The Return of Diplomacy?
Russia and India on the Eve of a Multipolar World
Valdai Club Conference Hall, Tsvetnoy boulevard 16/1, Moscow, Russia
List of speakers

On July 9, 2024, the Valdai Club hosted an expert discussion about the results of the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Russia. Moderator Ivan Timofeev emphasised that this was the first international visit of the Indian leader since he was re-elected. There have been no direct Russian-Indian summits for a long time; during this time, many important issues have accumulated and the need for a kind of synchronisation of watches has become urgent.

Venkatesh Varma, Honorary Research Fellow of the Vivekananda Foundation, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of India to Russia (2018–2021), noted that relations between Russia and India are deeply rooted in the past. They have traditionally been strong, because the interests of the two countries largely coincide from a fundamental point of view. Now these relations are adapting to new international circumstances; new driving forces are appearing. The diplomat called for the development of interaction between the youth of the two countries and the exchange of ideas at the level of the academic community, noting that the new order should not “be based on an ideological system dominated by the West.” He lauded Modi's visit to Moscow as very successful and timely, suggesting that Russia and India will be able to find common grounds for building relations.

Lydia Kulik, head of India studies at the Skolkovo Research Institute for Emerging Markets, indicated that before this week, the most recent visit of the Indian Prime Minister to Russia had taken place in 2019. Since then, there have been high level meetings, but the tradition of summits alternately held in Russia and India was broken. Since 2019, not only has the world changed, but the role of Russia and India in this world has increased significantly. In the emerging new world order, the role of Russia and India is difficult to overestimate, including in a conceptual sense. This makes direct dialogue between the leaders of the two countries especially significant. According to Kulik, India’s position in recent years is proof of the reliability of Russian-Indian relations. In both countries, there are sayings that friends are made in trouble. Among other things, this position has forced Russian businesses to look at India and the opportunities that the country’s market opens with renewed attention. There is hope that as a result of the summit, a certain road map for the development of Russian-Indian cooperation will emerge.

“This is the first meeting of the two leaders in the multipolar era,” said Zorawar Daulet Singh, a visiting fellow at the Forum for Strategic Initiatives. He added that a new world order is emerging. The balance of power in the world is changing, and Russia’s determination and the sacrifices it makes at this difficult moment are very important. After the transition to multipolarity, multilateral institutions will play a stabilising role in Eurasia, and the international system will become fairer. Singh emphasised that India is interested in changing the infrastructure in Eurasia and welcomes the formation of a new system. India doesn’t need a Cold War vision, and it doesn’t accept Russia’s isolation. The analyst added that he sees many opportunities for Russian-Indian cooperation to help achieve economic independence from the West.