Russia Direct releases a Brief that examines the current state of relations between Moscow and Delhi and points out the obstacles that stand in the way of a stronger partnership.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (right) meets with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the sixth BRICS Summit in Fortaleza July 15, 2014. Photo: Reuters

On Dec. 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin is paying an official visit to India for the 15th Annual India-Russia Summit, an event that could open the door to a new era in this long bilateral relationship, which has been relatively low-key for the last couple of years.

It is expected that during the visit Vladimir Putin will meet with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Pranab Mukherjee and representatives of the Indian intellectual and business community. They will discuss economic issues, most importantly, the current downward trend in bilateral trade turnover. According to Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov, the overall trade volume between Russia and India decreased 10 percent last year and continues to do so this year, already being seven percent lower than 2013 rates. This is a subject of concern for both sides.

Other issues that Russian and Indian leaders are likely to touch upon include the questions of stronger collaboration on nuclear energy, the joint production of the Sukhoi Superjet-100, the participation of India in the GLONASS program, the potential free trade agreement between India and the Customs Union and, finally, military and technical cooperation, which is traditionally one of the most important aspects of Russian-Indian strategic ties.

“The forthcoming talks will make it possible for the Russian and Indian leaders to map out new guidelines for collaboration and to boost the spheres where the ties are not developed sufficiently for the time being,” says P.S. Raghavan, the Indian Ambassador in Moscow.

Whether the leaders will reach agreement on these issues during the Summit remains to be seen. But it cannot be argued that, if they want to give the relationship a new boost, a clear vision for the way forward is much needed.

The Russia Direct Brief “How to Warm Up Russia’s Ties With India” offers a new way of looking at this topic and examines the major aspects that might influence interaction between Russia and India in the future.

Written by Dmitri Trenin, the Director of Carnegie Moscow Center, the Brief provides an overview of the main factors that bring Russia and India closer together, as well as a summary of their shared geopolitical ambitions and the security challenges that call for joint action. It also looks at how Russian and Indian leaders perceive their relations with other international actors, more specifically, China, Pakistan and the United States. The Brief gives the broad outline of a possible strategic vision that might unite Russia and India in the coming years.

Will India continue to be one of Russia’s biggest allies? With India taking steps towards greater self-reliance, what more can Russia offer apart from military exports? This is an especially important question to consider, given that “Russia has recently been nudged aside from its #1 position in defense exports to India by the U.S.,” writes Indian journalist Rajeev Sharma.

Trenin believes that, in these changing circumstances, the Russian defense industry must adapt and search for more opportunities to deepen ties with India in newer areas. The aim should be building a relationship that will benefit both states, their neighbors and the world.

“To achieve this happy state of affairs, however, Indians and Russians need to work hard to place their relations on a solid economic footing; engage in closest possible collaboration in science, technology and education; and promote human contacts, especially among business leaders, professionals, and members of the younger generation,” Trenin concludes.

What factors could bring India and Russia closer together? What geopolitical ambitions and security challenges do they share? How different are their perspectives on China? And what would a possible strategic vision uniting Russia and India look like? Subscribe and download the full version of the Brief to find out.