Russia- India relations

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1944: honours for Indian soldiers

The Embassy of the Russian Federation in the Republic of India

Indian soldiers awarded by Soviet Government in 1944
From: The Embassy of the Russian Federation in the Republic of India

Documents connected with the Second World War in the National Archives of India as well as Indian newspaper files of the period provide a wealth of material on contacts between Indian and Soviet armed forces personnel during those years.

India sent the largest volunteer army in the world to the battle fronts of the West and East and due to this fact according to the opinion of many Indians could sit as equals with representatives of other nations which were fighting against fascism.

Over two and a half million Indians were recruited into the Army during the war years. On the battle fronts, in the rear or in fascist concentration camps Indian and Soviet army men met. There were touching incidents, showing Soviet appreciation of the goodwill and assistance of the Indian armymen to the Red Army's gallant struggle against the Nazis.

A Bulletin of the Information Service of the Government of India, Indian Information dated September 1, 1944, says: “At an impressive ceremony at the Soviet Embassy at Teheran, the Soviet Ambassador M. Maximov on behalf of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the USSR, presented Russian decorations to officers and men of the British and Indian Armies for distinguished services in the transportation of arms, material and food to Russia.” Congratulating the recipients of the honours, the Soviet Ambassador acknowledged the help rendered by them to the Red Army. “It again emphasises the military cooperation of our peoples not only in the field of battle, but also in those areas which influence the success of operations in the field against our common enemy, Hitlerite Germany”, he said.

According to the Bulletin, the Order of the Red Star was presented to Subedar Narayan Rao Nikkam, village Nerala Hathi, Tehsil Kankanhalli, District Bangalore; and Havildar Gajendra Singh, of village Baraloo, Tehsil Shor, District Alrnora, who were serving in “General Purpose Transport Companies of the Royal Indian Army Supply Corps”.

It was an exciting and a rewarding experience tracing these two Indian soldiers years after that memorable day. Exchange of letters confirmed that retired Naik Subedar Gajendra Singh had received the Order of the Red Star in July, 1944, and that he now lived in Pithoragarh.

The road from Delhi to Pithoragarh, a distance of more than 500 kilometres, is not only bad in patches but positively dangerous. But motoring along it to meet Gajendra Singh, one was not aware of the discomfort. One remembered that the road traversed by Havildar Gajendra Singh and his comrades in-arms in 1942 44 for supplying war materials to Soviet forces at the Caucasus front must have been a thousand times more arduous and more dangerous. The 3,000 mile long road to the Caucasus, across burning desert and barren land, through 7,000 feet high mountain passes and low river beds passed through places where the temperatures varied from 130°F to 40° below Freezing point. It formed the vital supply link between India and the Soviet Union. From Peshwar to Tabriz, on the Iran Soviet border, this road was “India’s outstretched hand to Russia, bringing it vast resources to within a week’s road journey of Russia’s outlier frontier” (The Bombay Chronicle Weekly of August 13, 1944 published photographs of the two heroes and an article Soviet Honours for First Indian Soldiers).

One of the first reports in the Indian press on the British intention to lay the road for the supply of war material to Russia appeared in 77te Tribune of Lahore, of September 13, 1941. The report quoted Benter’s special correspondent in Teheran, who wired: “With Iran’s oil wells now safely under British control and with British and Russian forces occupying strategic points on its communications lines as well as blocking the path eastward through the Caucasus, the British and Russian Governments are now intensely studying the problems of sending war material to Russia through Iran. With only one railway and very few roads traversing the country which is three times the size of France, great difficulties have to be overcome”.

The Indian Information (December 15, 1941) confirmed that the construction of the road was in full swing. It said, “One more link with Russia is being established with the organisation of a regular supply route from India via Baluchistan and East Iran. More than 5,000 labourers are now employed in improving the road surface and it is expected that their number will shortly be increased to 8,000. Linked to the overland transportation arrangements put into commission by British experts, the Russian organisation called Iran-Sov-Trans now Lakes delivery at a series of points in Northern Iran.”

A stretch of this road, known as the East Persia Route, was completed in eight months, an average of three miles a day, by a pick- and shovel army of 30,000 men, women, and children supervised by a staff representing 15 different nationalities. The road was complementary to the West Persia routes for British and American supplies. “The quantity of supplies of jute, rubber, hessian, copper, tin and mercury that India can send to Russia is limited only by the transport facilities available”, said an Indian representative of one of the supply organisations according to the Indian Information (January 1944). “Already 1,000 lorries, mostly provided by India, are employed to full capacity. We expect a substantial increase in this number shortly", it said.

River beds were paved, drains were laid and hundreds of bridges built. Water and food for men and beasts was taken hundreds of miles by camel as the road was pushed forward. “We recruited people for the work from the towns and villages,” said one of the half a dozen British officers who supervised the work and who now live in New Delhi. “In spite of all the old nationalities and the widely differing engineering practices of the four foreign contracting firms everyone got along fine. We had Greeks, Yugoslavs, Belgians, Russians, Turks, Italians, Bulgars, and Rumanians, not to mention the Persians who provided most of the labour. The contractors’ representatives were a Dane, a Norwegian, Czech and an Austrian.”

The British authorities sent a special train of cameramen to prepare a film about the road from India to Russia. According to the Indian Information (May 1, 1944), “A graphic picture of the work of Indian troops in carrying war material for Russia through Persia and Iraq will shortly be available in a film which is now being prepared by a special team of cameramen. The film will tell the complete story of a gigantic undertaking from start to finish: from the time goods are landed at a port in Iraq to West Persia. The whole journey of some thousand miles by river, rail and road — through varied landscape and weather — show's Indian soldiers at work as engineers, labourers, drivers and sentries, all performing their allotted task with skill and patience, often in the most trying conditions”.

On this difficult road Subedar Narayan Rao Nikkam and Havildar Gajendra Singh travelled day and night to reach war supplies to the Red Army. Thoughts of these and other Indian soldiers who risked their lives to go to the rescue of the embattled soldiers of the Red Army on the Caucasian Front crowded the mind as one motored to Pithoragarh to meet one of the heroes.

Retired Naik Subedar Gajendra Singh was expecting us at his village situated in the picturesque Shor Valley of district Pithoragarh. It was May 2, 1975. Thirty years ago on this day the Soviet Red Army was already in Berlin. Before us was a man who had actively helped the Red Army in crushing the fascist hordes of Hitler, a man who was given one of the highest military awards by the Soviet Government. 

At first sight, Thakur Gajendra Singh looks like any one of the thousands of retired military personnel scattered all over the border district of Pithoragarh. But when you begin to talk to him you realise that here is a man of iron will and dauntless courage. His devotion to duty is unmistakable. A modest man, this is his story as he told it:

“I was born in 1916, during the First World War, in my village Badalu. I studied in Pithoragarh and Dehradun. In 1933 I enlisted as a sepoy in the Royal Indian Army Supply Corps. In 1942, our unit was posted in Basra and subsequently we set up our headquarters in Khanikin. I was assigned breakdown duty by my Company Commander and was responsible for looking after the disabled vehicles of our supply convoy.

“Our main task at Khanikin was to reach supplies to the Russian soldiers fighting the German invaders in the south of Russia. From Khanikin to Tabriz via Hamadan was three days of arduous journey on six-ton trucks. Our officers told us how important it was that the supplies reach our Allies, the Russians, who were keeping the enemy from marching towards India. We worked day and night, not bothering about the dangers lurking behind every hillock, every tree, every corner and kept up the supplies of military hardwarb, ammunition, rations and other material. In our heart of hearts we knew that this ammunition and these rations were as vital for the defence of India, as it was for the defence of the Soviet Union. We knew that the enemy we were fighting was ruthless. He was the enemy of mankind. This realisation gave us additional strength.

