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India has implicitly acknowledged Moscow’s right to look for new markets for its arms, even if it is Pakistan

India has implicitly acknowledged Moscow’s right to look for new markets for its arms, even if it is Pakistan

It is certainly not a case of “dost, dost na rahaa” between India and Russia at the end of President Vladimir Putin’s visit, marking the 11th annual summit that began on Putin’s initiative way back in the year 2000. The erstwhile friends and brothers have become business partners – more business- like and almost un-sentimental. Russia, the erstwhile big-brother supplier of military goodies in exchange of shirts, denim cloth, tobacco and bananas, has now become a player in “Make In India” quest.

This is reflected in as many as 13 business contracts signed during the visit between Russian and Indian companies . This is truly a pragmatic look-beyond move that should also boost bilateral trade which has stagnated below $ 10 billion for long – much less than India’s trade with China and the US, the other two major players. As India has assured that Russia would remain the foremost supplier of defence hardware, while itself looking far and near for alternative sources, it has also implicitly acknowledged Moscow’s right to look for newer market for its arms, even if it is adversarial Pakistan.

Delhi could not have done anything further, except underlining that both India and Russia must heed each other’s concerns. This is as pragmatic as one can get since India itself is being increasingly viewed, with some justification, as getting close to the global Western camp. India has, however, retained its strategic autonomy by opposing Western sanctions against Russia. Defence is surely becoming a lower, case-by-case priority in Indo-Russian relations. In future, defence deals will see fluctuations. Russia is looking at India’s current and future markets. The deal for a dozen nuclear power reactors places Russia continuously ahead of other global competitors.

While defence may have lost some of its sheen, diamonds are forever, as the popular James Bond tag goes. India has been buying almost a half of its supplies from Russia, but through third countries. The Modi-Putin presence at the International Diamond Congress that coincided with the visit ensures that India will buy more of the precious stones directly from the Russian firm Alrosa. This is a winwin situation for both. India eliminates the middleman and Russia makes direct earnings. Russia is interested in India becoming the world’s largest diamond hub and that gives Moscow a larger presence.

More importantly, it helps Russia withstand the Western sanctions that have begun to cripple its recessionhit economy. Is it any wonder that the West has viewed Putin’s shortest-ever visit to India with a mix of amusement and gingerly concern? Among the more significant business deals is one of $ 10 billion for India’s Essar importing 10 million tonnes of Russian crude over ten years. The possibility of laying a Russia-India pipeline for hydrocarbons will also be explored. All this shows that shorn of sentimentality, bilateral ties can prosper. The Modi Government has yet again shown a high measure of deft pragmatism in dealing with an important ally.

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