India unhappy over Russia-Pakistan ties

Pakistani military officials with Russian troops ahead of their first joint military exercise in September. India has expressed its concern over the exercise. File Photo: AFP  

India’s ties with Russia are likely to be affected if Moscow continues to expand military relations with Islamabad. Criticising Pakistan-Russia ties, Indian Ambassador to Russia Pankaj Saran warned of “problems” ahead in bilateral ties, even as both sides planned a major summit on the sidelines of the upcoming Goa BRICS summit.

“We have conveyed our views to the Russian side that military cooperation with Pakistan, which is a state that sponsors and practises terrorism as a matter of state policy, is a wrong approach. It will only create further problems,” said Mr. Saran in an interview with Ria Novosti, the Russian official news agency.

Third occasion

Mr. Saran’s comments mark the third occasion in less than a month when India officially conveyed unhappiness over the growing Pakistan-Russia ties after both countries held the first ever joint military exercise in Pakistan’s northwest. India had expressed concern over the exercise with Pakistan during the 22nd India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission (IRGC) that was held on September 13. Subsequently, MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup had also highlighted India’s discomfort over Islamabad-Moscow ties.

The statement of the Indian ambassador is significant as it set the mood for the 17th India-Russia Annual Summit on October 15 in Goa. The summit, to be held in the backdrop of the BRICS summit, will witness signing of a number of bilateral pacts. During the summit, both sides will also plan the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two nations.

Terror issue

India is likely to take up the issue of terrorism at the BRICS summit, pushing the case for an international counter-terror convention. Russia condemned the September 18 terror strike in Uri which claimed the lives of 19 Indian soldiers but went ahead with the military exercise with Pakistan even as India blamed Pakistan for not acting against the terror modules.

However, Russian government think tank sources indicated that Russia may not be on the same page with India on Pakistan. Boris Volkhonsky, head of the Asian division of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies in Moscow, said Russia had re-evaluated its ties with Pakistan.

“We believe that terrorism is a global problem and Pakistan is a victim of terrorism as well. We have therefore revised the Cold War assessment of Pakistan as a supporter of the Afghan mujahideen,” said Mr. Volkhonsky, highlighting that Moscow did not want to leave Pakistan alone.

Robust cooperation

Mr. Saran, however, laid out the robust technical and military cooperation between Russia and India, which, he said, was expected to grow. Recently, India-Russia ties reached a new landmark in nuclear energy cooperation with the dedication of Unit 1 of the Kudankulam nuclear power project jointly inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin through video conference. Both sides also agreed to work together on the remaining stages of Kudankulam 2,3,4,5 and 6. Other projects are also likely to come up under the ‘Make in India’ programme.