“In 1943, during one of these trips, I was wounded. While we were unloading war supplies in the dark, someone thrust a bayonet in my left thigh. I was taken to a military hospital in Basra where the doctors suggested that I should be sent to India for treatment and rest. I flatly refused to leave my unit and told my C.O. that I did not want to go to India but would like to go back to my duty as soon as I was fit to travel again. My C.O. was pleased by my devotion to duty and agreed to keep me at Basra till I recovered. I stayed in the hospital for twenty- four days, after which I resumed duty.

“Everyone in my unit, including my C.O., was surprised at my refusal to avail myself of the opportunity to go back to my country, for everyone loves his life and it is normal to want to go back to one’s own country after such a long time. I knew that at that stage of the war each soldier was valuable for defeating the fascist enemy and at that critical stage I did not want to leave my comrades in the unit. Our unit continued supplying these war materials to our Russian counterparts for almost a year and a half, i.e., till the middle of 1943. Then our unit was transferred to Italy.”

(The scope of the supplies was vast. As Indian Information said. “Over 5,000 tons of vital war materials per month have been sent from India to Russia during the past six months along the East Persia route, which follows the age-old caravan track now converted into a modern motor highway. Russia has received quantities of gunny bags, tossa canvas, jute ropes, tea, pepper, tin, wolfram and silk. Two special consignments consisted of 1,000 tons of nickel and 1,000 tons of harvest yarn, both of which reached Russia in record time. The harvest yarn was made to a very exacting specification by the Calcutta Jute Mills. It had to reach before the Russian harvest began and the average timing from Calcutta to the handing-over point was 28 days. Tin, mercury, wolfram and silk were flown from China to Assam in American aircraft, and railed to Zahidan for transport by truck. Hundreds of lorries have been used to reach the consignments to our Allies in the north, and the road surface from Zahidan right up to the Russian border has been kept in excellent repair”.

"What is your impression of the Soviet Red Army soldiers with whom you came into contact in the one and half years your unit was supplying war materials to them?” we asked Thakur Gajendra Singh.

“We came in contact with soldiers and officers of the Red Army only during the unloading operations. We found them kind, courteous and brave. Of course, we could not speak Russian nor could they speak English or Hindi, but we conversed through Iranian interpreters. The Red Army soldiers exuded warmth and great self confidence. They seemed to be prepared to go to any extent to defend their motherland and to rid it of the Nazi marauders. “The first time I reached Tabriz 1 was greatly surprised to find women soldiers manning the gates and working shoulder to shoulder with men. These were not ordinary women. They were Durgas whose wrath the god-forsaken Nazis had incurred. This was the first time I have seen women soldiers on combat duty. I was deeply impressed. I knew then that a nation for whose defence even the women have come forward can never be vanquished. “As a soldier, who actively participated in the Second World War, what have you to say about peace? Do you think peace is essential for mankind?”

“Yes indeed. There shouldn't be any more wars. Wars arc the greatest calamity that can happen to mankind but if some usurper like Hitler again dares to wage a war we should fight him and crush him. On this auspicious occasion, when the 30th anniversary of victory over fascism is being celebrated, I send my heartiest greetings to the Red Army veterans who fought with us to defeat our common enemy, fascism.”

“What were your feelings when you were informed that the Soviet Government had awarded you the Order of the Red Star for your bravery and your help to the Red Army?”

“I received the news when our unit was posted in Italy. It was in July 1944 that my C.O. informed me of this. Though I received six decorations and medals during my career in the army I never felt so thrilled as when I heard that the Soviet Government had awarded me and Subedar N. R. Nikkam, the Order of the Red Star... I was thrilled again when I received your letter saying you wished to meet me. I am grateful to you personally and to H. E. the Ambassador of the USSR. V. F. Maltsev, for remembering me on this occasion and inviting me to attend the reception to be held on 9 May, 1975, at the Embassy of the USSR. I consider it an honour and I will be there.” Like a true soldier he kept his promise and was the star attraction at the reception. Some time later, came a letter from an old friend. Com. D. S. Sriramulu of Bangalore conveying the information that the other Indian soldier awarded the Order of the Red Star, Subedar Narayan Rao Nikkam, was living in Connoor in Tamilnadu. Another friend A. S. Moorthy travelled there to meet him. An account of the meeting was published recently in the Soviet Land magazine.

“On February 2, 1976” wrote Moorthy, “I found myself sitting with Narayan Rao Nikkam, now a grand old man, in his cosy home in Connoor, listening closely as he reminisced about his past, about events of more than three decades ago. It was difficult for him to recapture all the details of those long and hazardous treks in far away Persia. But he vividly remembered the glittering ceremony in Teheran, at which Soviet decorations were presented to the officers and men of the RIASC. He treasured every detail of it. He showed me an old faded photograph of the presentation ceremony in which he is seen shaking hands with the Soviet Ambassador M. Maximov: and also a clipping from the Mail of Madras, yellowed with age, carrying the news of the Teheran function under the heading. Russia Honours Indian Soldiers — Gallant Sendees in Carrying Supplies . 

“Nikkam was conscious that in reaching those supplies to the beleaguered Red Army on the Caucasian Front, he was not only carrying out his duty as a soldier but also serving the cause of the defence of his motherland, for that army was the only effective barrier between it and the rapacious Hitlerite hordes who had their greedy eyes on the vast natural resources of India. Nikkam’s wrinkled face was suffused with light — a glow from the past — as he recalled his association with the Soviet armymen whom he used to meet in Tabriz. He spoke about them with warmth as one speaks about one’s comrades-in-arms. His eyes lit up when he recalled the role of Soviet women in the war. ‘They did not lag behind the men in serving the country even at the front. Women, donning military uniforms, were at work at the transit point in Tabriz. Very few Russians spoke English; despite the language barrier, however, close bonds of mutual understanding, of sympathy and solidarity in the common cause of struggle against the most brutal enemy of mankind, did develop between the Red Army men and men of the RIASC. From the limited association I had with the Soviet army men and women at the transit points I can say that they were very hospitable and generous people, with an implacable hatred for the invaders,' he said.

"As a soldier hero, Mr. Nikkam, what do you think of war? I asked him. Won't you like a man to prove his worth in the thick of a battle just as you did?” “Throwing up his hands in a gesture of horror, he exclaimed: ‘Oh my God! Let there be no war. There must not be any!’ He spoke holding his two grandchildren in a tight embrace, and words came from the depth of his heart: ‘Why should there be any war? Can’t men and women prove their mettle in peaceful construction? War is barbarious. I don’t want our young men to experience the horrors of war’.”

Six months earlier the issue of Janashakti dated April 19, 1944, frontpaged a report about other Soviet honours to Indian war heroes. Quoting Moscow newspapers, it reported the USSR Supreme Soviet’s awards to “distinguished soldiers of the Indian, American and British armies who fought in North Africa and Italy”. It gave details of “three Indian Army officers who fought courageously against the Hitlerite army” and who were awarded Soviet honours. They were Captain Ram Singh {Order of Kutuzov, III class); Subedar Pritha Singh Kurung {Order of the Patriotic War, I class); and Lt. Col. W. R. B. Williams {Order of Nevsky). 

Not ail memories are associated with the glitter of awards and connected ceremonies. There are some full of pathos. But not only pathos. With pride and humility, one learns that the seeds of the ever blossoming Soviet-Indian friendship are also scattered over such an improbable soil as a Nazi concentration camp. One Indian, who eagerly grasped the hand of friendship proffered by men of the Red Army in a Nazi concentration camp, was P. Chandragason. Now an ISCUS activist in Madras, he relives those days with a great deal of passion when asked to tell us about them (at a recent chance encounter in Madras at the home of a friend Dr. Krishnan).

