Towards a Common Understanding of the Future
Dr Andrey Bystritskiy

One of the most discussed topics in Russian society is the current and future state of Russian-Indian relations, and their impact on the state of affairs in the modern world. Clearly, Valdai Discussion Club experts are directly involved in ongoing discussions. The text below reflects the results of these discussions.

India and Russia are two of the largest and most influential countries in the world. India’s assets are its population, which is both young and the world’s largest, the rapid growth of its economy and power, and the originality and diversity of its civilisation and culture. Russia, meanwhile, has the most territory and largest supply of resources, military and technological capabilities, its own tradition of dialogue among civilisations, and highly developed human capital. Both countries have great opportunities to influence the formation of a new multipolar world order. They are also responsible for maintaining its stability and justice. At the same time, India and Russia represent a rare pair of world powers that have no experience of mutual hostility, confrontation or grievances. Since India gained independence, Moscow has been its reliable partner and friend. Their relationship has accumulated a large reserve of trust — perhaps the most valuable and increasingly rare resource in today’s turbulent conditions.

The fundamental positions of India and Russia on key issues on the international agenda coincide. At the recent extraordinary G20 summit, when India successfully concluded its 2023 presidency, Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted a number of key messages. India is a supporter of unity and cooperation among the peoples of the world. The country advocates true multilateralism in solving global problems, including the active participation of countries from the Global South. Their basic value is the human being: everyone’s life, dignity and safety. The global governance system needs reform in order to smooth out existing balances and disproportions, including in the interests of sustainable development based on new technologies.

Prime Minister Modi’s ideas find understanding and support in Russia. They largely overlap with the principles of the world order that Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about at the Valdai Club’s recent Annual Meeting: an open and interconnected world without artificial barriers, diversity as the basis for overall development, maximum representation and collective decision-making on key issues, indivisible security and justice, and equality among all countries.

The views of our leaders are the product of different political philosophies, cultural traditions, and historical experiences. However, as in the history of our relations, they are consistent and mutually complement each other.

What exactly could India and Russia do to bring about a more sustainable world order?

In the field of security, New Delhi and Moscow could raise questions in a new way about countering both new and traditional challenges.

The new challenges include threats in the digital environment, which has emerged as a critical but at the same time vulnerable part of the national and global infrastructure. Both countries have competencies in the field of IT and digital technology, and similar positions with respect to the regulation of global digital processes.

Regarding traditional challenges, India and Russia, as two nuclear powers, could begin consultations on the parameters of international security in the nuclear field. In the context of the erosion and breakdown of the nuclear arms control system inherited from the Cold War, new ideas are required in the field of controlling the risk of nuclear confrontation both at the global and regional levels. The voice of the Global South must be louder in defining the parameters for managing such risk.

India and Russia are capable of achieving more successful implementation of climate change goals and the promotion of the environmental agenda. India has done a lot in recent years to diversify energy sources, raise environmental standards, and improve the living environment of its citizens. Russia has significant natural potential for reducing climate risks, as well as unique expertise, including climatic processes in the Arctic — the global “weather kitchen”. As a result, Russia advocates active cooperation with India in Arctic research and appreciates the interest of Indian scientists in the region. The experience of cooperation in the field of nuclear energy, accumulated over the years, continues to be in demand. Nuclear energy remains the cleanest source and will be an important factor in the fight against climate change.

New Delhi and Moscow are also interested in diversifying international financial transactions. The BRICS can and should become one of the most important tools for promoting common global goals. The Russian presidency in 2024 provides us with a good opportunity to take stock of the organisation’s capabilities to advance the shared agenda.

When it comes to bilateral relations, India and Russia also have room for growth. Over the past two years, India has become the most important market for Russian energy resources. The Russian market also opens up broad prospects for Indian companies in the fields of pharmaceuticals, mechanical engineering, and light industry. Russian universities continue to recruit thousands of Indian students every year, and the demand for Indian specialists is growing among employers — a fundamentally new phenomenon for the Russian labour market. Traditionally strong ties in the field of military-technical cooperation remain in demand for both countries.

Of course, Russia and India have their own national interests and face their own specific sets of threats. For example, Russia today faces unprecedented threats emanating from Europe. Problems in relations with the United States and the West have been brewing for a long time, culminating in the severe military conflict in Ukraine. To a large extent, this conflict was the result of imbalances in the world and European order that arose after the end of the Cold War. That is why it is so important today to build an order that would reduce the likelihood of such conflicts in the future. Moscow respects New Delhi’s impartial position on current conflict situations and India’s desire to contribute to their resolution. India’s philosophy and school of diplomacy are becoming increasingly popular amid modern conditions.

We live in difficult times, when the world is at a crossroads, throwing off the remnants of the old system of international relations and gradually feeling for the contours of a new world order. The path toward a new world order goes, to a large extent, through contradictions, conflicts, and clashes of ideas and interests. In this sea of chaos, the India-Russia partnership remains one of the few islands of stability, laying the foundations for a more just, peaceful and mutually beneficial coexistence.

First Published in ValdaiClub.com on 8th January 2024.

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