India-Russia Summit Postponed - And The Questions It Has Raised

An article by The Print suggesting rising tensions between India and Russia, has drawn denials from both sides.

The postponement of the annual summit between India and Russia has raised many questions, with this being the first such in two decades. An article in Indian news outlet The Print citing growing tensions between the two nations, with the cause for concern, India's increasing closeness to United States of America, drew quick and detailed denials from both sides.

The two fold denial came from India's Ministry of External Affairs and Nikolay Kudashev, Russian ambassador to India, who termed The Print story "far from reality" and said the summit was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The issue also escalated after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted the story by The Print claiming the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party at the centre was damaging India's "traditional relationships".

On Wednesday, The Print published an article stating that the summit was postponed due to disapproval from Moscow on India's increasing closeness with the United States - a geopolitical rival since Soviet days. The article by Print's editor for diplomatic affairs, Nayanima Basu, specifically mentions India's joining of the Indo-Pacific Transparency Initiative and the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue with the US (along with Japan and Australia) as reasons for discontentment for the Russian administration.

Citing an unnamed Indian official, Basu argues that Russia's repeated comments on India's activity in the Indo-Pacific region is an indication that not everything is rosy between the two allies, and that the postponing of the summit at such a moment cannot be separated from this context.

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The article was widely shared by many, including Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, which immediately attracted attention from both India and Russia. "Russia is a very important friend of India. Damaging our traditional relationships is short-sighted and dangerous for our future," Gandhi wrote.

Anurag Srivastava, the official spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs issued a comment , denied the claims made by the article, and cited the ongoing pandemic as the reason for postponing the summit, which is supposed to be held early next year.

"The India-Russia Annual Summit did not take place in 2020 because of the COVID pandemic. This was a mutually agreed decision between the two Governments. Any imputation otherwise is false and misleading. Spreading false stories on important relationships is particularly irresponsible," he stated.

This was resonated by Russia, with Nikolay Kudashev, the Russian ambassador to India, issuing a similar statement that chalked up the postponing to 'epidemiological reasons'.

"Find it (the article) to be far from reality. Special and privileged strategic partnership between Russia and India is progressing well despite the Covid-19," he said in a tweet. "Staying in a close touch with our Indian friends to work out new dates for the summit, postponed due to epidemiological reasons. We are confident that it will be held in near future, while the Russian-Indian relations will continue its further development."

After the denials from Indian and Russian officials, The Print followed-up with another article, where Basu defended her arguments from the previous article by stating the COVID-19 did not stop India from holding several virtual summits with other key partners.

"The fact is that no summit has taken place. In 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held several virtual summits with India's key partners, including Australia, the European Union, Sri Lanka, Italy, Bangladesh and Vietnam, among others. While denial by the MEA and the Russian Ambassador is all very well, the fact is that two days before this story was published, Ambassador Kudashev and Deputy Chief of Mission of the Russian Embassy Roman Babushkin were sharply critical of the Indo-Pacific framework and the Quad," Basu wrote as a response to the denials from India and Russia.

"It's a fact that over the last year or so, Russia and China have come much closer and their bilateral relationship has acquired a much stronger strategic dimension. We stand by our story," the article stated.

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Updated On: 2021-01-25T10:33:28+05:30
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