Chandragason was part of the eager crowd that greeted Marshal Zhukov when he visited Madras recently. And he had a special reason to be there. He had seen Marshal Zhukov in Germany during the war. Still moved by the memory of those days, he recalled with emotion that it was the courageous action of the Soviet troops under the command of Marshal Zhukov that saved his life and the lives of other Indian POWs in Nazi concentration camps.

We listened in a hush as he gave flesh and blood to those distant memories: “I joined the army in 1938 and was serving in the Royal Artillery Field Regiment. I was hardly 16 then and. to be. frank, did not know much about what was happening in the world. We were stationed in Bangalore in 1930, when the war started. Soon, we were sent for special training in fighting the Germans and Italians in Africa. The training was ,very intensive, because we were told the enemy was very well-equipped, modernised and trained. After a very strenuous battle innoculation, we were sent for embarkation to Bombay. In 1941, we landed in Africa and soon we found ourselves in Alexandria. At that time, we were in the 4th Indian Infantry Division, along with the fifth. From Alexandria we went to Cairo (Reinforcement Camp Mina), where we underwent special train¬ing in desert warfare. Our first battle with the Italians was very successful. In spite of the propaganda about the invincibility of the Black Shirts, we Indians, with very old equipment, managed to overrun them and captured almost 20,000 Italians as prisoners, pushing them up to Bengazi (Tripolitania). Then the German Panzers moved near Bengazi and Tobruk. And we were forced to retreat. During the battle, many of our troops were killed, specially in aerial attacks by Stuka dive bombers. We lost lot of our equipment, but managed to reach Tobruk for reinforcements.

“The Germans cut us off. The order was to retreat to Alamaine, except for the Levant Indian Infantry Brigade in which such prominent names as Capt. Kumaramangalam (in later years the Army Chief of Staff of India) and Ayub Khan (who later became the President of Pakistan) were fighting. We were ordered to fight to the last.”

The conditions in Tobruk at that time were hellish. “All other troops — the New Zealanders, Australians, South Africans had retreated earlier. At last we Indians, after very severe fighting without proper equipment, food and water, had to surrender to the Germans.

“The Germans immediately moved us — Punjabis, Gurkhas, Sikhs, Mussalmans — to Italy, and put us in concentration camps. I was in prison camp No. 91 — Avizano, from where under instructions from Capt. Kumaramangalam, we attempted to escape. The Germans opened fire and about a hundred Indians were killed. This was in 1943. Those who were caught were loaded into cattle-trains and sent to Germany.

“Along with three other Indians (I think it was in September October 1943), I managed to escape. We were in hiding for quite a long time, moving only in the night, sleeping only in deserted Italian houses. During that period, I learnt Italian, and posed as an African. At last we reached Monte Casino. At Attino, I fell seriously ill but some Italian anti-fascists found me and saved my life.

The Italians were very strongly anti-German then. I was in hiding and living with Italians up to 1944. The frontline was approaching Monte Casino where one of the biggest fights between the British and the Germans was taking place. I could see the aerial combats. I decided to somehow get through the frontlines and join the army. I was almost successful. But I was caught at the very last moment by some young German soldiers, and after severe beating, I was taken to Germany.

"First, I was put in the concentration camp near Munich called Aistadt and from there I was sent to the camp called Stallag 7A somewhere near Auschwitz where Russian prisoners were kept along with Indian, British and American prisoners. We lived comparatively well under the protection of the International Red Cross. We received food, warm clothes, etc., but the Russian prisoners did not get anything at all. They were treated as worse than beasts. Their barracks were next to ours, about 20 yards away, separated by barbed electric wire. Among the Russian prisoners were many high ranking  officers. But they were in rags. And sometimes as many as 20 Russians would die on a single day.

“Once we gathered and decided that we should do something to help our Russian fellow-prisoners. First, we established some code signals with them. Hello, one finger meant a cigarette. We gradually established contacts and started communicating with them. Some of them knew English. We bribed some German sentries with certain things we got from the Red Cross — chocolates, soaps, cigarettes. And we succeeded, perhaps because the more discerning of the Germans felt that the fall of Hitler was imminent. Food, cloth, soaps and cigarettes were thus passed to the Russian prisoners. Then it was decided to dig a tunnel under the wire and share our food rations with them. They sent us messages thanking us.

“In April 1945, the memorable day of our liberation came. Marshal Zhukov’s soldiers liberated us from the concentration camps, saved our lives, and that is how after more than 35 years I am here with you. The Russian soldiers were very friendly to us. They stored out the strong and healthy from the wounded and ailing, and those who were able to fight, including Indians, were sent to different areas for occupation of Germany. After the German surrender, we were sent to Rhymes and from there to England. The British were very suspicious and only after very tough checking did they release us.

“The Russians, who were all along very friendly, gave us medical treatment and even invited us to settle in Russia. Remarkably, they were absolutely free of any racial prejudice. They were always friendly and cheerful. Even in the prison camps, one had to admire their heroic behaviour and their sense of collectivism. They were always together in a group. We know that they were sabotaging any work they were forced to do. Their slogan was ’No assistance to the enemy'. There were several occasions when we were sent together on road construction work. They went without shoes in rags. The work gave us the opportunity to give them shirts, shoes, socks, etc. The Germans forced them to work, but they did it in such a way as would make matters worse.

“Now some people wonder about the roots of Indo-Soviet friendship. For myself the origin of the friendly feeling for Russia was begun on the concentration camps of Germany”.

Books, periodicals

Aheli.Banerjee, March 29, 2022: The Times of India

Russia might have become increasingly isolated on the global stage but you wouldn’t have guessed that from the high turnout at the Russia Pavilion of the 45th Kolkata International Book Fair held earlier this month. Kolkata’s reading community still has a deeprooted affection for Russian literature and many of them turned up in search of Sovietera translations and reprints.

This love affair travelled beyond the Marxist strongholds of West Bengal and Kerala to other parts of the country through mobile bookshops and translations into Indian languages. In an essay for The Guardian, author Pankaj Mishra wrote about his own diet of Soviet Life magazine and Russian fairy tales while growing up. “For boys like me, in north Indian railway towns in the 70s and 80s, where nothing much happened apart from the arrival and departure of trains from big cities, the Soviet Union alone appeared to promise an escape from our limited, dusty world. ”

It wasn’t just the classics of Dostoevsky and Pushkin that attracted people. If ‘Soviet Nari’ was liked by women for its knitting designs, folk tales of Baba Yaga, the wild witch, and Ivan, the handsome prince, ignited the imagination of children. Of course, those tales also came loaded with dollops of Soviet propaganda. Debasmita Moulick, curator at the Russia Pavilion, says scarcity and nostalgia have turned these books into collector’s items. “Some of the children’s stories have been passed down over generations,” says Moulick, adding that about 200 to 500 people turned up every day at the fair asking for specific editions or translations. Deep Ghosh, who runs the first Bengali science fiction (SF) and fantasy web magazine Kalpabiswa, discussed the impact of Soviet literature on early Bengali science fiction. “The first Soviet SF book to have a farreaching impact on Kolkata writers is Alexander Belyaev’s ‘Amphibian Man’, written in 1928. This inspired early Bengali SF writers, such as Satyajit Ray,” says Ghosh whose publishing house has translated about five Soviet SF books.

Those early translations were the handiwork of Bengali translators living in Russia, explains Suvankar Dey, whose Dey Publishers translated many Russian works. “These illustrious Bengali translators living in Russia were closely involved in translation, publication and distribution of Soviet books in Kolkata. These included publications from Raduga and Progress Publishers based in Moscow, which were set up in the 1960s. The Soviet Consulate also promoted magazines like ‘Soviet Desh’ and ‘Soviet Nari’. ” Dey points out that Soviet subsidies ensured that the works were sold at nominal prices.

