Moscow: India on Friday sent out a strong signal to Russia that it must not harbour any disquiet on account of India’s engagement of the United States. The message came through in President Pratibha Patil’s one –on-one meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Ms. Patil put it across strongly and very clearly that India truly appreciated the Russian support and help in the economic, defence and nuclear fields. She said that India’s relationship with Russia stood on its own, and was not “at the expense of relationships with other countries” and will not be “affected by its relationship with other countries.”
Political and foreign affairs circles in Moscow interpret the words, “other countries,” as meaning the United States, and see it as a much-needed gesture towards a friend who has stood by India “through thick and thin.” They have not missed the fact that this is a second reiteration by Ms. Patil in two days. She said much the same thing to President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday.
Speaking at the luncheon banquet hosted by Mr. Medvedev, she said: “Recent years have also seen what are called multi-vector foreign policies being pursued by many countries … However, I can assure our Russian partners that, even as we improve our relations with other countries it will not be to the detriment of our tried and tested friendship.”
Indeed, a Moscow-based journalist asked an Indian official outright if it was not a fact that “India now sits on the lap of the United States.”
Answering the question the official avoided referring to the U.S but nonetheless said: “Ms. Patil put it across strongly that our relationship with Russia should not be seen from the prism of our relationship with any other country.”
The official pointed out that Ms. Patil could not thank Russia enough for its support to India on the negotiations with the Nuclear Suppliers Group and was grateful that it had backed India’s campaign for a permanent seat at the United Nations.
Mr. Putin was in turn appreciative of the “special and unique” nature of the relationship. He said Russia did not have a similar relationship with any other country: “Russia’s support to India at the NSG, in defence and nuclear fields showed the truly strategic nature of our partnership which Russia does not have with any other country.”
By Friday evening it was clear that Kremlin was reacting positively to Ms. Patil’s “reassurance.” The Kremlin website quoted Ms. Patil thus: “Keeping this relationship on track is not only one of our top foreign policy priorities but is in fact the cornerstone of our foreign policy.”
A leading Russian business daily summed up the results of Ms. Patil’s visit to Moscow in these words:
“Despite the new U.S. policy of trying to make India its strategic ally, India is in no hurry to break off time-tested relations with Russia.”