The Russian leader faces complex regional dynamics, with growing tensions between India and Russia’s traditional ally, China.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will arrive in India on Monday for his second overseas trip since the pandemic, seeking to strengthen military and energy ties with a traditional ally courted by the United States.
In its efforts to deal with a rising China, Washington has established the QUAD security dialogue with India, Japan and Australia, raising concerns in Beijing and Moscow.
India was close to the Soviet Union during the Cold War, a relationship that endured, with New Delhi calling it a “special and privileged strategic partnership.”
“The friendship between India and Russia has stood the test of time,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Putin at a virtual summit in September.
“You have always been a great friend of India.”
This is only the Russian leader’s second overseas trip since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic – he skipped G20 and COP26 summits this year – after a summit in June with US President Joe Biden in Geneva.
“It’s extremely symbolic,” said Nandan Unnikrishnan of the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation think tank.
“It shows how much they don’t want the relationship to stagnate or slow down for lack of something on the Russian side. “
But Putin faces complex regional dynamics, with growing tensions between India and Russia’s traditional ally, China, following deadly clashes in a disputed Himalayan region.
“Russia’s influence in the region is very limited,” said Tatiana Belousova of the OP Jindal World University in Haryana, “mainly because of its close ties to China and its reluctance to act in dissonance with the Chinese regional interests “.
The Kremlin said last week that talks would be dominated by defense and energy issues, with Russian energy giant Rosneft boss Igor Sechin also traveling amid “a number of important energy deals” were on the table.
Russia has long been a key arms supplier to India, which seeks to modernize its armed forces, and one of its most prestigious current contracts is for the S-400 long-range surface-to-air missile defense system. .
The deal, worth more than $ 5 billion, was signed in 2018 and deliveries are said to have started, but it threatens to upend the emerging relationship between New Delhi and Washington.
The United States has threatened sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which seeks to subdue Russia, and the
The US State Department said last week that no decision had been made on waivers for India.
“It is quite remarkable that India has always decided to go ahead with the S-400 agreement, despite the disapproval of the United States,” Belousova said.
New Delhi has long sought to diversify its military imports, but analysts believe it may take some time to move away from Russia.
Military equipment was “paramount” for India given the “unrelenting” tensions with Pakistan, according to Unnikrishnan. “You will try to feed whatever is necessary to guarantee this. “
India also wants to increase domestic production and has started a joint venture with Russia to manufacture AK-203 assault rifles.
India and Russia typically hold annual summits, but the last in-person leaders’ meeting was on the sidelines of the 2019 BRICS summit in Brazil.
“The leaders will review the state and prospects of bilateral relations and discuss ways to further strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries,” India’s foreign ministry said in a statement last month.
The foreign and defense ministers of the two countries will also meet on Monday.