India-Russia Relations : Bilateral Ties, Political & Economic Relations | UPSC Notes

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India-Russia Relations : Bilateral Ties, Political & Economic Relations | UPSC Notes

• India has worked with Russia for a long time and knows it is a reliable partner. India’s foreign strategy has been built on getting along better with Russia.

• Since India and Russia signed the “Declaration on the India-Russia Strategic Partnership” in October 2000, their relationship has changed in a big way. They now work together better in almost every area of their relationship.

• India and the Soviet Union had strong strategic, military, economic, and social ties during the Cold War. After the Soviet Union broke up, Russia took over its close relationship with India, which led to a Special Strategic Relation between the two countries.

• Under the Strategic Partnership, there are a number of formal ways to talk that work at both the government and official levels to make sure that people talk to each other regularly and that cooperation activities are followed up on.

• In December 2010, when the Russian President went to India, the Strategic Partnership was upgraded to a “Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership.

“But their relationship has gotten much worse in the last few years, especially since the end of the Cold War. One of the main reasons for this is that Russia is close with China and Pakistan, which has caused many strategic problems for India over the past few years.

Soviet Legacy

• This relationship goes back to the early 1900s, when India was ruled by the British and Russia was controlled by the Tsars.

• Indian freedom forces were moved by the Russian Revolution of 1905. When Mahatma Gandhi was in South Africa, he was struck by how similar the situation in Russia and India was. • Indian freedom fighters were greatly inspired by the Bolshevik Revolution. After visiting the Soviet Union in 1927, Jawaharlal Nehru was convinced that poor developing countries like India should not follow the capitalist path, but rather a development model that emphasised social justice, equality, and human dignity.

• Even before India got its own government, on April 13, 1947, a formal announcement was made that diplomatic ties would be made between India and the Soviet Union.

• The Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship, and Cooperation, as well as diplomatic and material support from the Soviet Union, gave India the confidence it needed to carry out the operations in 1971. • Public sector companies like BHEL, HAL, ONGC, and Steel Plants were set up with Soviet help.During the time of the Soviet Union, India and the USSR had a strategic relationship that helped India become more independent. As the relationship grew, it got stronger because of five things: (a) having similar political and strategic views of the world; (b) having close military-technical cooperation; (c) having strong economic ties; (d) having close ties in science and technology; and (e) having close personal and cultural ties.

Areas of Cooperation


• Under the Strategic Partnership between India and the Russian Federation, the Prime Minister of India and the President of the Russian Federation meet every year at the Summit. This is the highest level of formalised communication between the two countries.

• During the 17th Annual Summit, a Joint Statement called “Partnership for Global Peace and Stability” and a “Road map of Events” were approved to mark the 70th anniversary of the start of formal relations between India and Russia in 2017.

• At the 18th Annual India-Russia Summit, which took place in St. Petersburg in 2017, India and Russia signed five agreements. These agreements were about nuclear energy, trains, gems and jewellery, traditional knowledge, and cultural exchanges.

• During the 19th Annual Summit in 2018, both sides were happy that the India-Russia Business Summit was held in New Delhi and that a deal was signed to give India the S-400 Long Range Surface-to-Air Missile system.

• Also, a casual summit in Sochi on May 21, 2018, showed that the political leaders of both countries have a lot of trust in each other.

• In 2019, President Putin signed an order to give Prime Minister Narendra Modi Russia’s greatest honour, the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle. The order was given to PM for his important role in building a strategic relationship between Russia and India and good relations between the Russian and Indian people.

• Every year, the Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological, and Cultural Cooperation Intergovernmental Commission (IRIGC-TEC) and the Military-Technical Cooperation Intergovernmental Commission (IRIGC-MTC) meet.

Different levels of political interactions

• The BRICS Summit and the SCO Summit give people a chance to talk to each other and talk about regional problems.

• High-level people from both countries talk to each other often. The External Affairs Minister (EAM) and the Russian Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) co-chair the Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological, and Cultural Cooperation (IRIGC-TEC), and the Russian and Indian Defence Ministers co-chair the Intergovernmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC). Both commissions meet once a year.

• The Russia-India-China (RIC) and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) foreign ministers get together to talk.

• The BRICS Environment Ministers’ Meeting, the BRICS High Representatives for Security Issues Meeting, and the BRICS Parliamentary Forum are all other ways for politicians to talk to each other.


• Economic links were the backbone of relations between India and the Soviet Union. Even the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation from 1971, which was mostly about political and military security, put a lot of emphasis on “economic, scientific, and technological cooperation.”

