‘Sanskriti se Suraksha’ (From Culture to Defence) is how India’s Hon’ble Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, defined the breadth of the relationship between India and Russia.
Often described as ‘time-tested’ and ‘mutually complementary’, the abiding ties between India and Russia have only grown stronger over the years. The relationship between the two countries is an extremely important pillar of India’s foreign policy.
The signing of the Declaration on the India-Russia Strategic Partnership in October 2000 strengthened these ties with enhanced levels of synergy across areas such as defence, trade and economy, science and technology, and culture1.
Economic ties between the two countries go back a long way – to the days when Indian traders traveled over the continent to sell goods in Astrakhan, Moscow and St Petersburg. In the 1940s, even before India achieved Independence in 1947, economic engagement further deepened when the then Soviet Union invested in several new enterprises.
As Independent India set up new factories and projects, the Soviet Union helped in the areas of heavy machine-building, mining, energy production and steel plants. It also contributed to the establishment of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mumbai3.
Even today, be it trade or people-to-people cooperation or defence and strategy, these two countries are working in tandem under a special and privileged strategic partnership.
Celebrating the 70th year of diplomatic ties between the two countries in 2017, the 18th Annual Bilateral Summit was held in St. Petersburg, Russia. India has, under flagship programmes like Make in India and Start-up India, made concerted efforts to attract technology and investments.
To facilitate and promote Russian investments in the country, ‘Russia Plus’ has been established by India5. India has also set up a ‘Single Window Service’ in October 2018 to fast track Russian investment in Indian companies7.
Important projects that could provide a major boost to bilateral trade are operationalization of the ‘Green Corridor’ project and the International North-South Transport Corridor.
Trade between the countries is an area which has been identified for special focus by both countries. Bilateral trade in 2018-19 amounted to USD 8.3 billion2. Indian exports to Russia include agricultural produce such as tea and coffee, pharmaceuticals, and chemical products.
Import items from Russia include mineral fuels, precious and semi-precious stones, machinery, electrical machinery and fertilizers.
Both sides lay immense emphasis on enhancing trade and commercial ties, as they are making progress towards achieving the target of an investment of USD 30 billion by the year 20256.
The current size of the Indian Community in Russia is estimated to be 14,000. There are approximately around 300 registered Indian companies in Russia involved in trading.
A strong tradition of Indian studies is prevalent in Russia, as is Yoga and Ayurveda. Approximately 4,500 Indian students4 are present in medical and technical institutions in the Russian Federation. More than 20 Russian institutions regularly teach Hindi to about 1,500 Russian students along with other languages like Tamil, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, Urdu, Sanskrit and Pali. A 6-month long ‘Festival of India in Russia, held from September 2018-March 2019 in 22 cities, showcased the best of Indian music, dance, food and spiritual traditions.
At the recent BRICS Summit in Brazil in November 20198, Prime Minister Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin noted with satisfaction the progress in bilateral ties, especially in the areas of trade, security and culture. India has also announced an “unprecedented” USD 1 billion line of credit for Russia’s resource-rich Far East9.
Undoubtedly, India and Russia are in the spotlight of the global economic landscape, progressing together towards sustainable and long-term growth. These two nations are truly role models for an amicable and mutually beneficial friendship.