The India-Russia annual summit concluded in Goa, the venue of the BRICS Summit, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi describing Russia as an “old friend”, which is better than two “new friends”, in an attempt to bury in the past the recent tensions between the two nations.
New Delhi had raised concerns with Moscow regarding the recent Russia-Pakistan joint military exercises in Pakistan and the sale of Mi-17 transport helicopters to Pakistan. A source close to the Russian government told The Sunday Guardian that “military sales to Pakistan are unlikely because that would directly impact India and the strategic ties between Russia and India”.
India has had concerns that Russia would go beyond transport helicopters and move towards military sales to Pakistan. When asked about this, the source added that “projects between Russia and Pakistan will not have any influence on India, its stability or its security”. “There have been multiple projects between Russia and India that have tilted the strategic balance in India’s favour. That in no way can be said about Pakistan,” the source said.
In terms of strategic balance, Russia walked the talk by giving India an edge with the inking of the Inter-Governmental Agreements (IGA) for five S-400 Triumf air defence systems, four stealth frigates and a joint venture to manufacture Kamov-226T helicopters in India. The defence deals alone are worth at least $7 billion.
In the wake of the Russian-Pakistan military exercise, India expressed confidence that Moscow would not undermine Indian interests. Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar said, “We trust Russia fully. When we speak of friendship, the assumption is that Russia will never do anything which is not in our interest. After our discussions, we are satisfied that Russia understands India’s interest, will never do anything which is contrary to India’s interests.”
Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, the CEO of Russia’s ROSTEC Corp, Sergey Chemezov said, “The military exercises in September this year were directly connected with modernising counter terror operations in Pakistan. ISIS is a global danger and does not just involve terrorists in the Middle East but also in India and Pakistan. Therefore, joint military exercises are important, but it must be noted that these were not in any way targeted at India or at any other conflict in the region.”
He also added that Russia at the moment is not looking at any military sales to Pakistan: “We are not delivering any military aircraft to Pakistan. We have made deliveries of transport helicopters and that contract has been completed. No contracts or plans for any other military related equipment to Pakistan exist for present.”
The stand of both India and Russia on terrorism re-emphasises the fact that both sides attach great importance to regional stability that can only come about by combating terror. Prime Minister Modi said, “Russia’s clear stand on the need to combat terrorism mirrors our own. We deeply appreciate Russia’s understanding and support of our actions to fight cross-border terrorism that threatens our entire region. We both affirmed the need for zero tolerance in dealing with terrorists and their supporters.” The joint statement issued with Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed the need to have a strong international legal regime built on the principle of “zero tolerance for direct or indirect support of terrorism”. Both sides called upon the international community to make sincere efforts towards the earliest conclusion of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT).