On the Right Track

Commentary | January 07, 2011

In response to President Dmitry Medvedev’s recent trip to India, EWI Board Member Kanwal Sibal reflects on the state of India-Russia relationship.

“President Dmitry Medvedev’s recent visit to India has given fresh luster to a relationship that had begun to lose its sheen,” Sibal writes.  Sibal argues that the media and the international community have focused too much on the India-U.S. relationship, thus losing sight of the India-Russia relationship.

The economic aspect of the India- Russia relationship has made some progress but still has a far way to go, according to Sibal. As he sees it, the countries’ different economic structures have made it difficult to establish an effective economic partnership and a trusted basis for trade.  However, Sibal believes that the countries are making strides in joint ventures, pointing to a new steel plant in Karnataka and recent agreements in the telecommunications sector.

For Sibal, the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Agreement in the hydrocarbon sector represents an important breakthrough for the relationship because “it formally concretises Russia’s greater willingness to develop the energy relationship.”

From a political standpoint, Sibal points out, Russia has been one of the biggest supporters of India’s permanent membership in the UNSC, as well as India’s nuclear capabilities. Russia “is the only country actually building power reactors in India,” writes Sibal.  “In the defence area, India still receives top-of-the-line equipment from Russia, as well as access to sensitive technologies.”

Sibal concludes that President Medvedev’s visit to Russia restored faith in the two countries’ relationship and bodes well for the future, with a caveat: “For it to graduate to a ‘special and privileged strategic partnership’ that the Joint Statement speaks of will need greater movement in the positive directions that President Medvedev’s visit chartered.”

Click here to read Sibal's piece online