A surprise gift from President Vladimir Putin to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at their summit on Monday unexpectedly highlighted that India’s relations with Russia went back much longer than is commonly assumed.
Indian officials said President Putin went beyond protocol to present a package of three items to Dr. Singh — one, an art work, the second, a map, and third, a coin from the Mughal era.
The art work was a print that depicted Nicholas II’s travels in India over two months in 1890-91, when he was still a prince, and yet to become a Tsar. He travelled across India, visiting several cities, including Madras, Bombay, Calcutta, Simla and Benaras.
The painting also shows him with an Indian maharajah, who he is said to have met during his travels.
It was only after his visit that the British colonial rulers finally gave permission for a Russian diplomatic mission, which opened in 1900 in Bombay. Tsarist Russia had requested permission for the consulate first in 1858.
The map was of 19th century India, also belonging to the Tsarevich. The third item, a coin dating back to the Mughal era, underlined the age old economic and trade links between India and Russia.
While presenting the gifts, President Putin also explained the history behind each, said Ambassador Ajai Malhotra, describing the three items as evidence that ties between the two countries went far longer back than 1947 when independent India and Soviet Russia first established diplomatic relations. It is an aspect of the relationship that was not spoken about in the Soviet era, but was being acknowledged now.
“President Putin’s giving the gift was a recognition that this is also a part of our history and it should be acknowledged,” Mr. Malhotra said.