India-Russia 2+2 dialogue to be held on margins of Modi-Putin summit on Dec 6

Published on Nov 26, 2021 08:38 PM IST

This will be the 21st annual summit between the two sides, though the meeting could not be held last year because of the pandemic. It comes at a time when the Russian leadership is wary about India’s increasingly stronger ties with the US, while the Indian side has been upset by a perceived uptick in Pakistan-Russia relations.

The last annual summit between India and Russia was held during PM Modi’s visit to Vladivostok in September 2019. This will also be the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders since their discussions on the margins of the Brics Summit in Brasilia in November 2019. (PTI PHOTO.)
The last annual summit between India and Russia was held during PM Modi’s visit to Vladivostok in September 2019. This will also be the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders since their discussions on the margins of the Brics Summit in Brasilia in November 2019. (PTI PHOTO.)

India and Russia announced on Friday they will hold the maiden 2+2 dialogue of their defence and foreign ministers on the margins of the annual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin in New Delhi on December 6.

This will only be Putin’s second foreign visit since the Covid-19 outbreak began – he travelled to Geneva in June for his first meeting with US President Joe Biden. Putin’s decision to travel to New Delhi reflects the importance attached by Russia to its special and privileged strategic partnership with India.

This will be the 21st annual summit between the two sides, though the meeting could not be held last year because of the pandemic. It comes at a time when the Russian leadership is wary about India’s increasingly stronger ties with the US, while the Indian side has been upset by a perceived uptick in Pakistan-Russia relations.

“The leaders will review the state and prospects of bilateral relations and discuss ways to further strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries. The summit will afford an opportunity to exchange views on regional, multilateral and international issues of mutual interest,” the external affairs ministry said in a statement.

The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement that Putin plans to discuss further development of bilateral ties. The leaders will exchange views on topical global issues, including working jointly within G20, Brics and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), it said.

The last annual summit was held during Modi’s visit to Vladivostok in September 2019. This will also be the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders since their discussions on the margins of the Brics Summit in Brasilia in November 2019.

Modi and Putin had agreed during a telephone conversation on April 28 to launch a 2+2 dialogue. India currently has 2+2 ministerial dialogues only with Australia, Japan and the US. The agenda for the inaugural India-Russia 2+2 dialogue on December 6 will cover political and defence issues, the external affairs ministry said.

Defence minister Rajnath Singh and external affairs minister S Jaishankar will represent the Indian side. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and defence minister Sergey Shoigu will visit New Delhi during December 5-6 for the dialogue.

“The establishment of a new mechanism of 2+2 dialogue is expected to further strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries,” the external affairs ministry said.

The Russian side said the 2+2 dialogue is expected to focus on key regional and international topics, including the “situation in the Asia-Pacific region and developments on Afghanistan and Syria”. The ministers will also exchange views on interaction within SCO and the Russia-India-China (RIC) mechanism.

Putin’s visit and the 2+2 dialogue are under considerable scrutiny as they are coinciding with the delivery by Russia of the first squadron of S-400 air defence systems. Russian officials said in mid-November that deliveries of the S-400 systems have begun and are proceeding on schedule.

The two countries signed a $5.4-billion contract for five S-400 systems during Putin’s last visit to India in October 2018. India has signalled its determination to go ahead with the deal despite the US warning it could attract secondary sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

India and Russia are expected to renew their military-technical cooperation arrangement for 2021-31 and sign several defence-related agreements during the summit. A key pact is the Reciprocal Exchange of Logistics Agreement (RELOS), which will allow militaries of the two sides to access logistics at each other’s bases.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told a regular news briefing that defence cooperation is an important part of the India-Russia relationship but declined to comment on specific deals.

“Regarding the CAATSA waiver, India and the US have a comprehensive global strategic partnership, and India has a special and privileged strategic partnership with Russia. We also pursue an independent foreign policy. This also applies to our defence acquisitions and supplies, which are guided by our national security interests,” he said.

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