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India & Russia Appreciate Each Other in 'Global Scheme of Things': Ex-Indian Envoy

© Photo : Indian PM Office / Modi Meets Putin in DelhiModi Putin Meet
Modi Putin Meet - Sputnik India, 1920, 28.01.2023
Both India and Russia have been making concerted efforts to strengthen, expand and deepen time-tested bilateral cooperation since 1947, when diplomatic relations were officially established.
This year, India and Russia mark the 30th anniversary of the bilateral Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation signed on January 28, 1993.
On this occasion, Sputnik spoke to ex-Indian diplomat and strategic affairs expert Anil Trigunayat, who has served as the deputy head of Indian Embassy in Moscow during his career in the Indian Foreign Service (IFS).
Trigunayat is currently associated with various think tanks, including the New Delhi-based Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF).
Sputnik: This year marks the 30th anniversary of the India-Russia Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation signed in 1993. However, robust Indo-Russian ties go back to the Soviet era. Looking back at all these years, what accomplishments of bilateral friendship could you highlight as the most striking in your personal view?
Ambassador Anil Trigunayat: India and Soviet Union/Russia relations have mostly had an upward trajectory, except during the early 1990s, when both tried to explore Western horizons and cooperation, which for the disintegrated SU turned out to be a dampener and a disappointment in a very short time.
India, on the other hand, has continued to strengthen and diversify its partnerships. Under President Vladimir Putin, the bilateral relationship with India was enhanced to become a ‘Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership’ and indeed taken to a much higher orbit.
It encompasses and expands across the whole gamut of collaboration, from defense, security, space and civil-nuclear, as well as the common areas of trade, energy, polity and culture.
The annual leadership summits and various institutionalized dialogue mechanisms have paved a path of smoother engagement. Mutual trust and respect are really the hallmark of cooperation at the people-to-people and leadership level, which is reflected at various multilateral fora as well.

Both sides appreciate the importance of the other in the global scheme of things for ensuring regional and global stability. It does not mean that frank talks and discussions on key concerns are not held, but these are analyzed and decisions taken on the basis of facts and national interests.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s advice to President Putin and President Zelensky to end the war and return to dialogue and diplomacy while following a principled stance over peace and security at the UNSC and UNGA is one such example.
Sputnik: What, in your opinion, is the fundamental basis of 'time-tested' relations between India and Russia? Many other democracies are at odds with Moscow in what many have predicted is the onset of a new Cold War.
Trigunayat: I think the fact the Soviet Union/Russia stood with India without being prescriptive in the post-independence period and during difficult times, especially in the wake of 1971, or for that matter exercising their veto in the UN Security Council, where critical Indian interests were involved, cemented that trust and friendship at the grassroots level. The West at the time continued to back Pakistan, despite its involvement in cross-border terrorism activity against India.
The cultural connection and fondness and popularity of Indian culture, fondness for films especially Raj Kapoor and others from the 1960s onwards, further enriched the P2P affection that is evident on a day-to-day basis. Somehow the mutual trust has remained robust.
Sputnik: Could you share any personal interactions with Russian officials or people? Maybe an unusual or memorable moment for you, as an Indian?
Trigunayat: Well, I recall that during the India-Pakistan Kargil War, there was a shortage of some critical spare parts and the speed and concern with which the Russians acted and provided us with requisite material and even offering to transport it immediately from the Russian location to India is something absolutely remarkable, which you could expect only from a genuine friend.

Likewise, their continued support for India’s membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) despite China’s dilly-dallying was consistent.

I have seen, during my interactions with senior officials and functionaries, the openness, especially at the highest levels and the desire to enrich ties with India being unquestionable, and I have maintained that President Vladimir Putin as well as the successive Indian leadership have remained invested in this relationship even if there were some headwinds or points of difference.
Sputnik: How do you see Indian-Russian relations developing over the next several years? What are the main trends worth keeping an eye on? Should India be concerned about the growing China-Russia commercial and military cooperation?
Trigunayat: The world is in a transition and most likely after the Russia-Ukraine conflict since last February, we may witness a very different and invidious Cold War 2.0 which definitely provides a very divergent power competition matrix.
I do not see India joining either of the two blocs and might even emerge as a third pole and as a leader of the nations espousing ‘strategic autonomy’.
How would that fit into the Russian designs along with China remains to be seen. [But] I believe in being realistic and think that most relationships are transactional, catering to the national interests.

For Russia collaborating with China may be a given and a necessity to counter the Western challenge, but Chinese supremacy may be far too strong for the Russian comfort. That’s where they will see India’s leveraging importance with regards to China — which will remain a major challenge for India in times to come.