Modi-Putin bilateral will recalibrate Moscow's status in India's defence calculus

Among the defence pacts to be signed on Saturday?will be?the S-400 Triumph advanced anti-aircraft defence system. In photo: Modi (L) with Putin (R). (Source: Wikipedia) Photograph:( Others )

Goa, India Oct 14, 2016, 05.05 PM (IST) Ramesh Ramachandran

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in the western Indian state of Goa on Saturday for the 17th India-Russia annual summit that will be held on the margins of the BRICS  (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) Summit 2016 


The two leaders are expected to sign a number of defence deals. The meeting will also see the foundation of unit-3 and unit-4 of the nuclear reactors being set up with Moscow's assistance in Kudankulam, a seaside town in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.


'A vast menu' 

The strategic partnership between India and Russia dates back to October 2000. However, over time, the bilateral relations waned. While Russia turned to China, and most recently Pakistan where it conducted joint military exercises, India veered towards the United States. Along the way, the US and Israel supplanted Russia as a major defence supplier for India.


The Modi-Putin bilateral talks, however, are likely to re-establish Moscow's pre-eminent status in India's defence and security calculus. 


If the ambitious agenda of the talks ("a vast menu" is how an Indian official who spoke to WION defines it) and the proposed outcomes (about 18 agreements likely to be signed in the areas such as defence and civil nuclear cooperation) are indicators, the Modi-Putin meet promises to be as "special" and "privileged" as the strategic partnership between India and Russia.


GV Srinivas, joint secretary (Eurasia) in the Indian ministry of external affairs, told reporters in Goa today that "unmatched mutual confidence", "trust" and "goodwill" cutting across party lines mark the India-Russia bilateral relations. Their "broad geopolitical interests do not clash", rather, in some cases, "the interests coincide", he said 


Meanwhile, Pankaj Saran, India's ambassador to Russia, told reporters that terror will remain one of the talking points during the meet. 


Also, the "wide range" of defence deals to be signed on Saturday are likely to be far-reaching in their scope and importance for India's defence and security interests.  


India, Saran said, can also be expected to iterate its anxieties to Russia on its fledgeling military ties with Pakistan. "India is confident that Russia will reflect upon India's concerns,"  he added. 


Among the defence pacts to be signed on Saturday will be the S-400 Triumph advanced anti-aircraft defence system. Some other agreements will be signed out of public view.  


Several other regional and global issues such as the situation in Syria, Afghanistan and other countries are also likely to come up for discussion. 


Saran highlighted that the "policy position" on Syria that Modi articulated when he visited Moscow in December last year for the annual India-Russia summit remains valid even today, in spite of the changes on the ground in Syria, and related developments at the United Nations.


Modi to meet Jinping 

The India-Russia talks will take place before the Indian Prime Minister sits down for a bilateral meeting with President Xi Jinping of China. The Sino-Indian relations have been fraught with mutual distrust and suspicion, in sharp contrast to the nature of ties between New Delhi and Moscow. 


India's membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which has been hanging fire for a long time now, has been opposed by China on the ground that India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and that Beijing wants a criteria-based exemption rather a country-specific waiver in favour of India. 


China's reluctance to lift the technical hold on the proposed proscription of the terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar by the United Nations 1267 committee is also expected to come up for discussion.