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NOW TO HAVE A FRIEND IN DEED

Senior officials of the Defence Research and Development Organization were in Chandipur around the end of December last year to prepare for the test-fire of a supersonic cruise missile jointly prepared by India and Russia. Such renewed defence collaboration between the countries can be regarded as a direct spinoff from the Delhi declaration signed after the visit of the Russian president to India. This in turn is the result of the increasing trilateral relationship among Russia, India and China which has been prompted by larger national interests of the respective countries.

Organized terrorism and religious fundamentalism are the two factors most singularly affecting the relations. In an earlier instance, Vladimir Putin had referred to the region from Caucasus to southeast Asia as the “arc of instability”. The Indian president this time pointedly mentioned that the “epicentre” of this arc was in “our common neighbourhood”.

Putin in a way subscribed to the view through his forthright condemnation of Pakistan during his India visit. He asked Pakistan to stop infiltration across the line of control and to liquidate the terror infrastructure within its boundaries. Putin further added that the international community has to be sensitized to the dangers of weapons of mass destruction and their possible misuse by terrorists. Atal Bihari Vajpayee echoed Putin’s concerns by adding that the recent terrorist targets in India, Bali, Russia and Mombassa showed that terrorism was seeking new targets.

In mutual interest

Given the convergence of opinion, the evolution of a “strategic partnership” between the two countries was a natural outcome of the Indo-Russian summit. This is expected to supplement the treaty of friendship and cooperation signed in 1993 which still holds true.

The foundation of this partnership is based on the arrangement of annual summit level meetings, regular bilateral, political and foreign office consultations on issues of mutual concern, working towards obtaining greater cooperation from the United Nations, further intensifying efforts aimed at strengthening international peace and security; disarmament, progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, peaceful settlement of disputes, joint initiatives on key international and regional issues and keeping each other informed about policy initiatives in the international arena. Above all, the arrangement emphasizes on non-participation in any military, political or other alliances or associations or armed conflict against each other.

Defence matters

Defence cooperation, including the supply of crucial defence equipment, has been a constant factor in the bilateral relationship. Joint research and development, and interaction between scientists of the two countries, have begun to take a concrete shape following the summit. The joint supersonic cruise missile is one indication of this. Further, the two countries have signed a protocol for armament spare parts manufactured in India under Russian licence and exported to third world countries. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited has already exported MiG-21 spares to many countries and this protocol will enable the Indian company to consider exporting missiles and spares of advanced fighter jets.

The area which the two need to work on is economy. Russia has already been identified as a potential trade partner with its expanding internal market and vast natural resources. The five year trade agreement signed between the two countries in May 1992 ushered in a new phase of convertible currency trade. Under this agreement, India was to repay loans in rupees over 12 years, $1 billion of which would be used to buy Indian goods every year. This however has not happened in reality. To boost a flagging bilateral trade, India and Russia have agreed to jointly explore regional trade and economic agreements with other countries. An economic friendship will further enrich the strategic partnership.

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