On December 15, 2014 3:27 pm
By Anita Inder Singh
The deeper significance of President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India may lie in far more than Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hailing Russia as India’s top defence partner. After all, the relationship needs more than weapons to be sustained, and trade can play an important part in shoring up the tie. The aim of both countries is to increase trade from current $10 billion to $30 billion by 2025. That goal appears ambitious but is modest when compared to Sino-Indian trade, which stands at around $ 67 billion, or Indo-US trade – around $ 60 billion — or India’s trade with a small country like Switzerland which is about $ 31 billion.
Putin visited India at a time when Russia’s economic troubles, symbolised by a falling rouble and oil prices in the face of tough Western economic sanctions imposed in protest against Moscow’s’ invasion of Ukraine last March. Having become a pariah of sorts in the West he was greeted warmly by Modi at November’s G-20 meeting, so Indo-Russian friendship seemed to be on a firm footing. But Putin’s visit also came at a time when Russia is moving closer to India’s arch-rivals — China and Pakistan, which have since long laid claims to certain parts of north Indian territory.
If Russia is facing economic decline, India, by contrast, Russia’s partner-in-BRICS, is widely perceived as a likely rising power under Modi. Within the last four months India has entered into major economic agreements with Japan, the US and Australia and upgraded defence ties with them. It has also secured an assurance of $20 billion Chinese investment.