by Pankaj Yadav
NEW DELHI, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) -- The two-day India-Russia annual summit ended in the Indian capital on Friday, during which the two sides formally signed a purchase agreement for the S-400 air defense missile system worth more than 5 billion U.S. dollars.
In addition, the two countries signed as many as eight agreements and memorandums of understanding (MOUs), agreeing to strengthen cooperation in the fields of energy, aerospace, railway, economy, trade and agriculture.
Addressing a press conference after the agreements' signing ceremony, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that in the ever-changing world, India-Russia bilateral relations had become more important.
The India-Russia leaders' summit is the highest level of talks between the two countries. It began in 2000 and took place in rotation between the two countries. During Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to India in 2010, the relationship between the two countries was upgraded from "strategic partnership" to "extraordinary strategic partnership."
This summit was also the third meeting between Modi and Putin this year. In May the two held an informal summit in the Russian city of Sochi.
Regardless of the U.S. warning citing Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), India and Russia signed the S-400 air defense missile system deal which remained the highest point of Putin's visit to India.
According to the agreement, India will purchase the anti-aircraft missile system from Russia worth 5.43 billion U.S. dollars, which will be delivered to India by the end of 2020.
The S-400 air defense missile system belongs to the fourth generation of the Russian air defense missile system, which can hit missiles and aircraft 400 km away, and the S-400 radar system can detect targets beyond 600 km.
Before Putin's visit to India, the U.S. had warned that the Russian S-400 air defense missile defense system is the "key area" for the U.S. to determine sanctions. It also did not rule out sanctions against India under the CAATSA.
However, after the deal was formally inked by India and Russia, the U.S. embassy in New Delhi made a cautious statement mentioning that the purpose of the U.S. sanctions against Russia was "not to undermine the military capabilities of allies or partners."
As an exception, if an agreement does not threaten the security of the United States or its allies, and there is evidence that buyers have been cutting their defense imports and dependence on Russia, the U.S. president can grant an exemption to the country. At the same time, this exemption also needs to be approved by the U.S. Congress. New Delhi has been trying to convince Washington that it hopes to receive this sanction exemption.
Besides the defence deal, India and Russia also strengthened cooperation in other areas like energy, as the two sides are studying the possibility of building a natural gas pipeline from Russia to India, and encouraging Indian companies to jointly exploit oil in Russia.
The two countries also indicated that they will strengthen cooperation in nuclear energy and renewable resources.
India has significantly increased its investment in the Russian energy sector in recent years, and Russia has become India's main natural gas supplier. In 2017, India's energy imports from Russia increased tenfold.
According to one of the MoUs signed by the two countries, Russia will also help India in completing its first manned space mission and train astronauts for India.
Only two months ago Modi announced in his Independence Day speech that India will complete its first manned space mission by 2022, becoming the fourth country after the U.S., Russia and China to achieve this feat.
In the economic and trade field, the two sides indicated that they will hold the first strategic economic dialogue meeting in Russia this year, and increase bilateral investment to 30 billion U.S. dollars by 2025. In 2017-18, the two countries' trade volume reached 10.17 billion U.S. dollars, which is a 20-percent increase year-on-year.
The two sides also agreed to strengthen coordination among multilateral organizations such as the UN, the BRICS, the SCO and the G20, and are committed to counter-terrorism cooperation to jointly tackle the threat of terrorism and drug trafficking.
In an interview with Xinhua, Ashok Sajjanhar, the former Indian ambassador to Kazakhstan, pointed out that the India-Russia strategic partnership has stood the test of time and is an important pillar of India's foreign policy.
Swaran Singh, a professor at the institute of International Relations at the Delhi-based Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), believed that the India-Russia strategic partnership is very important because both countries face major challenges.
He pointed out that India's diplomacy, centered on "strategic autonomy," will continue to maintain a balance between all major powers. Russia has always been the most reliable partner in areas such as defense, space and nuclear technology.