India, Russia Enter Strategic Partnership

July 7, 2008 - 8:08 PM

New Delhi (CNSNews.com) - In a bid to rekindle their Cold War-era friendship, Russia and India entered into a "strategic partnership" on Tuesday, although both countries' leaders stressed it was not aimed at creating a new political or military alliance.

"The declaration on strategic partnership is not directed against any third country," Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee told reporters here.

He used the same formula cited by Russian and Chinese leaders during the establishment of closer ties between Moscow and Beijing last December, a formula clearly intended to placate Washington.

Relations between India and the U.S. have improved considerably over the past year, and the leaders of each country have paid state visits to the other.

Vajpayee said the new agreement was "a firm and long-term commitment on the part of both Russia and India to work in close cooperation as partners on all issues - political, economic and international."

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who began an official visit to India on Tuesday with a 21-gun salute, said the partnership had to do with "long-term ... co-operation in various fields."

The strategic partnership, signed by Putin and Vajpayee, was hailed by both sides as a watershed document that will revive and redefine a bilateral relationship that had lost its way since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Foreign policy analyst C.V. Ranganathan cautioned that the partnership would not be a re-creation of the type of "quasi-military alliance" India and Russia had in the 1970s.

"What it means is an opportunity for forging a mature partnership in keeping with pragmatic national interests, with effective cooperation in the political, military, economic, scientific and technological fields.

"Such cooperation could equip each society to face up better to globalization and international competition. The objective conditions prevailing under Putin's leadership probably offer a better environment for India to intensify a well-rounded relationship with Russia than under Boris Yeltsin's," Ranganathan said..

Based on mutual understanding, the five-page declaration envisions the elevation of bilateral and multi-faceted ties to an "even higher and qualitatively new level."

On the political front, the two sides have agreed to convene annual summit-level meetings, to cooperate more closely at the United Nations and to undertake joint initiatives on key international and regional issues.

Russia and India also agreed to intensify efforts to strengthen international security and reduce and ultimately eliminate nuclear weapons globally.

The two sides agreed to cooperate in the military-technical field, to cooperate in fighting international terrorism, separatism, organized crime and illegal trafficking in narcotics.

Addressing a joint press conference, Putin voiced Russia's support for a permanent seat for India at the U.N. Security Council.

He spoke of the need to reorganize the U.N. The Security Council currently has 15 members with five countries permanent members who enjoy veto power: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States. The remaining 10 nations are elected to the Security Council for two-year terms.

Russia and India also will sign a series of multi-million dollar military contracts for the purchase of Russian MiG-29K fighters, T-90 battle tanks and the manufacture under license of SU-30 fighter planes in India. They will also ink a treaty on the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Putin will visit India's premier nuclear research center, the Bhabha Atomic Research Center in Bombay, on Thursday.

Despite pressure from the United States, which imposed sanctions on India in the wake of its 1998 nuclear tests, Russia is pressing ahead with plans to construct two nuclear reactors in Tamil Nadu.

Putin's visit also will seek to improve bilateral trade that currently is worth only around $1.6 billion compared to $5.5 billion in 1991.