It may be called a diplomatic litmus test on cards for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and also Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The 21st India-Russia Annual Summit in New Delhi on Monday, December 6, would seek to tread a new path trying to strike the right balance as New Delhi is now a firm and committed friend of the United States.
India and Russia could ink as many as ten crucial pacts including a few ‘semi-confidential’ ones.
The Russia-US relationship at the same time has remained around the good old love-hate matrix.
India is now aiming to have a role in ‘reshaping’ the global policies – from climate change to terrorism; and Russia ought to be on the same page to achieve some of them.
The four-nation Quad between the US, India, Australia and Japan did not go very well with Moscow.
For his part, Prime Minister Modi does give enough importance to Russia and its irreplaceable leader Putin.
Addressing the Eastern Economic Forum-2021 (EEF) in September in virtual format, Mr Modi had called President Putin “a great friend of India” under whose guidance the strategic partnership between the two countries has continued to grow.
Russia is a crucial partner for India in regional scene especially in the context of RIC and BRICS multi-nation fora and what has happened in and around Afghanistan since August 2021.
In the words of External Affairs Minister Jaishankar, “Relations between Russia and India have been amongst the steadiest of the major relationships in the world after the Second World War”.
A Joint Statement is proposed to be issued after the Summit, Indian officials have said.
The last India-Russia Annual summit was held in September 2019 during the visit of Modi to Vladivostok in Russia.
“The President and the Prime Minister will talk as much as they want,” said Russian Presidential Aide Yuri Ushakov.
“There will be a series of meetings that day (Dec 6)….We foresee an intensive engagement,” MEA spokesman Arindam Bagchi told reporters on Thursday.
“About 10 bilateral agreements will be signed, which are quite important and include some semi-confidential ones,” Ushakov has said.
All eyes will be on the inaugural ‘2 plus 2’ dialogue of the Foreign and Defence ministers of both countries.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister Jaishankar will represent the Indian side in the dialogue with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and the Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.
Mr Lavrov and Mr Sergei Shoigu are expected to arrive on late Sunday evening.
Besides the ‘2Plus2’ meet, External Affairs Minister Jaishankar will also hold a bilateral meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
Mr Putin would arrive on Monday and move straight to the venue of parleys with Prime Minister Modi.
This will be Putin’s only second trip abroad since the start of the Covid-19. He had travelled to Geneva in June for a Summit with the US President Joe Biden.
Notwithstanding pressures from the United States, the much-awaited $5.2 billion S-400 air defence system deal between India and Russia is still on track.
The decision to stick to the India-Russia military deal has remained on track on the backdrop of the new US administration under Joe Biden deciding to continue with the Donald Trump-era policy of imposing Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) on Russia or any other country that would buy armaments from some listed countries.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin too visited India in March.
In October 2018, India inked a deal with Russia to buy five units of the S-400 air defence missile systems braving against strong reservations from the Trump administration.
The first batch of S-400 missile systems from Russia is expected to arrive soon.