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Guest Column - Force Magazine
Kremlin Connect
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Russia puts all doubts to rest about a cooling of the bilateral relationship
Kanwal Sibal
By Kanwal Sibal

The international environment is changing, with new opportunities and challenges. India is not where it was since the early Nineties. Our economic growth, even if it has been less spectacular than that of China, has changed international perceptions about India as a trade and investment partner. Our developmental needs remain formidable and governments have to satisfy rising public expectations. On many global issues, whether related to climate change, clean energy, trade and investment issues, India’s role has become more prominent. Our foreign policy has to be aligned to these new realities, and a new balance in external relations has to be forged in a way that our interests are optimally advanced.

As a consequence, our relations with the West, especially the US, have acquired a new salience. This has given rise to a perception that under Prime Minster Narendra Modi we have neglected our relations with Russia. This would not be an objective view. Modi has launched a host of development campaigns, such as Make in India, Digital India, Skill India, Smart Cities, Start-Up India, Clean India, and the like. For implementing them his government has to reach out to the advanced industrialised countries for partnership, as the technological, management and even financial inputs can best be obtained from them. In the fields of health, renewable energy, clean coal technologies, solar power, we are again being pulled towards the West, as is the case with innovation as a whole. Education and people to people contacts also drive us towards the English-speaking West, rather than to Russia.

Prime Minister Modi on his arrival in Moscow
Prime Minister Modi on his arrival in Moscow

Russia has, however, its own place in our foreign policy, underpinned by elements that our other relationships, even as they grow stronger for pragmatic reasons, lack to the same degree. Our ties with Russia are based on trust, strong bonds of friendship that have stood the test of time, geo-political understanding, a sense of reliability, shared views on the conduct of international relations based on respect for sovereignty, non-interference in the internal affairs of countries, multilateralism and the like. These are elements to be valued. The Modi government, as the governments before, understands the importance of our ties with Russia, irrespective of minor irritants that crop up occasionally because of Russia’s hard-headed pursuit of its own interests that emphasise commercial advantage over any nostalgia of the past. We have also to maintain stability and trust in our ties with Russia at a time when its relations with the West have sharply deteriorated and have pushed it towards China.

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