Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi held a dialogue with Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) on ‘India-Russia Strategic Partnership’ on 20 October 2020 to mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Strategic Partnership between India and Russia, which provides an opportunity to both sides to assess the achievements of two decades of strategic partnership and chart the way forward. Speakers in the Inaugural Session included Andrey Kortunov, DG, Russian International Affairs Council; Dr. TCA Raghavan, DG, Indian Council of World Affairs; DB Venkatesh Varma, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of India to Russia; and Nikolay Kudashev, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia to India.
2. In the opening session, it was stated that the situation today with respect to global politics is much different from what prevailed when India and Russia signed the Declaration of Strategic Partnership 20 years ago. Today international politics is posing new challenges, facing transition, especially as there there are new actors and hence both sides should adopt new approaches to confront these new challenges. Both sides are facing similar geopolitical challenges on their immediate peripheries. India and Russia share a special and privileged strategic partnership; high level dialogue has continued and strengthened amidst and despite the pandemic. Both sides should work to strengthen the horizon of economic ties. In face of transition in sphere of energy and technology, both sides should assess how the new arms control system should evolve. Strengthening dialogue between ICWA and RIAC was welcomed. DG, ICWA Dr. TCA Raghavan noted that, given the level of global geopolitical churning, it is important for both sides to act more closely and carry forward the dialogue with greater candour.
3. Speakers at Session I on “Global agenda against the background of systemic crisis: Making the most of Russia's and India's shared interests and overcoming divergences” included Amb. Gleb Ivashentsov, RIAC Vice President and Amb. Asoke Mukherjee, Former PR of India to UN. It was stated that it is in the interest of India and Russia to formulate a new kind of non-alignment without becoming involved into US-China rivalry. The challenge is to pave the way from a unipolar to a multi-polar world, where India and Russia are among the leading countries. For both India and Russia, there is no alternative platform to the UN. It provides opportunity to deliberate on issues discussed at various regional forums. As such, priority for India and Russia in the UN should be an early adoption of the CCIT and cooperation on specific issues such as Afghanistan and India’s entry into the NSG. India and Russia should work to invest towards freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific.
4. Speakers at Session II on "Regional strategic dynamics in Eurasia, Asia Pacific and Indo-Pacific: Outlining avenues for Russia-India collaboration” included Prof. Sergey Lunev, MGIMO University and Dr. Vivek Mishra, Research Fellow, ICWA. It was stated that India and Russia are natural partners and enjoy full scale cooperation and their interests do not contradict each other. Russia and India vigorously support each other in multilateral institutions, including at the UN and its agencies. Moscow also supported India’s entry into SCO. There is possibility of India-Russia cooperation in Afghanistan and Central Asia in the fields of security and economy. India and Russia should sharpen their specifics about the Indo-Pacific and that their perspectives should be reconciled.
5. Speakers at Session III on “Seeking new priorities for bilateral interaction: trade and investment flows, innovations, science and technologies” included Lydia Kulik, Institute of Oriental Studies and Prof. Sanjay Deshpande, Centre for Central Eurasian Studies, University of Mumbai. It was stated that the Covid pandemic has resulted in businesses in both countries facing difficult times. The joint production of Russian Covid vaccine by Dr. Reddy's Lab in India is an important development. Bilateral relations could move forward in new areas like artificial intelligence, high-technology, bio-tech, chemical engineering, etc. India-Russia relations would be a key element of the emerging world order. This is so because they share multi-dimensional relations in areas like political, energy, economic, defence and science and technology.
6. During the discussions, it was emphasized that India and Russia are standing at the threshold of a new world and their close cooperation is key in managing a world that is going through unprecedented geopolitical transition.