Putin visits India
The recent visit of the Russian President Vladimir Putin to India has gone off almost unnoticed by the Australian media, but the communique adopted following talks with the Government of India is another important link in the relations between Russia and India. While every press statement made by Clinton receives top billing in the Australian media, the statements and developments in relations between other countries seem to be of little interest. The Putin visit to India followed joint India-US discussions at the UN Millennium Summit early September. A joint US-India statement signalled the willingness of the right-wing government of India to enter into a strategic relationship with the US. According to Harkishan Surjeet, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) the Indian Prime Minister's visit to Washington, "reaffirmed the craven attitude of the BJP-led government. The Indian Prime Minister and Foreign office repeatedly sought to emphasise that India would be happy playing second-fiddle to US interests and was reversing its earlier foreign policy of peace, non-alignment and anti-imperialism. "The `Declaration on Strategic Partnership between India and Russia', on the other hand, seeks to impart a qualitatively new character and long-term perspective to their relations and to actively develop them in political, economic, trade, scientific, technological, cultural and other fields, in the years ahead." Welcome development "The Indo-Russian declaration is a welcome development", says Surjeet, "but it would be foolhardy to conclude that the Vajpayee dispensation [indicates that India] has fully woken up to the dangers of going in for a strategic partnership with the USA or has decided to make any radical change in its foreign policy perceptions. But it cannot ignore the existing realities of the world situation, particularly our region. "The disintegration of the Soviet Union altered the world situation radically, with the balance of forces tilting temporarily in favour of imperialism", says Surjeet. "It is against this international setting that the Russian President's visit to India took place." The declaration signed by the two governments calls for foreign office consultations on issues of mutual concern, international peace and security, nuclear non-proliferation, non-participation in any military- political or other alliances, treaties, agreements or understandings infringing upon the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity or national security interests of the other side. The declaration also calls for strengthening close cooperation in matters of trade, economic, scientific and technological and cultural co-operation, promotion of bilateral trade, lowering of tariff barriers, expansion of bilateral trade etc. Closer ties "Closer ties between the two countries", says Surjeet, "will help both countries meet the threat posed by the fundamentalist Taliban capturing power in Afghanistan. On the Kashmir issue also, Russia has stood by the Indian view point. "The Indo-Russian declaration injects a new freshness in the traditional friendly relations that both the countries have been maintaining for years. It attains added significance in a world situation where US imperialism is trying to push forward its agenda both in the military and economic spheres and subjugate nations and capture markets. "In the present situation, the joint declaration will go a long way in inspiring the developing countries that a unipolar world is a temporary phenomenon, and the world will have to be multipolar. In this respect, the visit of Russian President Putin acquires great significance", concluded Surjeet.