On December 16, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will head to Moscow for the latest India-Russia summit – the 12th such high-level meeting since 2000.
For the Russian side, the summit will likely offer a welcome respite from some pressing domestic concerns – an economic slowdown, depopulation and tumbling support for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his United Russia Party, as highlighted by the December 4 parliamentary elections. But while there will be much official talk between Singh, Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev of a further warming of the bilateral relationship, the meeting is likely to be yet another in the established tradition of regular, yet often inconclusive, India-Russia summits.
Putin has enjoyed steady visibility and popularity in India, and is credited here with reviving ties that had flagged in the 1990s. In geopolitical terms, the two countries are strategic allies whose wider goals – the pursuit of a multipolar world, especially in Eurasia, stability in Afghanistan – align (or at least don’t clash) with one another. Russia supports India’s securing full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, while India has displayed none of the suspicion of Western countries at Putin’s recent proposal regarding the formation of a “Eurasian Union.” The relationship’s progress has recently been marked by two events: Russia’s completion of two nuclear reactors at the Kudankulam plant in Tamil Nadu amidst protests from the local population, and the reciprocal easing of the visa regime for Indian and Russian businessmen to address their woefully underperforming bilateral trade and investment regime.