• Even though India and Russia’s relationship escaped the upheavals of the early 1990s, economic ties between the two countries began to cool after the fall of the Soviet Union. Even though ambitious goals have been set at many summits over the years, trade between India and Russia only passed the $10 billion mark in 2017-18, with India exporting just over $2 billion.

• On December 24, 2015, the two countries signed a protocol to make it easier for businesspeople and leaders of associations to get visas. This was done to make it easier for businesspeople to travel and do business.

• By 2025, the two countries want to raise their joint investments to $50 billion and their trade to $30 billion.

India’s main exports are medicines, other manufactured goods, iron and steel, clothing, tea, coffee, and tobacco. Russia’s main exports are defence and nuclear power equipment, fertilisers, electrical machinery, steels, and diamonds.

• India’s Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) made a deal with Alrosa of Russia, the world’s biggest diamond mining company, to get rough diamonds for India’s diamond processing business.In October 2018, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the National Small Industries Corporation of India and the Russian Small and Medium Business Corporation.

Indian companies like Imperial Energy Tomsk, Sakhalin I, Volzhsky Abrasive Works Volgograd, and Commercial Indo bank have invested about US$ 13 billion in Russia. Russian companies like Kamaz Vectra in Hosur, Shyam Sistema Telecom Ltd, Sberbank, and VTB have invested about US$ 16 billion in India.

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• The Indian and Russian railways have also signed a deal about high-speed rails in India and the modernization of railways.

Forums for Economic Cooperation

• The Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological, and Cultural Cooperation (IRIGC-TEC) is the top G2G forum for reviewing economic cooperation in each area.

• Organisations like the India-Russia Business Council, the India-Russia Trade, Investment and Technology Promotion Council, the India-Russia Business Dialogue, and the India-Russia Chamber of Commerce (which focuses on small and medium-sized businesses) help build direct business-to-business links.

• In June 2015, at the 15th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), India and the Eurasian Economic Union (EaEU) made a statement agreeing to do a joint feasibility study for the FTA between India and the EaEU.

Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Armenia are the five countries that make up the Eurasian Economic Union.

Diaspora and Exchanges of Culture

• In the Russian Federation, there are about 4,500 Indian students registered in medical and technical schools. Hindustani Samaj has been around since 1957 and is the oldest Indian group in Russia.

• The Jawaharlal Nehru Cultural Centre (JNCC) at the Embassy of India in Moscow works closely with some of Russia’s most important organisations. People in Russia are interested in Indian dance, singing, yoga, and Ayurvedic medicine.

• On May 10, 2015, in Moscow, the Year of Indian Culture “Namaste Russia” was opened by the President of India. ‘Namaste Russia’ took place in different parts of Russia in 2015, with about 15 shows in 8 different cities.

• Over the years, India’s Soft Power has grown a lot in Russia and other countries in Central Asia. The two governments have put a lot more money into university exchanges and joint science and technology study projects.

• On June 21, 2015, the first International Day of Yoga (IDY) was held in Russia. It included more than 60 regions, 250 events, and 45,000 yoga fans.

• Efforts were also made to strengthen and formalise cooperation between Indian States and Russian Regions, as well as to increase direct contacts between business, entrepreneurs, and government bodies on both sides. This was shown by the deals that were made between Assam and Sakhalin, Haryana and Bashkortostan, Goa and Kaliningrad, Odisha and Irkutsk, and Visakhapatnam and Vladivostok.


India and Russia have worked together on security for a long time and in many ways. India and Russia used to just buy and sell military equipment, but now they work together on research, development, and production of modern defence technologies and systems.

• Defence Equipment: Some examples of flagship cooperation include the BrahMos Missile System, the joint design and development of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft, and the licenced production of SU-30 aircraft and T-90 tanks in India. Other examples include the Ilyushin/HAL Tactical Transport Aircraft, the KA-226T twin-engine utility helicopters, and some frigates.

During the 17th Annual Summit, agreements were reached on the supply of S-400 air defence systems, the building of frigates (Krivak Class) for Project 1135, and the creation of a joint venture to make Kamov- 226T helicopters. This was the first major defence project under India’s “Make in India” initiative.

• India bought or leased military equipment from Russia. This includes the S-400 Triumf and the Kamov Ka-226 200, which will be made in India as part of the Make in India programme.

The T-90S Bhishma

Plan for the INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier

• Russia also helps the Indian Navy with its submarine projects in a very important way:

The first submarine for the Indian Navy, of the “Foxtrot Class,” came from Russia.

India’s nuclear submarine project is dependent on Russia.

India’s one and only aircraft carrier, the INS Vikramaditya, was also made in Russia.

India has 14 traditional submarines, but only nine of them are Russian.

