Manmohan Singh with Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday. (PTI)
Moscow, Oct. 21: Five years ago, the Left and a range of activists in India pilloried Prime Minister Manmohan Singh personally and his government as a whole for “selling out” to the United States of America and insisted that the Indo-US nuclear deal would spell the death knell for India’s “independent” foreign policy.
The UPA-I government’s assertion that the deal would only facilitate nuclear commerce with the rest of the world, and “strategic ties” with the US was not a form of capitulation, found few buyers, at least in India’s “progressive” circles.
They might wish to change their mind now, considering how close India continues to be not just with old friend Russia but even with a “difficult” neighbour like China when it comes to international relations and a nuanced balancing of strategic interests around the world.
Singh, who concluded a summit meeting in Moscow this evening and is setting off for Beijing early tomorrow, is often seen as a leader who is much more at ease in the world outside than in his own home.
But the constant travels over the past decade have also coincided with India playing a much bigger role in the world — extending and deepening ties not just with global powers but also playing a key role in a range of multilateral fora that multiply and overlap with each passing year.
Far from kowtowing to one solitary superpower (as the US was perceived to be after the collapse of the Soviet Union), India has of late been a part of groupings that have subtly taken on the US.
In the past few years, India has, in fact, become closer to both Russia and China, and the three work in concert on a range of issues.
This was evident from the lengthy joint statement adopted at the India-Russia Annual Summit today as well as the Prime Minister’s remarks to President Vladimir Putin at the start of their meeting.
On both Syria and Iran, India seems more in tune with the Russian position than with the US.
In his statement to the media, the Prime Minister said: “India welcomes the joint Russia-US framework for the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons and I thanked President Putin for his personal efforts towards securing a peaceful political settlement to the Syrian conflictů. We also agreed on the need for a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue and expressed hope for progress in the ongoing discussions with Iran.”
The joint statement also expressed support for the early convening of an “international conference on Syria” (Geneva II) and the Russian side stated that it would welcome India’s participation in Geneva II.
Strategic “congruence” over Syria, Afghanistan or Iran are not the only things that are drawing Russia, China and India close.
In every alphabet soup that seeks to play a role in the world — G20, Brics, SCO, APEC — the three countries are playing a direct or observer role.
Singh may never live down his “deep love” for George W. Bush, but his gush-gush speech about Russia at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations today showed that living in the coalition era comes naturally to him and indeed to India — not just in the realm of national politics but in the international arena too.
Gifts for PM
Putin surprised Singh by gifting him some pictures and coins that symbolise the bilateral relationship dating back to over 100 years, PTI adds.
Putin gave Singh an artwork from Benares about the Russian heir apparent who later became Nicholas II. He had visited India in 1890-91 and toured 30 cities.
Another gift was a map of India from the 16th century and a coin from the Mughal period. Russia had opened its first consulate in Bombay in 1900, which was later shifted to Calcutta and then to Delhi after Independence.