Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, held a meeting with visiting Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar in Moscow on July 9. This was the second face-to-face meeting between the Russian and Indian Foreign Ministers in the past three months, aimed at “aligning” the two countries’ perceptions on major international issues. Some analysts believe that lobbying Russia yet again to join the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative proposed by New Delhi may be one of the key aspects of S. Jaishankar’s visit to Russia, but that it will be difficult for him to achieve that goal because of Russia’s consistent position on that initiative.
Lavrov and S. Jaishankar discussed bilateral relations, the fight against the new pneumonia epidemic, as well as global and regional issues such as Iran and Syria, RIA Novosti and Indian news agency, PTI, reported on September 9. Lavrov said that Russia and India agreed that their relations were strengthening and have good prospects. He said the exact date for holding the Russia-India Summit has not yet been set, and that the two leaders will meet once the epidemic eases and conditions allow travel. The annual Russia-India Summit was canceled last year. Earlier, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that he was eagerly awaiting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India this year to attend the India-Russia Summit.
S. Jaishankar said the talks were “fruitful” and he and Lavrov reviewed the progress of cooperation between India and Russia, two “time-tested” friendly countries, in the fields of space, nuclear energy and defense. S. Jaishankar expressed gratitude for Russia’s help during the second wave of the new corona pneumonia epidemic in India. At the peak of the epidemic, Russia sent over 22 tons of medical supplies to India.
S. Jaishankar said that India and Russia will hold an annual bilateral Summit this year to discuss the results and prospects of development cooperation. He also highlighted the emergence of a new way of bilateral interaction between India and Russia, namely the “2+2” dialogue between Foreign and Defence Ministers. In April, Modi sent out a number of tweets indicating that India and Russia had agreed to hold a “2+2” dialogue between the Foreign and Defense Ministers of the two countries.
The situation in Afghanistan was also the focus of the talks between the Russian and Indian Foreign Ministers. India and Russia were both committed to an independent, united and democratic Afghanistan, and the two countries need to work together to ensure the continuation of Afghanistan’s progress in the economic, democratic and social fields, according to S. Jaishankar. Lavrov said that Russia will not take any measures so long as the situation in Afghanistan affects its own territory only; Russia will call upon all Afghan forces to negotiate. India’s “The Wire” news network commented on the 9th that from India’s point of view, Russia’s position on the Afghan situation creates a “dilemma”.
There are views that S. Jaishankar’s visit to Russia hopes to achieve four goals: first, political preparations on a number of issues for the India-Russia Summit in the second half of the year,; second, to coordinate the cooperation between the two countries in Afghanistan, to explore the possibility of working together to stabilize the regional security situation; third, to discuss India-Russia cooperation in the economic, defense and other areas, including energy cooperation in Russia’s Far East and S-400 air defense missile system procurement, etc.; fourth, to once again lobby Russia to join the “Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative” proposed by Modi. The Indian side has said that the “Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative” was different is different from the U.S.-led “Quadrilateral Security Dialogue” mechanism, being more “inclusive”. According to India’s “The Wire” news network, S. Jaishankar delivered a speech on “India-Russia relations in a changing world” at the Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences on July 8th. In his speech, he tried to describe the concept of “Indo-Pacific” as a reflection of the changing political and economic power of countries. He claimed that Russia could become a part of the so-called “Indo-Pacific” region.
However, it is argued that it will be difficult for S. Jaishankar to get Russia to accept the so-called “Indo-Pacific” concept. According to the Hindustan Times, Lavrov has been openly critical of that concept, which has now become a key part of India’s foreign policy under the “Quadrilateral Security Dialogue” model. Last December, Lavrov said Western powers had adopted an “aggressive and roundabout” policy to engage India in an “anti-China game” by promoting the Indo-Pacific strategy. The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Thursday that the Russian and Indian Foreign Ministers will discuss “how to create a reliable and indivisible security architecture in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. According to the Hindustan Times, this indicates that Russia and India are at odds over the concept of the “Indo-Pacific”.
Although S. Jaishankar called India-Russia relations one of the “most stable” in the post-World War II world, there are serious differences in the positions of the two countries on a number of issues. According to the U.S. World Politics Review, the differences between India and Russia stem mainly from their very different takes on China and the United States. For India, China is its biggest external strategic challenge. New Delhi is keen to build a closer security partnership with Washington. Russia has confronted the United States and developed cooperation with China. Many analysts in India consider India’s relationship with the United States to be the country’s most important bilateral relationship at present. Some commentators have even advocated that New Delhi abandon its relationship with Moscow and turn to Washington. Observers quoted by “The Wire” news network say that New Delhi’s relations with Moscow are beginning to drift apart as Russia moves closer to China and India finds common goals with the United States on the Indo-Pacific issue. S. Jaishankar called on Russia to maintain “consistent sensitivity” to “the interests of key strategic partners”. But after leaving Moscow, he will go directly to Georgia. This is the first visit by an Indian Foreign Minister to Georgia since the country’s independence in 1991. Russia’s relations with Georgia have been strained, with the latter leaning toward the West and interested in joining NATO.