Putin’s visit sets to change geopolitical situation in South East Asia!

Putin allays India’s fear over growing Russia-Pakistan ties. The Russian President Vladimir Putin has allayed India’s concern over Russia’s growing ties with Pakistan saying his country’s relations with India are very old and time-tested and Moscow’s bid to improve its relations with Pakistan and China will not in any way impact its ties with New Delhi.

“Russia had deep cooperation with India that could not preclude ties with other countries. Russia’s relations with Pakistan will have no impact on trade between Russia and India. There is no country in the world that we have such deep cooperation with,” said Putin, the President of Russia.

The recently concluded two-day visit of the Russian President to India is also expected to pave the way for bringing a change in the geopolitical situation in the South East Asia as Putin has during his visit taken initiatives to help resolve differences between three South Asian nuclear-powered nations China, India and Pakistan. The Indian government had expressed its concern in recent years when Russia offered Pakistan and China to sale defence equipments.

The first thing Putin did immediately after landing in New Delhi and before signing US$10 billion military deals with India under which Russia will also supply five S-400 missile system to India, estimated to cost US$5.43 billion, four  stealth frigates and a deal for AK-103 assault rifles to be manufactured in India.

However, recent military deals between India and Russia has not gone down well with the United States. Unhappy over the deals, the Trump administration appears to be contemplating to slap sanctions against India. Besides, India decision to enter into big ticket military agreements with Russia what irked Washington is Putin’s offer to mediate between India and Pakistan to ease prevailing tensions between the two arch rivals. The US has only extended verbal support to India in its fight against terrorism, which India accused is being perpetuated and supported from across the western border. The US government had last year signed a pact imposing sanctions on those countries, which do business with Russia’s military and intelligence agencies. India is trying to avoid this law.

The acrimonious standoff between the US and Russia today has reached to a level that didn’t exist even during cold war period. By entering into defence deals with Russia India has proved that it has taken a decision in its own interest and stood to its grounds while signing the series of agreements.

“India has maintained its sovereignty as regards to its relationship with countries. We shall maintain it in all earnestness. The visit of Putin is quite significant from the point of preparation for a strong defence system and establishment,” said Nirmala Sitharaman, India’s defence minister who on behalf of Indian defence establishment signed the deals.

The US seeks to punish Russia under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) for its activities in Ukraine and involvement in Syrian war. New Delhi has been expecting an India-specific waiver from the US administration. However, the US President Donald Trump has not yet given any indications in this direction and after the India-Russia arm deals New Delhi should give up any such expectation.

S-400 Triumf is one of the world’s most advanced long-range air defence system. It is an anti-aircraft missile system that Russia developed in 1990. It has been in service with Russian armed forces since 2007. The S-400 uses four missiles to fill its performance envelope. Russia for the first time sold S-400 missile system to China in 2014. Moscow has already started delivery to the system to Beijing.

The US had cautioned India ahead of the Russian President Putin’s visit to India that any major defence deal with Russia will attract provisions of Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). Under this law any country any country dealing with countries on which the US has imposed economic sanctions will be liable to face punitive actions from the US.

The visit of Russian President to India will certainly have implications on New Delhi’s relations with Washington as the US wanted India to fulfil most of its military requirements from it and not approaching Russia for defence acquisitions. The Modi government has shown its soft corner towards the US since it came to power in 2014. Now, the time has come that India comes out of the US trap and take decisions keeping in mind its own interests. India should send a loud and clear message to the US that it can tolerate its big brotherly attitude to certain extent and it has to look beyond friendship with the US for preserving it sovereignty and to protect its interests.

India’s decision to sign defence pacts with Russia also assumes significance and shows the kind of importance it attaches to its relations with Russia. The recently concluded armed deals between Russia and India will also go a long way in normalizing the strained relations among three major powers in South Asia; China, India and Pakistan because after this set of deals Russia has also emerged as an important factor among three nuclear-powered nations as Moscow now has defence and trade relations with all three. The signing of deals with Russia has also underscored the fact that Moscow continues to remain main supplier of India defence requirements. It has also shown the importance India attaches to its independent foreign policy that remains untouched by successive government in the country.

The two-day informal India-Russia Summit has taken place after the Russian President Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met in Russian city of Sochi in May this year. During this meeting the leaders of the two countries decided to reset their bilateral relations and to look for new vistas to take them new heights. The relations between India and Russian witnessed a down slide in 2017 when Moscow remained silent on Doklam standoff with China and its move to sell arms to Pakistan. However, the two sides achieved a breakthrough in their relations much before it could get further deteriorated in Russian city of Sochi in May 2018.

 Besides, signing military deals India and Russia also made significant progress in other key areas including construction of second nuclear power projects with up to six Russian-designed reactors, work on nuclear projects in third countries and the development of International North-South Transport Corridor, which will see both countries working together along with Iran for the transportation of Indian goods to Russia through Iranian land.

These key issues are also evident of India’s resolve to retain its strategic options while it is working on strengthening its ties with the US on a wide range of issues. In a way India has indicated that it would not like to be seen as a part this party or that party.

Another most intriguing event that took place in the Indian capital on the sidelines of Putin India visit was the presence of Sergei Aksyonov, the Prime Minister of Crimea, and the Ukrainian territory that Russia had annexed. The Crimean Premier had come to India to sign trade agreements with a set of private Indian businessmen who call themselves the Indo-Crimean Partnership. The timing of the even that happened in private dining room of a five-star hotel could be described as symbolic support India extended to Crimea in the middle of one of the bitter disputes between Moscow and the Western world. The majority of the western countries which are allies of the US want Russia to keep its hands off the Crimean territory. India has so far remained neutral on this dispute.

When asked both the Indian and Russian diplomats who were part of the negotiations denied that Aksyonov came as a part of the official Russian delegation. The spokesman for India’s foreign office said New Delhi was not consulted about Crimean Premier‘s India visit. The Prime Minister of Crimea also said he had come to India on the invitation of Gul Kriplani, a seafood merchant from Mumbai.

“Business is looking for the best place—a place that is calm, where you can protect your capital, where it is possible to increase your economic indicators. So, Crimea is a priority place,” said Aksyonov.

The successful visit of the Russian President Putin to India could be also as a move to send signal to his audience back home that its relations with India has not deteriorated despite Russia’s global isolation. During the visit the two leaders signed a total of eight pacts in the fields of Railways, Defence, Nuclear Energy, Space and Economy.

“Our special strategic partnership will achieve new heights… Russia has always been a part of India’s growth story,” Indian Prime Minister Modi said in a joint statement.

The US and the European Union have also India against buying oil and military equipments from Russia and Iran because both of them are fighting the US forces in Syria where the US has launched an armed offensive against the government forces of President Bashar Hafez al-Assad. Both Russia and Iran are dealing with the sanctions on their own ways. Under the stewardship of Donald Trump the US administration has been following policy of trade protection under which it has hiked import duty on aluminium and steel from major supplies in China and European Union.

India is also facing similar action on its exports to the US. It has approached the Trump administration for a waiver.


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