India and the US — and not ‘new ally’ Pakistan — are among the countries Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent his New Year greetings to. Interestingly, Pakistan did not figure in the list despite the fact that it is cozying up with Russia, of late.
Following Russia’s criticism of India being used as an “object” by the West in “anti-China games,” Putin tried dousing the fire by his warm words on India-Russia relations. Putin’s new year message was extended to several nations and their heads including China, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and even its arch-rival, the United States of America, but Pakistan was a miss.
Putin sent his greetings to India’s President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Russia and India were connected by relations of privileged strategic partnership, which, despite this year’s difficulties and problems, including the coronavirus pandemic, are developing confidently,” read the message.
The Russian President emphasized that the two countries maintain a substantive political dialogue and carry out promising joint projects in various spheres, while cooperation within the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) yielding good results.
New Year greetings to foreign heads of state and government https://t.co/UnpTRn8834
— President of Russia (@KremlinRussia_E) December 30, 2020
He further expressed hope that in the coming years, Russia and India would continue to work towards stepping up constructive bilateral cooperation as well as coordinating efforts to address topical issues on the regional and global agendas.
Earlier, the deputy Russian ambassador to India Roman Babushkin said that New Delhi shouldn’t be worried about the growing proximity with Pakistan. Russia and Pakistan have committed to building a 1,100-km pipeline starting in July. The pipeline will help Pakistan connect to more natural gas terminals.
During the media briefing in New Delhi, Babushkin highlighted that “Russia is very cautious when it comes to respecting the sensitivities” and at the same time termed its relationship with Pakistan as “independent”. “We also have bilateral trade and economic agenda [with Pakistan]”
“This is the very important principle we are following when it comes to cooperation with every country in the world including Pakistan and many others,” he said.
Last month, Pakistan and Russia held their fifth joint military exercise called ‘Friendship-2020’ at the Tarbela special operations training ground in Pakistan. Media reports claimed that over 150 personnel from each side participated in the drill. The annual exercise is being organized since 2016.
On the other hand, Indo-Russian relations seem to have taken a hit as New Delhi is getting closer to Washington. Moscow has also displayed its contempt for the QUAD grouping and India’s participation in it. However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called India as “an object of the Western countries’ persistent, aggressive and devious policy as they are trying to engage it in anti-China games by promoting Indo-Pacific strategies.”
Responding to the Russian foreign minister’s comments, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said that India has always pursued an independent foreign policy based on its national interest. “India’s relationship with each country is independent of its relations with third countries,” he said.
For the first time in two decades, the India-Russia summit has been canceled. While the government said that it was due to the COVID-19 pandemic, critics and opposition parties alleged that the ties between the two countries have deteriorated due to India’s inclusion in the US-led QUAD.
Moscow has maintained close strategic ties with both China and India. Putin extended his new year’s greetings to Chinese President Xi Jinping and noted that Russia-China relations of comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction continued to expand dynamically during the outgoing year, and frequent contact was maintained between the respective governments, parliaments, ministries, and agencies.
He also pointed to the “successful start of a major project for holding Years of Russian-Chinese Scientific, Technical and Innovative Cooperation.”