Russian President Vladimir Putin assured India that trusted-based ties with it would not be weakened by Moscow’s ties with Pakistan or any other country.
Putin said that Russia does not have any “tight” military relationship with Pakistan and that ties with Delhi won’t be affected. He reminded the reporters that India is the only country with which Russia enjoys cooperation in delicate matters such as missile technology.
“We do not have any tight (military) relations with Pakistan. The US, do you have (close relations)?,” he said, speaking through an interpreter. “And for sure our relations with Pakistan have no impact on trade between India and Russia.”
“ I don’t think we should push figures here in our military cooperation because it has an unprecedented level in its volume and quality. (But) there is no other country in the world that we have such deep cooperation in delicate areas such as missiles, and we benefit with cooperation with India. And this results from our trust-based relations with India.”
We will always support India in its fight against terrorism. I believe Pakistan is taking immense steps to stabilize the situation in the country.”
However, when Putin was asked by an Indian reporter about whether Pakistan was doing cross-border terrorism in Kashmir, he ducked the question and said that “it is up to you” to assess whether Pakistan is fuelling terrorism in the Indian state. “But no matter where the threat comes, it is unacceptable and we will always support India in its fight against terrorism,” he added.
He again avoided naming Pakistan as a perpetrator of terrorism. While answering another question he said “We will always support India in its fight against terrorism. I believe Pakistan is taking immense steps to stabilize the situation in the country.”
This evasion has not pleased Delhi and may very well be taken as a tacit support to Pakistan.
Modi flatters Putin
However, Prime Minister Modi tweeted over his visit declaring it to have been productive. “The 18th annual India-Russia summit has been very productive, adding new vigour to India-Russia relations.”
The 18th annual India-Russia summit has been very productive, adding new vigour to India-Russia relations. https://t.co/vNviykmTd9
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) June 1, 2017
Mr Modi also flattered Putin by saying, “you are a political leader whose family has made sacrifices” for the glory of Russia. He went on to say, “Your brother was martyred,” referring to Putin’s brother Viktor who died more than 70 years ago during the siege of Leningrad.
The two countries signed six important agreements including one to set up two additional nuclear reactors (5 and 6) in Kudankulam. Russia had been pushing for India to approve these for the past several months. Both countries also signed the St Petersburg Declaration which is a set of policies which will help in deepening Russo-Indo ties at political diplomatic and military levels.
Mr Modi also flattered Putin by saying, “you are a political leader whose family has made sacrifices” for the glory of Russia.
“Both the countries will work towards a higher level of military – to- military cooperation by holding regular joint land and sea military exercises and this year both the countries will conduct the first ever Tri-services exercise INDRA-2017.”
The declaration condemned and vowed to fight terrorism in all forms and manifestations. “Together, we will continue efforts to combat international terrorism, which poses a great threat to the maintenance of peace and security. We are convinced that the unprecedented spread of this threat requires a decisive collective response on the part of the entire global community, without double standards and selectivity, in accordance with international law and the UN Charter,” said the declaration.
There is no question that strong ties still exist between the two countries and will likely remain so, but geopolitical shifts being undertaken by both countries are certainly having their impact on the relationship. This includes the deepening relationship India is striking with the USA and its desire to isolate Pakistan.
India miffed at Russia’s ties with Pakistan
Modi’s Russian visit was an attempt to lessen the fissures that had arisen between the two countries. Tensions stemmed between the two countries for a number of reasons – on the Indian side it was Russia’s improving ties with Pakistan.
Much to Indian consternation, Russia did not side with it when it wanted alleged terrorist organizations of Pakistan named as terrorists in the BRICS Summit held in Goa, October 2016. This raised alarm bells in New Delhi about Moscow’s support of Pakistan.
However, New Delhi is underestimating the concerns and annoyance Russians have had with the Indian shift towards the US – whom Russians still perceive as their arch-enemy on the global arena.
In particular, the role India has taken on as the American stalwart in the South China Sea – Pacific area disputes and the logistical and strategic agreements it has signed with the USA. The unease over strong US presence – direct and indirect -in what they have traditionally considered their own neighbourhoods has also brought about Russia’s tilt towards Beijing and with time towards Islamabad. It is expected that this will over time convert from being tactical to strategic importance.
What is bringing Pakistan and Russia together?
Russian relations with Islamabad also tie in with the influence it is seen to have over the Taliban, with Russia now re-entering the Afghan theatre. It has organized three multi-nation conferences and has even asserted that reconciliation with the Taliban is crucial to peace. The latter because it recognises as a local Islamist regime that does not have the ‘caliphate’ as an aim unlike the ISIS. Russia now considers the Taliban as an effective bulwark in the global fight against the Islamic State. Russia’s stance is gaining attention especially since the IS Khorasan faction is becoming more brazen by the application of more military
Russia’s stance is gaining attention and support in the region, especially since the IS Khorasan faction is becoming more brazen in its attempts to show its presence. Russia may decide to try to bolster the Taliban through various means to counter the Islamic State.
In addition, both Pakistan and Russia have started to develop tactical relations especially in the military realm. A joint counter-terrorism exercise was held last October in Pakistan between the special forces of both countries. Russia lifted an arms embargo against Pakistan in 2014 and Pakistan bought four Mi-35M attack helicopters which are expected this year.
Russia has shown its strong support and indeed interest in joining the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). In an interview to Radio Pakistan last December, Russian Ambassador to Pakistan Alexey Dedov pointed out that CPEC is a component of China’s Silk Road and his country was also working on a similar Eurasian Economic Union. He added that China and Russia are holding discussions to merge the two projects. Indians have expressed umbrage over joining China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) project and Chinese involvement in Pakistan’s northern areas, which India considers part of Kashmir.