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News Analysis |

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will embark on his 4-nation tour ostensibly aimed at bolstering India’s economic engagements. The glaring part will be a 3-day tour to Russia, where he will look to lessen the degree of uneasiness in Indo-Russo ties lately.

Modi is slated to have a busy schedule in Russia. He will be paying a visit to Piskarovskoye Cemetery to pay homage to those who lost their lives during the Siege of Leningrad (1941-1944). He will then attend the 18th India-Russia Annual Summit, held in St. Petersburg. “Modi and Putin will address the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) where India is the ‘guest country.

Analysts opine that both countries will try to revive two-way trade as they feel that they are going downhill.

Hindustan Times reported that “GV Srinivas, joint secretary (Eurasia) in the Ministry of External Affairs, said Modi’s participation in SPIEF signals that there will be an emphasis on trade and investment during the Russian leg of the tour.”

Read more: Indian media tantalizes Russia over NSG membership: A wave of poor relations?

The Indian prime minister will have detailed discussions with the Russian president Vladimir Putin at a time when geopolitical shifts are taking place. Analysts opine that both countries will try to revive two-way trade as they feel that they are going downhill.

Though the two nations have set a target for their bilateral trade of $30 billion (INR 3,000 crore) by 2025, it slumped to $7.8 billion (INR 780 crore) in 2015. So both countries will look to now focus on both other sectors to include pharmaceuticals, agriculture, and food processing.

Earlier this month the two countries assessed the state of the bilateral relationship in a range of sectors, including civil-nuclear, trade, and investments during the meeting of India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, and Cultural Cooperation (IRIGC-TEC).

The two nations are yet to conclude the General Framework Agreement (GFA) for units 5 and 6 of the Kudankulam nuclear plant. After missing two deadlines, it is expected that the agreement will be signed next month. Besides, the North-South Transport Corridor will also be expedited in a bid to improve regional connectivity.

Russia has been trying to enter the Afghan theater. It has organized three multi-nation conferences and has asserted that reconciliation with the Taliban is a key to peace.

However, it remains to be seen whether the trip can reduce the creeping political tensions between the two countries. Tensions have stemmed from Russia’s improving ties with Pakistan, owing to a host of factors, to include the Afghan quagmire and Russia’s increasing drive to emerge as an active global actor.

Read more: Will Russia’s initiative on Afghanistan succeed despite India’s resistance?

India’s Pakistan centric concerns

Much to the chagrin of India, Russia did not openly name alleged terrorist organizations of Pakistan in the BRICS Summit held in Goa last year. This raised alarm bells in New Delhi about Moscow’s support for Pakistan.

In an article in the Indian Express last year, the reluctance of Russia to name Pakistan as a sponsor of terrorism was analyzed as:

“Pakistan is far too useful to all the world’s big powers in a number of ways. For one, both China and Russia, as well as Iran, see Pakistan as a potential ally in their anti-jihadist game. The Islamic State and al-Qaeda, now being slowly choked in Syria and Iraq, are likely to divert a significant portion of the resources to Afghanistan as the war against them proceeds. That means numbers of Uighur and Russian Muslim jihadists could be located close to their homelands’ borders. Beijing and Moscow will then need Islamabad’s cooperation.”

Here it is important to mention that Russia has been trying to enter the Afghan theater. It has organized three multi-nation conferences and has asserted that reconciliation with the Taliban is a key to peace. Besides, Russia deems that Taliban is an effective bulwark in the global fight against the Islamic State.

Pundits opine that Islamabad still has influence over the Taliban, hence cooperation is well in order as Russia looks to re-establish itself as a major player in international politics.

In an interview to Radio Pakistan last December, Russian Ambassador to Pakistan Alexey Y Dedov pointed out that CPEC is a component of China’s Silk Road and his country was also working on the similar Eurasian Economic Union.

Pakistan and Russia have developed a good tactical relation, especially in the military domain. A joint counter-terrorism exercise was held last October in Pakistan between the special forces of both countries.

Read more: Indian fears: Is Russia joining Pakistan and China in CPEC?

Russia lifted an arms embargo against Pakistan in 2014 and will send four Mi-35M attack helicopters this year.

Russia has shown its strong support for the highly contentious China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a project which India believes is a violation of its sovereignty. In an interview to Radio Pakistan last December, Russian Ambassador to Pakistan Alexey Y Dedov pointed out that CPEC is a component of China’s Silk Road and his country was also working on the similar Eurasian Economic Union. He added that China and Russia are holding discussions to merge the two projects.

It is quite obvious that New Delhi is being overly paranoid by Islamabad’s connectivity with the region and is finding it tough to isolate it.

As New Delhi drifts towards the US with the latter supporting it politically and diplomatically, there is every likelihood that Russia’s tilt towards Beijing and Islamabad will hasten. Modi, it could be argued, will have his work cut out if it has to stop Moscow going ahead with its Pakistan’s gambit.

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