понедельник, 8 декабря 2008 г.

Rebuilding Relationship in a Multipolar World


Aurobinda MAHAPATRA (India)

That India-Russia relations continue seamless despite tremendous changes in international equations is itself a fact for celebration for leadership of both the countries. Despite the much churning both the countries are able to wade through the difficult phases of globalisation, financial crises, challenges posed by diverse constellations of forces and emerging post-cold war threats such as terrorism, and to sustain the relations on an even keel. The Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev’s India visit on 4th and 5th of December 2008 rightly reflected that the bilateral relations have come of the age and both the countries are contending with the imperatives of the emerging world order.

In international relations overwhelming changes seldom happen overnight. It is only through hard diplomacy and calculus of strength and weakness to foster national interest the relations between countries are governed. The mighty Soviet Union that had elapsed from its super power zenith to initial post-Soviet trauma in the early 1990s witnessed the late Russian resurgence with consequent foreign policy projections. Hence, while the early Yeltsin years were characterised by its fragility, the Putin years witnessed sharp rise in Russia’s strength. In a multipolar world where it is economic diplomacy that plays a dominant role and where nations cling to alliances which promote their national interests sans ideology, India-Russia relations have proved to be resilient enough to adjust with the new realities. However, it would be naïve not to recognise the weaknesses and complexities involved in the relations.

The asymmetrical match of the political with the economic relations has marred comprehensive growth of Indo-Russian relations. Using the biological parallelism, there is a surfeit in good political relations with malnutrition in economic content. The slow economic relations too has been characterised by rupee-reactor syndrome, in which most of the bilateral trade is confined to arms sector. Even in this stratum, relations have not been much palatable as the recent controversies surrounding Admiral Gorshkov and some other deals indicate. Probably this laggardness in relations goaded President Medvedev along with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to speed up the process of resolution of these contentious issues. Both the countries have pledged to resolve the aircraft carrier issue within three months and directed their officials to work in this direction. Hence, when the scholars characterise the past decade of relations ‘lost decade,’ it gives vent to the frustration for the lost opportunities and at the same time it provide the urgency to carry forward the relations in a substantive way.

The seriousness of Dmitry Medvedev in doing business with India is vindicated by his resolve to visit New Delhi despite the terror attack in Mumbai in the last week of November 2008. The president minced no words in condemning the barbaric act and offered Russian support in ongoing investigations to bring the culprits to justice. The joint declaration issued on 5 December 2008 exhorted “all states to cooperate actively with and provide support and assistance to the Indian authorities” in investigations. Russia’s choice of words in not calling Pakistan by name as in the past occasions of terror activities in India can be seen in the context of its broadening strategy of keeping in loop the major Muslim country in South Asia. Russia has sought membership of Organisation of Islamic Conference, in which it currently enjoys observer status. Russian concerns about the Islam issue cannot be ignored as it has substantial Muslim population in its territory. Probably, the same logic of accommodating diverse interests and aspirations well explains India’s motivation to seek beneficial relationship with diverse countries including the US. However, the Russian diplomacy has shown enough resilience in supporting India’s bid to secure approval of Nuclear Suppliers’ Group in September 2008. India would hardly afford to forget Russian supply of nuclear fuel to Tarapore nuclear plant when it went fuel shortage in 2006. It is a well-known fact that 70 percent of Indian arms belong to Soviet/Russian origin. Hence, it is rather the appreciation of changing context of international relations that motivated both the countries to cooperate with each other as well as diversify relations in a meaningful way.

The recent visit of Russian president to India proved opportune in many ways. Both the countries signed ten agreements in diverse areas. One of the crucial areas can be seen in the field of nuclear cooperation, in which Russia has enough potential. It is in the process of building four additional nuclear reactors in Kudankulam in India. Another agreement worth $1.2 billion was signed for 80 MI-17V-5 helicopters to be supplied by Russia. The agreement on space flight would likely enhance the space cooperation between the two countries. It is the Soviet space station in Baikanour that had launched the Indian cosmonaut in 1983. For the first time, an agreement was signed for a joint action programme for cooperation in the tourism sector for the period 2009-10. The two countries also deliberated on a host of global issues including the global financial crisis, the Iranian issue, trilateral cooperation between India, Russia and China, and reform of international institutions. Medvedev had to return on 5th evening due to the demise of Russian Patriarch Alexy II at the age of 79.

The storehouse of past good will with rich political and economic contents coupled with increasing recognition of changing world order would prevent any kind drastic sliding down in India-Russian relations. Both the countries may drift in different directions in an emerging multipolar world, which is still in the making, but there would always be mutual recognition of the importance of each other. The emerging imperatives of the world order would provide enough space to both the countries to enhance bilateral cooperation. The collective will to activate the existing and new mechanisms such as Inter-Governmental Commission, the Joint Task Force, the India-Russia Trade and Investment Forum, and the India- Russia CEOs Council to increase bilateral trade to $10billion by 2010 is a positive indication in this regard. The year 2009 is going to be Indian year in Russia, which would likely witness further strengthening of bilateral relations in a multidimensional framework.

Source: Strategic Culture Foundation

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