Another big, albeit sometimes forgotten, arena of Soviet publishing were educational textbooks. “We used to get excellent Russian science and math textbooks through a Soviet book export agency called Mezhdunarodnaya Kniga because western ones were either unavailable or too expensive. They were lifesavers for many students,” says Jadavpur University professor Rimi B Chatterjee.


March 29, 2022: The Times of India

The Tal Chess Club — named after the legend from erstwhile USSR — began its journey in August 1972 at Chennai’s Russian Centre for Science and Culture. It holds a special place in the growth of the game in the country. Manuel Aaron, India’s first International Master (IM) who had a diploma in the Russian language, was instrumental in running the club where the biggest names in the sport such as Viswanathan Anand and other star players honed their skills. The club was renamed Emmanuel Chess Centre (ECC) in 1996 and has since been run by Ebenezer Joseph, India’s first FIDE trainer. Over the years, thousands have benefi ted from the skills imparted by the trainers at ECC

Cinema, Indian

Sonam Joshi, March 29, 2022: The Times of India

The year was 1983. Film director Babbar Subhash’s ‘Disco Dancer’ had just been invited for the Moscow film festival by a Mumbai-based agency Sovex Fort. “I was hesitant because it was a modern film with modern music and mostly dark films such as ‘Do Bigha Zameen’ have been successful in Russia but Smita Patil convinced me otherwise,” Subhash recalls. By the time the movie screening ended, over 3,000 people in the auditorium were clapping and dancing along to the title track. “It was one of the best days of my life,” he says. ‘Disco Dancer’ went on to sell 120 million tickets in the Soviet Union, and even WhatsApp’s Ukrainian cofounder Jan Koum recalls watching the film as many as 20 times as a kid in Kyiv. With Hollywood movies banned in the USSR during the Cold War, the Soviet government began promoting Indian movies from the 1950s onwards. The first big hit was Raj Kapoor’s ‘Awaara’ selling 64 million tickets followed by ‘Shree 420’. Then came movies such as ‘Dhool ka Phool’, ‘Love in Simla’, ‘Bobby’, ‘Barood’, ‘Seeta aur Geeta’, ‘Muqaddar ka Sikandar’.

Dr Sudha Rajagopalan, senior lecturer in East European Studies at the University of Amsterdam, estimates that 210 Indian films were screened in Soviet theatres between 1954 and 1991, around 190 of which were mainstream Hindi films from Bombay. “Indian popular films often surpassed both domestic and other foreign cinema in viewer turnout,” she writes in her book.

Elena Doroshenko, a Moscow-based journalist and linguist who has watched the old hits as well as the relatively newer ‘Kal Ho Naa Ho’ and ‘Paheli’, says they struck an emotional chord with Russians. “The films spoke the same emotional language — even though we were different, we understood the emotions and passions,” she says.

The success of Hindi films in the USSR also led to joint productions such as ‘Alibaba aur 40 Chor’ and ‘Sohni Mahiwal’. However, this changed after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. “There was a flood of various films from the West and we wanted to imitate that lifestyle,” Doroshenko says. “Indian films were still on TV — it’s not that they were forgotten but they stopped being a sensation. ” Dancer Svetlana Tulasi, who was born to an Indian dad and Russian mom and raised in Moscow, recalls watching Bollywood movies on cassette tapes, then cable TV, then DVDs and eventually on the internet. She shot to fame a few years ago with her viral Bollywood-Kathak fusion dances at Russia’s Got Talent and Ukraine’s Got Talent.

On YouTube, there are Russian fan channels devoted to Mithun Chakraborty, and dance performances set to the song ‘Jimmy Jimmy’. There are even a couple of restaurants by that name in Vladivostok and the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.

The Georgian ‘Jimmy Jimmy’ was inaugurated in 2019 by none other than Raj Kapoor’s son Rajeev Kapoor. “When we visited Georgia for the first time, we were surprised to see that taxi drivers were playing ‘Jimmy Jimmy’ and ‘Mera Joota hai Japani’,” says owner Shubham Joshi whose customer base includes both locals as well as Indian students.

Space research

March 29, 2022: The Times of India

India’s space relationship with Russia goes back to the Soviet days when they helped in the launch of satellites. In fact, Rakesh Sharma, the first Indian to go to space on April 2, 1984, flew aboard the Soviet rocket Soyuz T-11. Those ties still continue and there are apprehensions that India’s Gaganyaan human spacefl ight project, which relies on Russian cooperation, might get delayed

Limits to Russia/ USSR’s friendship

1962, and more

April 4, 2022: The Times of India

Here’s the thing. Russia did support India at the UN — but only when it came to Kashmir or Pakistan. When it comes to China, Russia’s support has often been found wanting — or just not found at all.

This is one of the big reasons why the US deputy national security advisor Daleep Singh recently said: “I don’t think anyone would believe that if China once again breached the Line of Actual Control, Russia would come running in India’s defence.”

The 1962 let-down

What Singh says has historical context. Former Indian foreign secretary, Nirupama Rao, in her book “The Fractured Himalayas” talks about what really happened in 1962, when China and India clashed over a disputed border. India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru thought he could rely on his ally and friend Nikita Krushchev, leader of the Soviet Union (as it was then). Krushchev, however, had other crises to face, and reportedly told Nehru to compromise on the border issue. If the matter came up to the UN, he warned, the Soviet Union would stand with China. And to demonstrate how serious he was, Krushchev suspended sales of military aircraft to India on the eve of what was escalating into war.

Nehru, say the history books, then approached the US, seeking military aid, which was not extended.

Getting friendly with Pakistan

Russia seems to also be making friends with India’s not-so-friendly neighbour Pakistan. On the day Russia’s Vladimir Putin began the invasion of Ukraine, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan was in Moscow. Reports say that the Pakistan-Russia friendship has been actively encouraged by China. “Moscow clearly sees opportunities to expand economic and security cooperation with Islamabad,” says the RAND blog post.

Equally important, China, Russia, and Pakistan have been actively pursuing Afghanistan, and all three nations have met the Taliban repeatedly. India has been less warm in the region, for fears that Afghanistan could end up as a hotspot for Islamist terror groups. Why is Russia so keen on making overtures to China and Pakistan? “Moscow will need to rely on countries that don't care about its newfound status as an international pariah,” explains RAND.

Military aid to Myanmar

Russia has been close to the military junta in Myanmar, even before Tatmadaw (the junta) effected its coup in Myanmar. Since then, Russia has been supplying military equipment to the junta. Why does this matter to India? For one, a militarised Myanmar could make things difficult in the Indian border states of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipu, Mizoram, and Nagaland. And two, and more important, is the fact that Russia seems to be complementing China’s activities in Myanmar. In effect, Russia seems to be joining hands with China in isolating India.

In the past decade or so, India-US ties have been warming up. The question now is whether these ties will begin cooling, given India’s neutrality and history of friendship with Russia.

History, views

President Putin on 1947-2017

Vladimir Putin, Seventy Years Together: Russia And India, May 31 2017: The Times of India

In 2017, we are celebrating the anniversary of a truly historic event.Seventy years ago ­ on April 13, 1947 ­ the governments of the USSR and India announced their decision to establish official missions in Delhi and Moscow. This step on our part logically followed up on our course for assisting India on its way to national liberation and contributed to strengthening its independence.

In the decades that have followed, our bilateral partnership has further intensified and strengthened, and has never been subject to expediency . Equal and mutually beneficial relations of the two States have steadily developed. This is quite natural. Our peoples have always had mutual sympathy and respect for each other's spiritual values and culture.

