India, Russia strive for ′multipolar′ world in Trump′s ′America first′ era | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 25.05.2018
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India, Russia strive for 'multipolar' world in Trump's 'America first' era

After their recent informal bilateral meeting, Indian PM Modi and Russian President Putin reaffirmed commitments to increasing bilateral strategic and economic ties in the face of growing geo-political pressure.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the southern Russian city of Sochi early this week was another step forward for Modi's fine-tuned strategy of bilateral diplomacy.

Russia and India enjoy a long-standing relationship and both countries share common interests on major global issues ranging from terrorism to climate change.

India knows it can no longer take Russian support for granted as during the time of the Soviet Union. Since the 1950s, defense has been a key area of cooperation between India and Russia, and this cooperation has gradually transformed from a buyer-seller relationship to joint research and development of defense technologies and equipment.

Both countries are trying to maintain warmth while at the same time navigating contentious geopolitical issues.

India wants to decrease its dependence on Russian arms and Russia has been making moves towards seeking a new relationship with India's arch-rival Pakistan.

This is indicated by Russia's willingness to sell military transport to Pakistan, which could open the door to a closer military relationship. Still, Modi has described Indian-Russian relations as a "special and privileged strategic partnership."

India's Economic Times wrote on Wednesday that Modi and Putin "agreed on the necessity of having a non-bloc security architecture in the Indo-Pacific region even as India is working with the US, Japan and Australia to bring stability for a rules-based order in the region."

Read more: 

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What ails India-China relations?

Common interests

According to an official statement released by PM Modi's office after the informal meeting, Putin and Modi discussed a range of international issues including "the importance of building a multipolar world order."

The role of China and the US in a multipolar world order was not specifically outlined in the statement, but India has had to calibrate its relations in the context of a Russia-US-China matrix. The "America first" rhetoric of US President Trump has called into question US willingness to directly counter China's growing strategic and economic influence.

Read more: Russia's Sergei Lavrov slams US for ignoring 'multipolar' world

Additionally, sanctions imposed on Russia by the US affecting third party countries from doing business there along with the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal are areas of mutual concern between Russia and India.

Russia was also instrumental in getting India membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a Eurasian political, economic and security bloc. India wants to use these relationships for achieving its own foreign policy objectives.

Modi quoted former Indian PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee in emphasizing that India wanted to see Russia as an important and confident country with an important role in the multi-polar world.

China - Narendra Modi und Xi Jinping (Reuters/Handout)

Indian PM Modi met with Chinese President Xi in late April

Increasingly volatility

Despite China's close relationship with Pakistan, its role in the Pakistan-administered Kashmir and border skirmishes with India, both the countries have tried to prevent souring their trade relations.

However, India is still relatively weak in defense and business. It is supposed to buy $12 billion (€10.28 billion) worth of military hardware and advanced weapons systems from Russia. During the past five years, 62 percent of its defense imports have been from Russia.

Deep ties also permeate other areas such as space exploration and energy. In 2009, both nations signed a civilian nuclear agreement aimed at securing the transfer of reactor technologies and unhindered supplies of uranium fuel to India. Russia is also providing assistance to the South Asian nation in the construction of new atomic power plants.

Read more: Germans skeptical of Russia and China, pessimistic on US

Russian investments in India encompass areas such as nuclear energy and telecommunications; Indian companies have invested heavily in Russian hydrocarbons and are involved in the joint exploration and extraction of oil and gas.

After the Modi-Putin meeting on Monday, the dpa news agency reported that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the Russian state news agency TASS that India plans to create a free trade zone with the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union, adding that talks would begin in autumn.

Strong Russia-India ties are in the interest of the two countries and, in view of the unpredictability in US policy under the Trump administration, there is increased effort on the part of both Modi and Putin to maintain stability in an increasingly volatile world order.

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