• Bilateral Exercise: Military cooperation is a big part of Russian-Indian strategic interactions and a stage for them. Joint military drills are the most important part of working together on defence, and the armed forces train together every year.

The Tri-Services drill “INDRA” is done regularly by both countries.

• Relations between governments: The two countries’ Defence Ministers co-chair the Inter Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC). Its Working Groups and Sub Groups look at how the two countries’ defences are working together.

 During the 17th meeting of the Russian-Indian intergovernmental commission for military-technical cooperation, which took place in Moscow, Russia, on June 23, 2017, a military cooperation road map was signed. The road map will become the main text for planning how the two countries will work together.

India is one of the biggest buyers of military equipment in the world. It is currently spending $100 billion to update its mostly Soviet-era military equipment.


• Russia is a key partner in the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and it sees India as a country with powerful nuclear technology and a perfect record of not spreading nuclear weapons.

• In 1988, India and the Soviet Union made a deal to work together in the nuclear field. India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Russia’s Rosatom signed the Strategic Vision for Strengthening Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in December 2014. This included a strategic vision document on the serial construction of nuclear power units in India using Russian technology. It shows the plans for building more than 12 nuclear power units in India, including the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu. India and Russia have signed a General Framework Agreement on KKNPP Units 3 and 4, and more contracts are being made. During the Annual Summit on December 24, 2015, they also signed an agreement on localising nuclear technology in India.

Energy and Infrastructure

• One of the most important parts of the relationship between India and Russia is energy cooperation. A report from the International Energy Agency says that by 2025, India is likely to be the third biggest energy consumer in the world, after the US and China. In the second and third quarters of 2016, Indian companies invested close to US$ 5.5 billion in Russia’s Oil and Gas business.

Hydrocarbons are another area where the two countries are actively looking for ways to work together. At the Goa summit in 2016, the National Infrastructure Investment Fund (NIIF) of India and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) set up a bilateral investment fund to help high-tech projects in Russia and India.

The North South International Transport Corridor (INSTC) is likely to start working soon. This will likely cut down on travel time and prices between the two countries and give their economies a much-needed boost.

Space, Science and Technology

• Russia has been a big part of India’s journey into space, and space is still one of the most important parts of the strategic relationship between India and Russia. India and Russia have worked together for about 40 years to make good use of space.

India and Russia signed a deal in 2007 to work together on peaceful uses of space. This included satellite launches, GLONASS navigation, remote sensing, and other uses of space for society.

In June 2015, the space agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to expand their cooperation in exploring and using space for peaceful reasons. Through this MoU, India and Russia will be able to work together more on space projects. This is likely to help ISRO strengthen and grow its space programme in many areas, including space research.

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When the Russian President and the Indian Prime Minister met at the BRICS Summit 2016 in Goa, they “reaffirmed their commitment to pursue the huge potential to work together in space to advance socially useful applications and scientific knowledge.”

• The Working Group on Science and Technology under IRIGC-TEC, the Integrated Long Term Programme (ILTP), and the Basic Science Cooperation Programme are the three main institutional ways that the two countries work together on science and technology. The Science Academies of the two countries also encourage exchanges between academies.

• India-Russia Bridge to Innovation, partnership in telemedicine, the creation of a Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), and the Russia India Network (RIN) of universities are some of the new projects in this area.


• Because terrorism and organised crime are getting worse all over the world, it is important for countries to work together to fight all kinds of terrorism.

“The Agreement on Cooperation in Combating Terrorism and Organised Crime” was signed during a visit by an Indian delegation led by the Home Minister to Russia from November 27-29, 2017. It is a step towards consolidating the benefits gained in the field of security and aims to help both countries fight new risks and threats.

o The Agreement would make India and Russia’s relationship stronger by letting them share information, knowledge, and best practises. It would also help stop terrorism and make the area safer.

Russia helps India fight terrorism, and it agrees with India’s idea for a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT).

Cyber Security

• India and Russia have a “Agreement on cooperation in international information security” about cyber security. India and Russia have been trying to work together better to stop groups like Islamic State and Pakistan-based groups like LeT, Hizbul Mujahideen, and Jaish-e-Mohammed from radicalising people through social media.

• The Russian Quantum Centre (RQC) is also interested in working with India to stop hackers from getting into bank accounts with its quantum technology. RQC wants to give “quantum cryptography,” which could put India at the top of the list for secure communication in areas like banking, national and homeland security, and other sensitive areas. Quantum cryptography uses the quantum qualities of individual particles or waves of light (photons) to create an unbreakable cryptosystem.

How important the relationship between India and Russia is to India

India and Russia continue to play a big role in each other’s foreign policies because of their strategic relationship.

Russia is just as important to India as India is to Russia.

Strategic Advantage

• Russia has a lot of strategic bombers and a veto in the UN Security Council, which makes it a good counterweight to global control.

• Russia has been a reliable partner for a long time, and in the past, it has stopped China or Pakistan from doing anything that would hurt India’s national integrity.

• In the past, India’s side on the Kashmir problem was always supported by the Soviet Union and then by Russia. India, for its part, has tried to take a ‘balanced’ stand on Ukraine. It also didn’t vote on a motion about Ukraine at the United Nations General Assembly.

• India needs Russia’s help to become a regular member of the United Nations. Security Council, joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group and other groups that keep an eye on technology, and joining the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group.

• Russia can make it easier to get to the Central Asian Republics, which have a lot of resources like oil, gas, and uranium.

• Russia helped India build up its capabilities in nuclear, defence, space, and heavy industry when no other country was ready to do so. It has also helped India when it was in trouble, like during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.

Defence Procurement

• According to the SIPRI arms transfer database, India bought $36 billion worth of weapons from Russia between 1992 and 2015 (at 1990 prices). This was more than 70% of all the weapons India bought.

• India’s only nuclear submarine, the INS Chakra, is rented from Russia, and talks to rent another nuclear submarine from the Akula class are almost done.

• Through technology transfer and joint research and development, Russia is helping India build up its own military industry.

• India can’t afford to give up the military partnership it has with Russia right now. In terms of material technologies and key raw materials, Russia is known to be strong and is a much better place to get technology from than the US.


• Relations between India and Russia are important because India needs more and more energy. India can’t get to the energy-rich Central Asian Republics like China and Pakistan can, so it needs Russia, which has a long history with the area.

• India has invested in projects like Sakhalin I to get more energy from Russia. In 2014, Russia’s state-owned oil company Rosneft signed a letter of understanding with ONGC, which made it possible for the two companies to work together on projects in Russia’s offshore Arctic.

• India needs nuclear technology from Russia in order to meet its goal of using only green energy.

But in recent years, there has been a shift towards the West. This is because of the warming relationship between India and the United States, the nuclear deal with Japan, and the rise of Israel as a security partner. So, the question of whether or not Russia is important for India should be looked at in light of the following:

• Russia is close to Pakistan. In Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, Russia and Pakistan held their “first-ever” joint military drills. Its secret name was “Druzhba-2016,” which means “Friendship-2016.”

India is worried about the rising military cooperation between India and Pakistan and the sale of military equipment to Pakistan.

• Russia-China Axis: Since the end of the Cold War, relations between Russia and China have been getting better. In light of the current standoff with the West, Russia’s ties with China have grown stronger and stronger, with military ties adding to the economic ties.

• They have done joint military drills in the eastern Mediterranean and the Pacific, signed a $400 billion gas deal for 30 years, and sent high-tech weapons to China, like the S-400 air defence system. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AllB) now includes Russia as well. During the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Ufa, Russia, the two countries talked about the chance of combining the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Eurasian Economic Union. This would be a break from the tug-of-war over influence in Central Asia.

• The fact that Russia is getting closer to China has effects on India. As Russia gets closer to China, India will have less room to move in the area. In the past, both Russia and India were afraid of China and made decisions together. That might not be possible now because things have changed.

• Regional Issues: The big worry is that Russia’s stance on the AfPak issue, which used to be the same as India’s, has changed a lot. Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, which are based in Pakistan, were not mentioned in the BRICS Goa Summit statement.

• Diversifying India’s sources of security equipment: For more than 50 years, Russia has been New Delhi’s main source of defence equipment. This has been at the heart of relations between India and Russia.

In absolute terms, the military trade is still impressive, but compared to other things, it is steadily going down. India’s defence markets are becoming more diverse, and the country is trying to build its own defence industry. India’s defence trade has become more diverse thanks to the Rafale deal with France and the growing military trade with Israel.

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• India-USA: collaboration under the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) and the choice to sign three foundational defence agreements. The strategic partnership between India and Russia continues to have a big impact on each country’s foreign policy. Russia is just as important to India as India is to Russia. deal i.e. LEMOA, CISMOA, BECA, and the Civil Nuclear Deal all show that the balance is towards the US. Also, the first “2 + 2” conversation, which took place in September 2018 in New Delhi, shows that ties are getting stronger.

US-India ties. This makes it hard for India to keep its relationships with the US and Russia in check.

• Other things: the lack of people-to-people touch, the language barrier, and the fact that

Because each country has many different international relationships, talk of a “special relationship” sounds less and less real.