Today , we can take pride in what we have achieved. With Russia's technical and financial assistance, the pioneers of Indian industrialisation came into existence: metallurgical complexes in Bhilai, Visakhapatnam and Bokaro, the mining equipment plant in Durgapur, the thermal power station in Neyveli, the electromechanical enterprise in Korba, antibiotics plants in Rishikesh and the pharmaceutical plant in Hyderabad. Soviet and, later on, Russian scientists and academics participated in the establishment of research and education centres in India. These include the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay , research institutes of petroleum industry in Dehradun and Ahmedabad.

We are proud our specialists helped develop India's space programme. Thanks to this fruitful bilateral cooperation, in 1975 India's first satellite, Aryabhata, was launched, and Indian citizen Rakesh Sharma travelled into space in 1984 as a crew member of Soyuz T-11.

In August 1971, our countries signed the Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation, which set forth the fundamental principles of bilateral relations, such as respect for the sovereignty and each other's interests, good neighbourliness, and peaceful coexistence. In 1993, the Russian Federation and the Republic of India confirmed the inviolability of these basic principles in the new Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation.The Declaration on Strategic Partner ship signed in 2000 provides for close coordination of approaches to ensuring international peace and security and resolving pressing global and regional issues. Annual summits have become an established practice in the IndianRussian bilateral relations allowing us to discuss in a timely manner the efforts taken to accomplish our objectives and set long-term goals. In early June, we will have another summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in St Petersburg. He is expected to attend the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, in which India will for the first time participate as a partner country .

The legal framework comprising more than 250 documents is being updated on a regular basis. Effective work is carried out within intergovernmental commissions on cooperation in trade and economy , science and technology , as well as culture and military-technical field. Ministries of foreign affairs, security council offices and line ministries maintain continuous dialogue. The interparliamentary and interregional ties, as well as business and humanitarian contacts are actively developing. Military cooperation is also being enhanced: joint land and naval exercises are conducted regularly .

Cooperation in peaceful uses of atomic energy is one of the fundamental components of the relationship between India and Russia. The construction of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant with our assistance is a flagship project in this field. In 2013, the first nuclear power unit was put into operation. In October 2016, the second unit was transferred to the Indian side, and construction of the third and fourth power units began. All of this contributes to the implementation of the plans to develop nuclear energy in India involving the construction of at least 12 power units in its territory by 2020. These goals are stipulated in a joint document ­ the Strategic Vision for Strengthening India-Russia Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy . We intend to further share best practices in this important industry with India and contribute to enhancing its energy security .

Collaboration in the traditional energy sector is successfully developing.The purchase of a block of shares in the Russian company “Vankorneft“ made by the Indian consortium of companies has become the biggest bilateral deal in the oil industry . The possibilities for the participation of Indian companies in joint hydrocarbons exploration and production projects in the Russian Arctic shelf are currently under consideration. There are also good prospects for cooperation in the solar energy filed, modernisation of the existing power plants and construction of new ones in the territory of India. Large-scale projects are carried out in mechanical engineering, chemical and mining industries, aircraft construction, pharmaceutics and medicine.

One of the priorities is to boost the trade turnover and improve its structure, as well as stimulate economic activity of our business communities. I am referring to enhancing industrial cooperation and increasing supplies of high-tech products, creating a better business and investment environment, and using systems of payments in national currencies.

The decision to start negotiations on a free trade area agreement between the Eurasian Economic Union and India adopted in December 2016 is of particular importance. The possibilities of creating the International North South Transport Corridor are being explored. All these factors should promote the development of our bilateral and regional cooperation.

To encourage reciprocal capital inflow, a working group on priority investment projects was established under the Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation. 19 most promising projects have already been selected. Russia is committed to long-term participation in the “Make in India“ programme initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Our countries cooperate intensively in the production of multipurpose weapons and military equipment. Coproduction of a unique supersonic cruise missile “BrahMos“ is our special pride.Since 1960, the overall value of contracts within the framework of military and technical cooperation has amounted to over $65 billion, while the portfolio of orders in 2012-2016 exceeded $46 billion.

India and Russia are equal partners in international affairs. Our countries support the establishment of a multipolar democratic system of international relations based on strict compliance with the principles of law and resting upon the UN central role. We are willing to further jointly counter challenges and threats of the 21st century , promote the unifying agenda and contribute to maintaining global and regional security .

We effectively interact within BRICS ­ an association that thanks to our collective efforts is increasing its weight and influence. This June, India will become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. It will considerably enhance the potential of the SCO. India and Russia also work together within the G20 and other international formats.

I would also like to note that our countries closely coordinate positions on such complex issues as settling the situation in Syria and ensuring stability in the Middle East and North Africa region. They significantly contribute to the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

I am convinced that the enormous potential of cooperation between the two great powers will be further explored for the benefit of the peoples of India and Russia and the international community in general. We have everything necessary to achieve this ­ political will of the sides, economic viability and shared global priorities. All this is based on the glorious history of the Indian Russian friendship.

Prime Minister Modi on 1947-2017

PM Modi on seven decades of India-Russia friendship, May 31, 2017: The Times of India

Article by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the 70th Anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between India and the Russian Federation published in Russian newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazetta on May 31, 2017

Seven decades ago, on 13 April 1947 to be precise, even before India gained independence, India and Russia established diplomatic relations with each other. I convey my warm greetings to the people of Russia and India on the 70th anniversary of this momentous milestone. which we are celebrating this year. e in 2017.

India-Russia relations have been the one constant in a world that has changed dramatically since 1947. They have withstood the test of time, and grown from strength to strength. The resilience of our relationship is based on the fact that it rests on the principles of equality, trust and mutual benefit. We have adapted our partnership to the different stages of our national development and to the changing realities of the international context. We have been together in times good and bad.

Our relations of course go well beyond the last seventy years. They are steeped in history. They also go well beyond the governments. Afanasei Nikitin travelled from Tver to India in the 15th century to connect Russia to India. Later, in the mid-18th century, Indian merchants travelled between India and Russia and established settlements in Astrakhan. Gerasim Lebedev, who was a pioneer of Indology and Bengali theatre, visited India around the same period. He was followed by Ivan Menayev in the mid-19th century, who introduced Sanskrit to the people of Russia, studied Vedic literature, the edicts of Ashoka the Great, Pali grammar and Buddhist studies. Scholars like Sergei Oldenburg and Fyodor Shcherbatskoy continued that tradition during the following decades, translating and studying many Indian epics and classical texts.

In later years, Rabindranath Tagore's poetry was translated into Russian and Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation, and Leo Tolstoy corresponded with each other. The immortal works of Nikolai Roerich and his love for India remain a part of our rich cultural legacy. Russian writers like Dostoevsky, Pushkin and Chekov influenced Indian thought and drama. Yoga, Indian films, songs and dances remain an abiding bond between our people.

The Soviet Union helped India build its industrial base. The factories at Bokaro and Bhilai, the hydroelectric dam at Bhakra-Nangal, and the images of Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma on board the Soyuz T-11 as the first Indian cosmonaut, are etched in the minds of every Indian.

In the last seventy years, India has developed a large and diversified industrial and technological base. We are among the fastest growing large economies of the world. The potential for India's accelerated growth has never been greater, nor the optimism higher. Russia has re-emerged from the events of 1991 as a global power with international reach and influence. Its economy has been modernized and a new generation is driving the country forward.

In 2000, India and Russia signed a Declaration on Strategic Partnership. In 2010, we elevated our partnership to the level of a Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership. These documents are more than just words. They contain an ambitious blueprint for our cooperation. Our cooperation in the military technical field is a pillar of great strength in India-Russia relations. Russian equipment and technology is the mainstay of our defence forces. The symbols of our contemporary partnership today include Indian investments in Sakhalin 1, and now the Vankor and Taas-Yuryakh oil fields, the nuclear power plant at Kudankulam and the Brahmos Joint Venture Project. In the economic field we are moving in the direction of increasing mutual investments in manufacturing, development of the International North-South Transport Corridor and creation of a Green Corridor. India has been an important contributor to the pharmaceutical industry of Russia.

