable reality of the exceptional resilience of India-Russia ties is surely a phenomenon that is worth analysing, he said.

Space and nuclear are among the success stories of India-Russia relationship, he said.

“The Kudankulam project was the first beneficiary of India’s resumed civil nuclear collaboration with international partners. The trilateral nuclear cooperation that we both have with Bangladesh also holds interesting possibilities.

“Insofar as space is concerned, the training of Indian astronauts for the Gaganyaan Mission brings back memories of Rakesh Sharma’s flight into space. Overall, science and technology has been a productive area that could be taken forward with the participation of the private sector,” Jaishankar said.

It is also natural in societies for people to have an image of their partners, Jaishankar said, adding that Russia has a unique landing at the Indian public and maintaining that sentiment is very much an asset for a relationship.

“In the world of current diplomacy, ours is a particularly mature relationship. More than its contemporaries, it has withstood the test of time, finding new convergences with changing circumstances. Geopolitical compatibility, leadership trust and popular sentiment remain its key drivers.

“History is very much in our favour. Something that cannot always be said for all relationships,” Jaishankar said, adding that drawing from the past, assessing the present and committing to the future, he has confidence that the two nations would continue to realise the full benefits of the special and privileged strategic relationship. PTI CPS/SCY AKJ CPS

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