Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 169

The Indian government yesterday joined other governments around the world in welcoming the appointment of former Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov as Russian prime minister. India’s congratulations, however, may have been more sincere than those of some other countries. Primakov was the architect of a foreign policy shift that saw Russia seek to rebuild friendly relations with a number of states–India among them–which had enjoyed close relations with Moscow during the Soviet period. Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said in a cable to Primakov that New Delhi has always viewed Russia as its close and true friend. He expressed confidence that the two countries would move forward to consolidate further their strategic partnership (Itar-Tass, September 15).

That same sentiment was expressed in Russia on September 14 when Vladimir Lukin, chairman of the Russian Duma’s International Affairs Committee, arrived in India for several days of talks. “Russia must perpetuate and boost the potential of friendly relations with India, [and] must promote strategic partnership with it on the threshold of the twenty-first century,” Lukin told Russian journalists (Itar-Tass, September 14).

In Moscow, meanwhile, Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister (now Foreign Minister) Igor Ivanov held consultations with his Indian counterpart on September 11 on a planned visit by Russian President Boris Yeltsin to India. Yeltsin, who canceled a scheduled trip to India earlier this year, is now expected to visit New Delhi in December. On September 11 the two sides reportedly both continued preparations for the December summit and discussed a wide range of international issues, including the situation in Afghanistan and nuclear nonproliferation in South Asia (Itar-Tass, September 15).

On that last issue, Russia’s unwillingness to limit its relations with India in retaliation for New Delhi’s underground nuclear tests this past summer has generated some tension between Moscow and Washington. In June of this year Russian authorities pleased New Delhi–and frustrated Washington–when they initialed an agreement that calls for Russia to construct a nuclear power plant at Kudankulam in southern India. The United States charged first that the Russian action undermined efforts to isolate India for its nuclear tests, and second that it may also have been a violation of informal obligations assumed by Russia as an established nuclear power (see the Monitor, June 23-24, July 21). Washington’s admonitions notwithstanding, Russia and India have continued to move forward on the nuclear deal. On September 10 the Indian government approved a protocol that sets out Russia’s technical assistance in the construction of the facility at Kudankulam (Itar-Tass, September 10).