But we cannot and should not be satisfied with our achievements and must strive to open new vistas. We should fully exploit our mutual complementarities based on our large markets, resource endowments and industrial and technological base. We are focusing on increasing our bilateral trade which is considerably below our potential. We are opening new areas of cooperation in the energy sector, telecommunications and science and technology. We have set up funds to facilitate investment in high technologies. We look upon the Arctic as another area of cooperation with Russia. We wish to expand cooperation between the regions of Russia and the States of India, and especially with the Russian Far East. We are working on expanding our trade ties with the Eurasian Economic Union. We are exploring new areas of cooperation like railways, innovation, IT, diamond trade, and infrastructure. There are efforts towards greater joint production and technology transfer from Russia to India. We are working together to enhance physical connectivity as also intensify contacts between our scientists, universities and intellectuals, particularly the younger generation. Russian companies are welcome to join our flagship programmes such as Make in India, Start Up India, Skill India and Digital India.

The significance of our relations goes beyond the bilateral sphere. This is natural and has always been so. Our partnership has contributed to global peace and security. We have supported each other's key interests. We are important stakeholders in upholding the stability of the international political, security, economic and financial order. We cooperate closely in forums such as the United Nations, BRICS, G-20, East Asia Summit, RIC and the IAEA. India looks forward to becoming a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation that became possible with wholehearted Russian support.

At a time of multiple global challenges, our cooperation becomes all the more necessary. There is loosening of the traditional power balance in the world. New centers of influence and new engines of growth are emerging. The United Nations Security Council no longer reflects these changing realities, and direly needs reform. The world is plagued by multiple regional hotspots. Their effects are being felt across the world. The biggest threat to civilized societies comes from terrorism that is today more lethal and more organized than ever before. Terrorism is challenging our way of life. India and Russia are natural partners in fighting terrorism unitedly and with determination and to promote a multi-polar international system based on the central role of the United Nations and international law.

In India, the policy of building strong relations with Russia enjoys crosscutting national consensus. Every government in India since 1947 has accorded the highest priority to developing close relations with the government and people of Russia. My government is not only committed to following this policy, but taking our relations to newer heights.

I will never forget my first visit to Russia in 2001 with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. I was struck by the achievements of Russia, its sense of history and the pride of its people. I have visited Russia a few times thereafter, and every time I have felt the immense goodwill towards my country and people. We deeply value the leadership and support that President Putin has given to our relationship.

As we commemorate seven decades of our close partnership, we have an occasion to celebrate our achievements and plan the future trajectory of our relationship. When President Putin visited Goa in October 2016 for the 17th annual bilateral Summit, we agreed on a roadmap to celebrate this momentous occasion. I am happy to note that the road map is well on its way to implementation and that many new elements are being enthusiastically added to the celebrations.

I pay homage to all those, known and unknown, who have toiled and contributed to the development of the unique relationship between our two nations. We are the inheritors of their legacy and beneficiaries of their hard work and above all, their unwavering faith in this relationship. We are committed to building on this legacy and bequeathing to our youth a strong and vibrant partnership that will contribute to changing the world for the better.

I eagerly look forward to my visit to the beautiful city of St. Petersburg, and to my meeting with President Putin for the 18th Annual India-Russia Bilateral Summit and the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

1959: Khrushchev blasted Mao for tension with India

Aug 5, 2017: The Times of India

'Khrushchev blasted Mao for 1959 border skirmish with India'


Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev blamed China's Mao Zedong for the border skirmish in 1959 with India, a media report has said.

The Post attributed the Cold War International History Project of Wilson Centre as the source of the transcript of the meeting between Khrushchev and Mao.

A Chinese paramilitary guard stands in front of a portrait of late communist leader Mao Zedong at the Forbidden City in Beijing. (AFP Photo)A Chinese paramilitary guard stands in front of a portrait of late communist leader Mao Zedong at the Forbidde... Read More

BEIJING: Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev squarely blamed China's Mao Zedong for the border skirmish in 1959 with India and the subsequent escape of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, absolving then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of any blame, a media report said on Saturday.

According to a transcript of a stormy meeting between Khrushchev and Mao published by Hong Kong's South China Morning Post, the Soviet leader bluntly told the then chairman of China's ruling Communist Party that he was responsible for the situation in Tibet and the tension with India.

The acrimonious meeting towards the end of September that year - a little over a month after the skirmish between Indian and Chinese troops - reportedly forced the Soviet leader to cut short his visit to Beijing.

The Post attributed the Cold War International History Project of Wilson Centre as the source of the transcript. The meeting began with Khrushchev telling Mao: "You have had good relations with India for many years. Suddenly, here is a bloody incident, as a result of which Nehru found himself in a very difficult position."

"If you let me, I will tell you what a guest should not say: the events in Tibet are your fault. You ruled in Tibet you should have had your intelligence [agencies] there and should have known about the plans and intentions of the Dalai Lama," Khrushchev told Mao. Mao shot back: "Nehru also says that the events in Tibet [were] our fault. Besides, in the Soviet Union they published a TASS declaration on the issue of conflict with India [supporting India]."

He was referring to a report in the Russian state-run news agency TASS, urging India and China to reach a negotiated settlement. Khrushchev also told Mao that he was "outraged" by the Chinese calling the Soviet Union "time-servers".

"Take back your accusations; otherwise we spoil relations between our parties. We are your friends and speak the truth. We never acted as time-servers with regard to anybody... If you consider us time-servers, comrade Chen Yi, then do not offer me your hand. I will not accept it," Khrushchev told Mao and other Chinese leaders who attended the meeting. After that visit, relations between China and then Soviet Union appeared to deteriorate leading to Beijing warming up to the US.

2018/ PM-Putin meet elevates ties to ‘privileged strategic partnership’

PM-Putin meet elevates ties to ‘spl privileged strategic partnership’, May 22, 2018: The Times of India

Leaders Talk For 6 Hrs, Ride Yacht During Informal Sochi Summit

Bilateral and global issues jostled for space during an informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin when on Monday the two leaders met for almost six hours in Bocharev Creek in Sochi.

Finishing the meetings, which ranged from one-onones, to delegation level talks, from a ride on a yacht, to a visit to an educational centre, Modi tweeted: “Extremely productive discussions with President Putin. We reviewed the complete range of India-Russia relations as well as other global subjects. Friendship between India and Russia has stood the test of time.”

Exuding the same confidence in relations as was visible during last month’s Modi-Xi informal summit, Modi said, “Our ties will continue to scale newer heights in the coming years.”

In a late evening statement, an MEA spokesperson said the two leaders “decided to intensify consultation and coordination with each other, including on the Indo-Pacific Region”. The concept of “Indo-Pacific” is something pushed by US, India and the “quad” countries, but not China, currently Russia’s closest partner.

Modi arrived in Sochi Monday morning and returned to Delhi at night.

In a significant departure from looking at the India-Russia relationship through the Soviet lens, Modi dated the India-Putin relationship to the year 2000. “Eighteen years ago, you and PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee planted the seeds of strategic Russian-Indian partnership. We can say proudly now that this partnership, the seeds of which you planted, has grown into a huge tree of privileged strategic partnership. It is a major achievement in itself.”

In his welcome remarks, Putin said a lot of momentum had been added to the bilateral relationship, and placed it fir mly in the strategic/ defence sphere. “We have established close contacts and collaboration between our defence agencies. All this is indicative of the high level of strategic relations between our countries,” Putin said.

