Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s telephone conversation with President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin on Wednesday is seen as a reassertion of India’s strategic autonomy amidst analysis by many pundits that India’s involvement in Quad has proved to be a dampener for bilateral relations with old ally, Russia.The leaders discussed the evolving Covid-19 pandemic situation. President Putin expressed solidarity with the people and government of India and conveyed that Russia would extend all possible support in this regard. Prime Minister Modi thanked President Putin and noted that the prompt Russian support to India was a symbol of our enduring partnership.
The most important outcome of the talk between two leaders was the decision to set up a new 2+2 dialogue at Minister level comprising Foreign and Defence Ministers from both countries. Both leaders attached importance to further deepening bilateral cooperation in various sectors in the spirit of our special and privileged partnership. Prime Minister Modi conveyed appreciation for the support received from Russia for India’s Gaganyaan Program and the completion of the Russian phase of training of the four Gaganyaan astronauts. The proposed meetings between Defence and Foreign Ministers aim to clear the bilateral misunderstandings and calm the nerves about India’s commitment to Quad.
New Delhi was keen to demonstrate that it retained its “strategic autonomy” in a signal to Washington, said Kanwal Sibal, a former Indian foreign secretary. It is also an important messaging to China, “The signal to China is politically important,” said Sibal. “It is Russia’s way of telling China that their close strategic relations will not limit Russia’s choices with India and that the strands of its policy are independent of each other. It also means that Russia will continue to supply advanced weapons to India.”
PM Modi had tweeted earlier, “Had an excellent conversation with my friend President Putin today. We discussed the evolving COVID-19 situation, and I thanked President Putin for Russia’s help and support in India’s fight against the pandemic.” India and Russia have enjoyed strong ties for decades, but India’s decision to buy defence equipment from other countries in recent years, including the US, as well as its growing diplomatic ties with the US, have not gone down well with Kremlin. The 2+2 dialogue will also provide a chance for candid discussions on all areas of mutual concern and look forward to strengthening ties.
Prime Minister Modi conveyed that he looks forward to President Putin’s visit to India later this year for the Bilateral Summit which would provide an occasion to continue their personal and trusted conversation. President Putin assured the Prime Minister of Russia’s full support for the success of India’s Presidency of BRICS during 2021. The two leaders agreed to remain in close touch on bilateral and international issues.