Promising “developments” in the India-Russia relationship in the next few months, Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla said he discussed a number of regional and international issues in Moscow on Wednesday, which included cooperation at the Security Council, the situation in Afghanistan and countering COVID-19. Mr. Shringla was in Moscow to discuss preparations for an expected visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin for the India-Russia summit later this year, as well as the next summit of the Brazil- Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS), due to be hosted by India in 2021.
“There is a lot that is happening in the relationship. It is a very, very important relationship for both countries and I think we will see some developments in the next few months that would reinforce the close and strategic partnership that we both enjoy,” said Mr. Shringla after meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and delegation-level talks headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov.
This was the first high-level meeting with Russia after the announcement last week of a disengagement plan with China at the Line of Actual Control. In 2020, Moscow had played an important part in encouraging talks between India and China and hosting meetings of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and Russia India China (RIC) trilateral when Ministers of both countries met.
“In the last few days, we have started a disengagement plan and come to some understanding with China after months of negotiations that would involve frontline troops in close proximity to each other going to their permanent bases and preventing any chance of mishaps. In the next two to three days, this process would have come to a conclusion, we hope,” Mr. Shringla said, to questions at the Russian MFA Diplomatic Academy about the situation. He credited Moscow with providing the venue for the India-China meetings that was “comfortable” to both sides.
The two sides discussed taking forward the “Chennai-Vladivostok maritime corridor” proposal agreed to by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mr. Putin during their last summit in Vladivostok in 2019, as well as other energy and investment proposals and defence cooperation.
New Delhi is expecting to receive the Russian-made S-400 missile systems later this year, a purchase the Modi government has been firm about continuing with, despite the threat of U.S. sanctions.
“India has an independent foreign policy. We take decisions based on our defence and security needs. The S-400 contract is being implemented according to the schedule indicated in the contract,” Ambassador to Russia Venkatesh Verma told leading Russian online newspaper Lenta.ru on February 8, when asked about the decision to go ahead with the deal.
On the sidelines of the Foreign Secretary’s talks, the two sides also held consultations on Security Council issues where India is a non-permanent member this year.
“Both sides appreciated intensive on-going bilateral contacts on U.N. issues, including with respect to a wide range of issues on the UNSC agenda. The Indian delegation briefed the Russian side on India’s priorities during its UNSC tenure,” a statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs said on the meeting led by MEA Joint Secretary (U.N.) Prakash Gupta and Russian MFA Director Peter Ilichev.
Mr. Shringla said he had discussed the upcoming visit of Mr. Putin and those of Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin for the Inter-Governmental Commission talks, and the Chairman of the State Duma (Parliament), who is expected to address this year’s Raisina Dialogue, expected to be held in April.