The easy body language of the two leaders conveyed that they may have found a way forward to deal with thorny problems like Af-Pak and Russia’s purported outreach to the Taliban. “Both leaders expressed their concern over terrorism and radicalisation, and their determination to combat terror in all its forms and manifestations. In this context, they endorsed the importance of restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan in an atmosphere free from the threat of terror, and agreed to work together towards achieving this objective,” the MEA said. Currently, Russia and India are at odds over Af-Pak.

The summit was also expected to discuss issues like US sanctions on Russia but this did not find a mention in the statement. Officials had said earlier India would not allow its defence ties to be determined by a third country.

In another bid to breathe life into a moribund economic relationship, the two agreed to set up a strategic economic dialogue between NITI Aayog and Russia’s economic development ministry. The first LNG consignment under a Gazprom-GAIL deal is expected to land in India next month.

Both countries are looking at entering the nuclear business together in third countries, beginning with the Rooppur plant in Bangladesh. India has been investing much more in Russia’s energy sector in the past few years. While Russia’s Rosneft has bought into Essar’s oil business, India has invested in upstream businesses in Russia.

After he was received by Putin, Modi said, “I am happy that today I got the opportunity to be a guest of President Putin and that too in Sochi... Russia has always remained a true and fast friend of India,” he said. “...I am grateful to Putin for inviting me for an informal summit which has taken our relationship to a new level.” The summit happened after Moscow invited Modi.

Economic relationship

Defying the USA for Russia relations

2018: Missile deal cleared Despite Threat Of US Sanctions

Rajat Pandit, Defence council clears Russian missile deal, July 1, 2018: The Times of India

2018- India agreed to buy 5 squadrons’- worth of Triumf missiles from Russia
From: Rajat Pandit, Defence council clears Russian missile deal, July 1, 2018: The Times of India

Consent Given Despite Threat Of US Sanctions

India is now swiftly moving towards acquiring five advanced S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems from Russia despite the looming threat of US sanctions, with the defence ministry clearing the decks for the proposed Rs 39,000 crore deal.

Top sources say the defence acquisitions council (DAC), chaired by minister Nirmala Sitharaman, on Thursday, approved the “minor deviations” in the mega S-400 deal that had emerged during the recently-concluded commercial negotiations with Russia.

“The S-400 procurement case will now go to the finance ministry for clearance and the PM-led Cabinet Committee on Security for the final nod. The country’s top political leadership will have to take a call on when the actual contract can be inked,” said a source.

The DAC was held just a day after the US on Wednesday night once again cancelled the inaugural “two-plus-two” dialogue between foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and defence minister Sitharaman with their American counterparts — Mike Pompeo and Jim Mattis — which was slated for July 6 in Washington.

TOI was the first to report in October 2015 that India had kicked off plans to acquire the S-400 missile systems, which can detect, track and destroy hostile strategic bombers, stealth fighters, spy planes, missiles and drones at a range of up to 400km and altitude of 30km, in what was touted as a gamechanging military acquisition.

Subsequently, the inter-governmental agreement for the five S-400 systems was inked during the Modi-Putin summit at Goa in October 2016. Even as India and Russia were putting the finishing touches on the complex S-400 contract ahead of the next Modi-Putin summit in October this year, Washington jumped into the fray to warn New Delhi against going ahead with the deal.

India and Russia have worked on a roadmap to get around the financial sanctions flowing out of the recent US law called CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act) that seeks to deter countries from buying Russian weapons.

New Delhi and Moscow have new military projects worth over $12 billion hanging in the balance, as is the question of maintaining the huge inventory of Russian-origin weapons in the Indian armed forces.

Under the proposed S-400 deal, the IAF will get the first S-400 squadron, with its battlemanagement system of command posts and launchers, acquisition and engagement radars, and all-terrain transporter-erector-launcher vehicles, 24 months after the final contract is inked. All the five squadrons, with two firing units each, will come in 60 months.

Once India inducts S-400 systems, they can be used to protect cities during war or vital installations like nuclear power plants.

As in 2017

Arun Srivastava, Dailyexcelsior

Posted on 31/05/2017 by Dailyexcelsior

The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) is a unique event in the world. It has been held since 1997, but since 2005 the event is being organised under the auspices of the President of the Russian Federation. This is enough to underline the global importance attached to the summit. The Forum has become a leading global platform to meet and discuss the key global economic issues facing the emerging markets.

SPIEF provides the unique opportunities to meet with high-ranking international policy makers, leaders, government representatives, and members of foreign delegations, including from BRICS, SCO, and CIS countries. The fundamental issues and trends affecting Russia, emerging economies, and the world are identified, analysed, and publicized. In addition to the regional events in Russia, each year the Roscongress Foundation also runs a series of overseas events aimed at maintaining cooperation between Russian and foreign officials. Foundation’s outreach events make an important contribution to tackling the economic challenges facing Russia and the world today. In 2015-2016, events were held in Italy, India, China, Germany, and Uruguay, and the 2016 programme concluded with the Russia-Iran Business Forum, which was held in Tehran.

Putin intends to carryout a serious technological modernization and looks forward to procure new technologies and attract foreign investment. Russia has not imposed restrictions on capital flow and has no plans to do so in future. If the expansion of the outreach and groundwork of the Forum during last ten years is an indicator Russia expect high-level participation at the 2017 meet and hope to make further achievements and continue the dialogue

It is a coincidence that a Russian plane maker has unveiled a new passenger jet that it believes will be able to compete with Boeing and Airbus. The new MC-21 passenger plane is scheduled for serial production from early next year. For Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev “This is a huge victory for our aviation industry and Irkut Corporation, our scientists, designers, engineers and workers”. Russian media reported that the corporation has confirmed orders for 175 aircraft from domestic and overseas clients. India must really work on big investment projects with Russia and use the Forum to enhance defence cooperation. The SPIEF programme includes the BRICS Business Forum and B20 Forum on international trade and investment besides a Russian-Indian Forum of Corporate Executives.

On January 30, 2016, two St. Petersburg International Economic Forum panel sessions on bilateral relations between Russia and India took place in New Delhi: “Fulfilling the Indian-Russian economic promise” and “BRICS growth agenda: investment hot spots in Russia”.

India-Russia relationship has progressed beyond the traditional pillars of defence and space to a robust civil nuclear cooperation, collaboration in the sphere of hydrocarbons as well as long-term LNG sourcing interest. More recently, Russia has shown interest in the development of infrastructure in India with an intent to invest in Indian Railways, shipbuilding, urban development and transport & logistics. Incidentally Make in India and to transform India into a global design and manufacturing hub, is the theme of the ‘India lounge’ at SPIEF 2017.

The political leadership of the two countries has strongly reaffirmed the importance of the relationship. India’s defence equipment is 60-70 per cent of Soviet/Russian origin. Their maintenance and technological upgradation are a significant part of our defence cooperation. No country has so far matched the level of sophisticated weaponry that Russia supplies to India. The latest example is the S-400 air defence system under acquisition, which NATO acknowledges as state-of-the-art. Even with our recent diversification of arms imports, Russia supplied 68 per cent of India’s arms imports in 2012-16.

In 2015-16, Indian companies invested about $6 billion in Russia’s oilfields. In the other direction, Russian oil giant Rosneft acquired Essar Oil’s Vadinar refinery and port for an estimated Rs 86,000 crore. Rosneft now owns about nine per cent of India’s oil refining output. The Forum in fact is an effective mechanism to foil and frustrate the American and British sanctions. USA and UK are at the forefront of the sanctions regime; yet their banks participated in the investments in Russian oil companies. India must use the opportunity to emerge stronger which it was deprived by the Obama administration. (IPA)

Importance of Russia to India

As in 2018

May 21, 2018: The Times of India


Russia has been a strong and time-tested partner of India.

Both the countries have a long history of strong strategic, military, economic and diplomatic relationship.

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives in the Russian city of Sochi for an informal summit with President Vladimir Putin, we analyse the significance of ties between the two countries.

