The stability of India’s relations with Russia has once again been demonstrated by the recent visit of the Russian president, Mr Vladimir Putin, to India. Despite the changes in bilateral ties after the end of the Cold War, there is a continued convergence of interests that makes it profitable for both India and Russia to maintain close ties. A Russian foreign office spokesman once appropriately defined the relationship as “self-sufficient, not dependent on either Moscow or New Delhi’s relations with third countries”. Both the Delhi declaration, signed by Mr Putin and the Indian prime minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and the memorandum of understanding, signed by the external affairs minister, Mr Yashwant Sinha, and his Russian counterpart, Mr Igor Ivanov, provide good evidence that New Delhi’s relations with Moscow continue to be on a firm footing.
A key concern for both countries is terrorism. Both countries have been targeted by terrorists and Russia recently witnessed one of the most daring terrorist attacks in the very centre of Moscow. The MOU has focussed on enhancing cooperation to combat terrorism. This is not the first time that India and Russia have put forward a common stand on terrorism. Earlier, both countries had agreed to co-ordinate their strategies to deal with the new form of religious terrorism that is seeking to subvert secular, multi-ethnic, pluralistic countries. During Mr Vajpayee’s visit to Russia, the two leaders had signed the Moscow Declaration. The declaration called for “completion of negotiations under UN auspices on the draft Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism and the Convention for the suppression of acts of Nuclear Terrorism”. There is a clear recognition that an early adoption of these conventions will help in strengthening the international legal basis for effectively combating the global menace of terrorism. But it is not just the common threat from terrorism that binds Russia and India. The Indian armed forces are still critically dependent on the Russian arms industry, especially for spares. This dependence is unlikely to end in the foreseeable future. A joint working group on military-technical cooperation had been set up to monitor Indo-Russian defence cooperation. It would be unfortunate, however, if New Delhi’s relations with Moscow and Washington were viewed in a zero-sum context. The Cold War is over. India should build close ties with both Russia and the United States of America. Thus the idea of establishing a strategic triangle among India, Russia and China may neither be feasible nor particularly desirable.