Putin’s Visit

RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin’s brief visit to India is seen as very significant considering the ongoing re-alignment in regional geopolitics. India and Russian relationship go back decades. The two have been cold war allies and even now maintain a reasonable relation, mostly in the field of defence. In 2018, India signed $5.43 billion deal with Russia for the supply of S-400 missile. The deal later became a cause of strained relations with America, India’s current strategic ally. Now, during Putin’s visit, India has signed more defence agreements. the two sides signed contracts for the manufacture of nearly 6 lakh AK-203 rifles under a joint venture in Amethi, Uttar Pradesh. The deal is worth over Rs 5000 crore. The two countries also signed an agreement to extend military technology cooperation for the next decade, from 2021 to 2031.

Putin’s visit also assumes significance considering India is the first the country he has come to after the pandemic. Earlier, he had only travelled to Geneva for the summit meeting with US President Joe Biden. His visit comes as part of their first-ever 2+2 ministerial dialogue on Monday morning. Till now India has had a 2+2 format of meetings with the US, Japan and Australia—all members of the Quad grouping.

Putin’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also a huge geopolitical significance. A new great game has begun with America and China as the two big players. On the other hand, there is a growing congruence between China and Pakistan in their approach to the regional problems. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor has aligned the interests of the two countries. And this alliance is something that has made New Delhi uncomfortable. India has opposed the CPEC on the ground that it passes through the Pakistan Administered Kashmir which India says belongs to it by virtue of the accession treaty signed by Maharaja Hari Singh.

On the other hand, Washington's priorities with India are no longer regional in their nature but their scope is the larger geo-politics. In recent years, the US-India engagement has also been about the remaking of the global power equation with India not only being recognized as a global power in its own right but also as a countervailing force to China, the world's No 2 in waiting. It goes without saying that India's 1.3 billion population with a value addition of a burgeoning middle class has become an ultimate attraction for the west.

Russia is the new entrant to this game. Having substantially recovered from a drastic power meltdown following the collapse of USSR in 1989, Russia has again thrown its hat in the ring. And it isn’t bound by its old equations and associations with the countries of the region, including India. Russia is now getting closer to Beijing and even Islamabad, a prospect that hasn’t been to the liking of New Delhi.

The US exit from Afghanistan is at the heart of this changing geo-political map of the region. It is certain to make regional alignments more complicated. But the US new policy hardly takes on board this complexity. The only way that this destabilizing situation can be effectively tackled is for the regional powers including India and Pakistan to get together and find a comprehensive solution to the region’s problems. But it has to be a solution that also addresses the core concerns of the neighbouring countries and takes care of their interests.

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