Russia has been a strong and time-tested partner of India. Both the countries have a long history of strong strategic, military, economic and diplomatic relationship.

The two nations have contributed towards the enhancement of cooperation in the fields of economics, politics, defence, civil nuclear energy, anti-terrorism co-operation and space.

1. The bilateral ties

In October 2000, former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and President Putin signed the “Declaration on the India-Russia Strategic Partnership”, the first major political initiative signed between the two countries since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The declaration set the tone of ties between the two countries by the development of institutionalised dialogue mechanisms at various levels in order to strengthen bilateral interaction and follow up on activities related to cooperation in different areas.

2. Moscow's increasing closeness to Islamabad

As New Delhi warmed its ties with the United States, Russia started to increase its closeness with Pakistan as a counter-measure. In 2016, the two countries held their first joint military exercise, despite India's request to postpone due to the terrorist attacks in Uri.

In 2015, Russia and Pakistan signed an inter-governmental agreement for the construction of a gas pipeline from Lahore to Karachi.

China is one of the main and the most powerful allies of Russia and also India's arch-enemy Pakistan. A closer relationship will Pakistan is important for Moscow to increase its clout in the region.

3. Military partnership

Russian hardware represented 62 per cent of the country's total weapons imports during the past five years, compared with 79 per cent in 2008-2012, the Stockholm Peace Research Institute said in a report last month. Some of India’s legacy weapons system are of Soviet and Russian origin and it needs to maintain defence ties with Moscow to keep them operational.

4. Economic partnership

In December 2014, the two countries set a target of $30 billion bilateral trade by 2025. According to Russian Federal Customs Service data, bilateral trade during in 2016 amounted to $7.71 billion (decline of 1.5 per cent over 2015)

5. Nuclear energy

Russia recognises India's need to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. In December 2014, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Russia’s Rosatom signed the Strategic Vision for strengthening cooperation in peaceful uses of atomic energy between India and Russia. Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) is being built in India with Russian cooperation.

6. Space energy

India-Russia partnership in space dates back to about four decades. The year 2015 marked the 40th anniversary of the launch of India's first satellite "Aryabhatt" on a Russian (then USSR) launch vehicle "Soyuz". Both sides are also exploring the possibility of cooperation in manned space flight.

Russian people’s perception

2018/ India among top 5 friends: Russia poll

Indrani Bagchi, June 28, 2018: The Times of India


Identifying the top enemies of Russia, the poll picks on the US, specifically Donald Trump for top spot, with Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania and Germany occupying the big ‘foes' spaces.Afghanistan remains a designated enemy, though the Russian system is now reputed to be working closely with the Taliban

Despite a significant cooling between traditional strategic partners Russia and India + , India can still count itself as one of the top five "friends" of Russia. And for all the talk about Russia moving towards Pakistan, an annual opinion poll by one of Moscow's most respected think tanks shows Pakistan does not yet cross Russian consciousness.

The Levada Centre, the only non-governmental pollster in Russia, and labelled a "foreign agent" by the Kremlin in 2016 is distinguished by the comprehensive Russian opinion polls they publish. In their latest 2017 poll, which came out in 2018, Russians identified Belarus as their country's top ally, followed by China, Kazakhstan, Syria and India.

While Indians may feel reassured that the "druzhba-dosti" relationship remains intact, it is more important to note that China is seen as Russia's top ally. At the government level, Russia in China's embrace is a common sight, this poll makes it clear that this embrace has percolated to the popular level too. The declining ties between India and Russia received a fresh lease of life after an informal summit between Modi and Putin + several weeks ago, where the two leaders spent a lot of quality time together to reaffirm strategic convergences.

Identifying the top enemies of Russia, the poll picks on the US, specifically Donald Trump for top spot, with Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania and Germany occupying the big ‘foes' spaces. Afghanistan remains a designated enemy, though the Russian system is now reputed to be working closely with the Taliban. Interestingly, the average Russian identified radical Islamism and Islamic extremism as an important threat/enemy. They consider Trump, Ukraine, Europe, ISIS and radical Islam and corruption to be the greatest threats to Russia.

Fewer Russians identify themselves as European but want Russia to effect some sort of rapprochement with the West. Trump has already signalled he wants a Singapore-style summit with Putin soon, dispatching his NSA John Bolton, a well-known Russia sceptic, to Kremlin to prepare for the visit.

Russian foreign policy priorities, according to the poll should first concentrate on Russia's own security, followed by a desire shared by almost half of those polled for Russia to regain its former influence in the world.

UN Security Council

India votes against Russia on Ukraine

August 26, 2022: The Times of India

NEW DELHI: India was among the 13 United Nations Security Council members who voted against Russia’s proposal to prevent Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy from addressing the UNSC remotely. While it was only a procedural vote, this was still the first time India voted against Russia on a Ukraine-related issue since the former launched its military operation in February.

Russia was the only country to back its proposal as China abstained and others supported Zelensky’s virtual address.

The Indian government qualified its position by saying this was not a vote against Russia as Zelenskyy had at least twice addressed the Council earlier — in April and again in June — through video conference.

Russia’s objection was also limited only to the Ukrainian President speaking through a video conference as Moscow “in principle” was not against participation by Zelenskyy in person.

According to sources, Russia had not objected to Zelenskyy speaking earlier and that it was only on this occasion that it tried to block his virtual address and sought a vote on it. “This was the first vote of its kind and there was no way India could not go with the US and others as Zelenskyy had spoken earlier too,” said a source.

Despite pressure from the West to do so, India has so far not condemned Russia’s actions in Ukraine and has also abstained from voting on resolutions blaming Moscow for the conflict. On August 24, the UNSC held a meeting to take stock of the now six-month-old conflict on the 31st anniversary of Ukraine’s independence.

As the meeting began, Russian ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia requested a procedural vote concerning the Ukrainian President’s participation in the meeting by video conference. Following statements by him and Ferit Hoxha of Albania, the UNHC extended an invitation to Zelenskyy to participate in the meeting via video conference by a vote of 13 in favour to one against. Russia voted against such an invitation, while China abstained.

Nebenzia insisted that Russia does not oppose Zelensky’s participation, but such participation must be in-person. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the council decided to work virtually, but such meetings were informal and, after the pandemic’s peak, the council returned to the provisional rules of procedure, he argued.

Abstentions, 2022

UNSC, Abstentions- March 2022- October 2022- Russia and India relations
From: Sachin Parashar, February 25, 2023: The Times of India

See graphic:

UNSC, Abstentions- March 2022- October 2022- Russia and India relations


2021: India sends Signal to Moscow

Indrani Bagchi, July 11, 2021: The Times of India

External affairs minister S Jaishankar invited Georgian companies to invest in India, as he called on the country’s top leadership, including PM Irakli Garibashvili, during his first visit to the country, which is also seen as a rare message to India’s old partner, Russia.

Jaishankar, who landed in Tbilisi after a three-day visit to Moscow, chose a particularly emotional moment for Georgia and a possibly breakthrough moment for bilateral ties. He handed over a relic of the St. Queen Ketevan to the government at a ceremony. But the political signalling of the visit is not to be ignored either, given the hostile relations between Georgia and Russia. In April, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, for the first time ever, visited Pakistan after India, introducing a hyphenation to the bilateral relationship that did not go down well in New Delhi.

After a 26-year hunt, the Archaeological Survey of India had in 2016 identified the remains of Queen Ketevan in a destroyed church in Goa. An official statement said the Queen’s remains were found in 2005 at the “St. Augustine Convent in Old Goa. India does not yet have a mission in Tbilisi, which is currently serviced by India’s mission in Yerevan, Armenia. Hence, Jaishankar’s visit is significant.

See also

Russia- India relations

Russia- India defence relations

Russia- India trade relations

USSR- India relations

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