Russia and the post-COVID World. Third online session of «Primakov Readings»

On Thursday, June 11, at 12:00 an online session of the Primakov Readings on the topic "India in focus of interests: Russia, USA, China" was held within the framework of the joint project of IMEMO and Interfax.

  • Vyacheslav Trubnikov, Member of the Directorate of IMEMO RAS, Ambassador of Russian Federation to India (2004−2009), Army General;
  • Nandan Unnikrishnan, Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi;
  • Alexey Kupriyanov, Senior Researcher, Department of International Political Problems, IMEMO.

Moderator — Mikhail Shvydkoy, Special Representative of the Russian President for International Cultural Cooperation.
In his opening speech, A. Dynkin noted that the first two sessions touched upon global issues. Degradation of relations between the USA and China becomes a constant of modern international relations. This conclusion is important for today’s discussion of India. Today India is an economic giant and ranks third in the world after the USA and China.

India is a country with traditionally stable relations with Russia, and Russians have formed a very positive image of this country. Unfortunately, in the 90s, the Russian foreign policy authorities lost interest in India. With the arrival of E.M. Primakov at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, everything began to fall into place. Despite this, in the 90s-early 2000s Indian military order helped to cope with our problems. During his visit to India, E.M. Primakov suggested the idea of creating a Russia-India-China triangle, which was not implemented then, since India and China had unresolved territorial issues.

М. Shvydkoy drew attention to the fact that yesterday US legislators proposed a new package of sanctions against Iran, China and Russia. In these sanctions there is not a single word about India as a potential adversary, which suggests that the USA considers India to be a potential strategic ally. There are a lot of US companies working in India. India’s authorities adhere to "made in India" policy. It should be said that India’s economy is very attractive for investment. There are about ten thousand foreign companies working in India. There is still an underestimation of India’s potential in Russia.

V. Trubnikov believes that the situation in India should be considered taking into account the current situation and the ongoing processes in the United States and Europe. Against the backdrop of alarming and state-destructive processes taking place in these countries, India is consolidating, manifesting itself as a self-confident state, whose positions are quite strong. As an example, in the fight against the pandemic it has once again proved to be a consolidated state. After the abolition of Article 370 of the Constitution, which enshrined the special status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, two allied territories emerged in India, which became manageable from Delhi, that allowed to control them confidently enough.

During the pandemic, India took care not only of its citizens, but also of those in need around the world, while also taking care of its international status. What made the pandemic difficult was a migratory labour force returning from megacities to their villages. The country is not alone in the fight against the pandemic and seeks international cooperation. Since Indian pharmaceuticals had always been on top, India provided assistance to 120 countries, for which many countries were grateful.

N. Unnikrishnan began his speech with the Indian elite’s assessment of the latest events taking place in the world and inside the country, emphasizing that he did not fully agree with some official postulates. The first topic that was touched upon was the complicating relations between the US and China and the influence of this factor on the character of Indian-Russian relations. The situation in the bilateral relations between the US and China is unlikely to improve in the near future, as there are serious reasons for rivalry. At the same time, it will not lead to the Cold War, as it was during the US-Soviet confrontation: China as a whole does not reach the level of the USSR, although in some aspects it is ahead of current Russia. How does the existing situation affect Moscow’s position? In the opinion of our Indian counterpart, the approach is obvious. Russia’s relations with the West, primarily with the United States, are unlikely to improve significantly in the near future. Although the situation is not as pessimistic as many Indians think. As for Russia’s policy towards China, it seems that Russia will not become a "vassal" of China under any circumstances. Obviously, the Russian authorities adhere to the strategy "not against China, but not for China".

As for relations between Russia and India, it should be noted that despite the cooperation in the military-technical sphere, participation of both countries in other projects, overall economic interaction remains at a rather low level. Therefore, the task today is to raise this level to the level of political relations. In the current situation, cooperation between India and Russia in the Far East region may prove promising. Here the mutual benefits for both countries are obvious.

А. Kupriyanov suggested that a breakthrough in the development of economic relations is unlikely to be achieved in the near future if the old scheme is followed. Of course, with the help of increasing transport connectivity — the full launch of the North-South Corridor and the sea route to Vladivostok or Murmansk — it is possible to increase the volume of trade, but this increase will be limited. This is primarily due to the very economic position of Russia and India in the world system of division of labor, and the lack of goods, which the other side sharply needed and at the same time could not buy cheaper.

As for India and the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), it is not a secret, — A. Kupriyanov notes — that the Quad as a format is aimed against China, which is believed to pose a security threat in the Indo-Pacific region. For Russia as a country that is a strategic partner of both India and China, the very existence of Quad seems undesirable and dangerous. On the other hand, we understand the ambiguity of Indian-Chinese relations that derives from their historical experience and from changes in the world situation. India and China objectively compete with each other and do not trust each other.

A. Kupriyanov also touched upon the issue of relations between India and China. The unresolved border issue is a direct irritant; the demarcation of the border, for which India has already announced its willingness, will significantly improve relations between the countries and remove one of the most painful issues in bilateral relations. But in the strategic sense, confidence-building measures, which Beijing and New Delhi clearly lack, are crucial. Russia, which has its own experience of overcoming the negative historical legacy in relations with China, could play an important role by consulting Indian and Chinese experts and politicians, facilitating dialogue in trilateral formats.
"Primakov Readings Online" is a new joint project of IMEMO and Interfax. Within the framework of the project, a series of online meetings of experts, political and public figures will be held at the agency’s platform to discuss topical issues of international relations and world economy during the crisis.

The project is carried out with the support of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation, Gorchakov Fund and World Trade Center of Moscow.
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