When a media portal reported the cancellation of the India-Russia annual summit and attributed it to the recent development about QUAD (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue), Member of Parliament from Wayanad Rahul Gandhi found an opportunity to sermonize about conducting foreign affairs.
Russia is a very important friend of India.
Damaging our traditional relationships is short-sighted and dangerous for our future. pic.twitter.com/U5VyFWeS6L
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) December 23, 2020
This was soon rebutted by the Ministry of External Affairs, which said that the cancellation of the annual summit was due to the pandemic, and the decision, arrived upon mutually, had nothing to do with any other issues.
Please see our response to a media report regarding the India-Russia Annual Summit. pic.twitter.com/BShPqq8NTR
— Anurag Srivastava (@MEAIndia) December 23, 2020
Quad Started Under Congress
Rahul Gandhi cited the incorrect report that attributed Russia’s uneasiness with India over Quad for the cancellation of the annual summit. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the issue of Quad itself is bothering Russia. Even then, Rahul Gandhi must have surely checked when the informal grouping of Quad, which is coming together of America, Japan, Australia, India, first occured. It was back in 2007, when Dr. Manmohan Singh of Congress was the Prime Minister of India.
How is the Traditional Relationship with Russia Got Strengthened?
There is no denying the fact that Russia is an important friend of India. But the relationship with the United States of America (USA) has strengthened considerably over the years. Even if Russia has reservations about the Quad, India can’t abandon the group just for that reason. Each country conducts its relationship to serve its interests, and arguably the key factor is to find balance.
In this context, the relevant question is thus – did India add further momentum to strengthen the traditional relationship that it has with Russia?
Traditionally, the relationship between India and Russia mainly concentrated on defence cooperation. In September 2019, a new flavour was added with the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Russia’s Far East Regions and inking many trade pacts at Vladivostok.
Russia’s Far East is resource rich and scarcely populated. India and Indian companies are exploring business opportunities in areas like minerals, timber, and diamond cutting etc. The proposal that stirred the imagination and mammoth possibilities is the Vladivostok – Chennai maritime corridor.
Speaking about Vladivostok, it should be noted that some Chinese officials stoked controversy by claiming that Vladivostok belongs to China, and Russia is wrong in observing the founding day of the place.
India in recent years has bonded with Russia by leveraging all such geopolitical realities. The traditional bond in the defence domain also got strengthened further with an S-400 missile system pact with Russia.
It is to be noted that just like the possibilities of Russia having some concerns with Quad, the US also has its share of concerns about S-400 missile pact. However, in both the cases, India has followed the path of pursuing its strategic interests. Perhaps only Rahul Gandhi can term it as ‘short-sighted’.
Indo-Russian Friendship – Some Questions from Congress Era
It is well known that Russia has an old friend of India right since its avatar as Soviet Russia. That it helped India in major military moments is also well-acknowledged. Nevertheless, there has been some questionable conduct as well. In 2005, it was brought to the public domain that the Soviet Russia’s spy wing KGB intruded into Indian institutions, press and even the Prime Minister’s Office when Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister! Details of this can be read in our article The Family and Foreign Powers – Curious Episodes of Indian Politics.
It is thus evident that Rahul Gandhi’s team needs to do a lot of homework before commenting on issues like Indo-Russian friendship.