"One old friend is better than two new friends." That's how Prime Minister Narendra Modi started his address to the press after meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The attempt was clear - to put to rest all speculation and fears that have been aired recently on India-Russia ties.
The 17th India Russia Summit was held in Goa on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit on Saturday, against the backdrop of the recent military exercise between Russia and Pakistan, and a defence deal to supply attack helicopters to India's hostile neighbour. This led India to try and shore up one of the strongest and oldest ties the country has had post independence.
Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, addressing the press after the meet, pointed out how India is satisfied that Russia understands India's interests, and will not do anything contrary to it.
In a joint statement released after the summit and the meeting between the two leaders, the two countries seemed to complement each other's views on important issues like terrorism and the disturbances in West Asia. India and Russia also signed as many as 16 agreements, including important ones on nuclear energy and oil and gas.
The need to combat terror
With no let up in attacks launched from Pakistan, India has been championing the campaign to bring all the countries on the same page when it comes to terrorism.
"The leaders strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and emphasised the necessity of comprehensive international collaboration, in order to ensure its eradication. India and Russia recognise the threat posed by terrorism, and believe that the full implementation of the relevant UNSC resolutions, the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, without application of any double standards or selectivity, will be instrumental in countering this challenge," the joint statement read.
"They stressed the need to deny safe havens to terrorists, and the importance of countering the spread of terrorist ideology as well as radicalisation leading to terrorism, stopping recruitment, preventing travel of terrorists and foreign terrorist fighters, strengthening border management and having effective legal assistance and extradition arrangements."
The joint statement also called for an earlier conclusion of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, something India has been demanding at all global forums for a while now.
With both India and Russia wary of the prevailing situation in Afghanistan, "the leaders expressed concern over the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and recognised the need for resolute action against the menace of terrorism and threats of illicit drug-production and drug-trafficking, including the elimination of terror sanctuaries, safe havens, and other forms of support to terrorists".
While Pakistan was not mentioned in the joint statement, the fact that it provides safe havens to groups which threaten both India and Afghanistan has been brought up by the leadership of both the countries. So much so that Afghanistan and India had both boycotted the recent SAARC summit on the issue of terrorism.
India and Russia also reiterated their support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process.
According to experts, a wary Russia is keen on a India-Iran-Russia-Afghanistan quad group to take the lead in tackling the Afghan situation.
The West Asia situation
While India recognised the Russian efforts in Syria, the joint statement said "the two sides are convinced that the conflict in Syria should be peacefully resolved through comprehensive and inclusive intra-Syrian dialogue, based on the Geneva Communique of June 30, 2012, and relevant UN Security Council resolutions".
India has so far refused to get directly drawn into the conflicts in the Middle-East, despite its growing ties with the US, which is an important player and directly entangled with Russia in the Syrian theatre.
"Russia's clear stand on the need to combat terrorism mirrors our own. We deeply appreciate Russia's understanding and support of our actions to fight cross-border terrorism, that threatens our entire region," Modi had said after his meeting with Putin earlier on Saturday, in a veiled reference to the recent cross-LoC surgical strike.
Modi had also pointed out the similarity of views on the situation in Afghanistan and in West Asia.
Stronger economic and defence ties
In a bid to bolster its defence and strengthening ties with Russia, India announced that it will buy the sophisticated S-400 anti-missile defence system. The $5 billion deal on the Triumf system will provide India the capability to destroy hostile aircraft, missiles and drones up to a distance of 400 kilometres. Experts say this could be a game changer in the regional security scenario.
Both the countries also signed a deal for manufacturing of 200 Kamov-226T helicopters, which would replace the Cheetah and the Chetak fleet, and bolster the Make in India programme.
Taking the cooperation in the field of nuclear energy to another level, Putin and Modi, while dedicating Kudankulam reactors 1 and 2 to India and Russia's friendship and cooperation, also laid the foundations for reactors 3 and 4.
The joint statement noted "the progress in discussions on the General Framework Agreement and the Credit Protocol for Kudankulam Units 5 and 6, with a view to conclude these documents before the end of 2016."
Other key agreements include the successful execution of documents between Rosneft and Essar for oil, a memorandum of understanding to develop a transport logistics system, agreements on education and training, a pact between Indian and Russian Railways, and an MoU on the smart city projects.
Both the countries also signed an MoU on "setting up and utilising ground stations in each other's territories to enhance the usefulness of their respective navigation satellite constellations of GLONASS and NavIC".
"Businesses and industry between our two countries are connected more deeply today. Trade and investment ties are on the upswing," PM Modi said after the summit.
Edited by Shreyas Sharma
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