In the global geopolitical environment, the pursuit of strategic goals requires alignments along more than one axis. Russia has a “multi-vector” foreign policy, which means it deals with countries that have very different ideas. Japan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia are all places with which people have contact. The friendship with Pakistan and the partnership with China are both a part of this mix. India is also broadening its foreign involvement to give itself more room to move. India is one of the most important countries to have a good relationship with because Russia wants to play a bigger part in the Asia-Pacific area.

BRICS, RIC and SCO: India and Russia

In Russia’s strategic plans, India is an important part of RIC (Russia-India-China), BRIC (Brazil-Russia-India-China), and SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation). This is because Moscow sees these new groups as the key to long-term growth in the world economy.

In 2018, both Russia and India’s foreign policies were based on their relationships with each other, both directly and in multilateral groups like the G-20, BRICS, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and RIC (Russia, India, and China).

• SCO: Because of the way regional geopolitics work, Russia encouraged and backed India’s decision to become a full-time member of the SCO. Russia thought that India could be a key strategic partner against China in the Eurasian area. In the past, the SCO was seen as a group led by China and supported by Russia. With India as a member, it will be seen as an organisation that welcomes everyone and has a lot more respect, influence, power, and stature. India took part in the SCO’s “Peace Mission – 2018” military drill in Russia, which was meant to fight terrorism.

• The RIC (Russia, India, and China) countries all want economic globalisation to continue, but they are also committed to a process that tries to balance the needs of each area. Even though the focus of international relations has clearly moved to the Asia-Pacific area, the new government in the US has brought about new uncertainties that are likely to affect how RIC and the US work together.

• BRICS is another place where the two valued partners can get together to talk about things like terrorism, trade and investment, infrastructure, energy, and so on. In 2013, at the 5th BRICS Summit in Durban, South Africa’s “eThekwini Declaration” called for new models and ways of governing the world. It talked about how the U.S., Europe, and Japan’s monetary policies have hurt growth in developing countries by making capital flows, currencies, and commodity prices more volatile. This has hurt growth in developing countries.

In the statement, a full reform of the UN, including its Security Council, was called for. Russia reaffirmed how important India’s standing is in international affairs and backed India’s desire to play a bigger role in the UN.

Strengthening Links: ‘Druzhba-Dosti’

• India will always have Russia as a strategic partner, even though ties between New Delhi and countries like the US, France, and Israel are getting stronger. Russia backs India’s plans to become a bigger player on the international and regional stage.

• They are both part of groups of rising powers called BRICS and RIC. The rules that both countries say should be the basis of the international system, like sovereignty and not meddling in other countries’ issues, are similar from an ideological point of view.

• Both countries take the same method to settling disagreements: they want a political solution to a crisis in West Asia instead of a military one. India “acknowledged” Russia’s attempts to bring peace to Syria on a political level.

• However, the ties between India and Russia need to be strengthened because India is getting closer to the US after the nuclear deal in 2008 and a number of high-level trips to the US.

India should sign some high-profile military deals with Russia as soon as possible.

India’s possible membership in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) will be good for all of the countries in the group.

India should also argue for a more even rise in trade, since the current arrangement favours Russia a lot.

India should push for a new way to pay with rupees and rubles, which would let the two countries trade in their own currencies. A system like this would make it easier to protect against foreign currency risk, get around US sanctions, and make Indian and Russian goods more competitive in each other’s markets.

In the context of its good defence relationship with Russia, India needs to make it clear to Russia that it shouldn’t give China technology that could hurt India’s security in the long run.

Trilateral Cooperation (RIC) between Russia, China, and India that is good for all three countries and could help reduce mistrust and distrust between India and China should be pushed for.

India and Russia are both interested in Afghanistan. India has always pushed for a peace process that is “led and owned” by Afghanistan. Afghanistan needs to be safe and stable for the rest of the area to do well. Russia and the US have big disagreements about the US’s new strategy in Afghanistan. So, the “Heart of Asia” process is still very important for getting people to work together so that Afghanistan can be a thriving Asian “hub” and not a place where big powers compete with each other.

It’s important to note that “Make in India” also wants India to become a key player in the global weapons market. India is expected to spend $250 billion over the next ten years to improve its defence, and Russia should try to take advantage of this chance to help out in a big way.


• India and Russia have been friends for a long time. From an international, geoeconomic, and geopolitical point of view, it is important for them to work together on economic and energy issues. India’s energy security in the next ten years will depend a lot on what Russia does.

• Economic ties between India and Russia have a lot of promise, but they need to be stepped up. Finding a new way to make sense of the “special relationship” is still a work in progress, and leaders on both sides should work hard to do so.