Renew cultural engagement
Now is the time to galvanise economic ties and improve people to people connect. It is time industries from both sides invested in each other, created jobs and increased movement of people from both sides as there are newer sectors opening up in health, education and technology
India and Russia today celebrate 70 years of diplomatic togetherness. The world envies India-Russia cooperation and that is the real challenge for the two countries to see how not to let any third party spoil their bonding.
For years Russia has equipped Indian armed forces with frontline weapon systems and now this relationship has moved beyond buyer-seller to joint production. Today, with the help of Russian expertise and technology, India is building its own armoury. As India rapidly moves towards indigenisation, we might see Sukhois to fifth generation fighter aircraft, submarines, tanks, missiles and now possibly upgraded version of AK-series rifles by Kalashnikov, all made in India in joint collaborations. Of course, not to forget the cooperation in civil nuclear, oil and gas sectors.
This relationship seems to be only getting stronger. In fact, former Russian Ambassador Alexander Kadakin would claim with pride that Russia was first to “make in India” and “make with India.”
In the fast changing geo-political situation, both India and Russia are expanding their relations in the international arena and what is needed is a better understanding between them so that there is no scope for “planted misunderstandings.” Russian diplomats have constantly assured that it will not take steps that can harm the relations with India even as it works to see India at the high table of decision- making countries. With a firm backing from Russia, India will become a full member of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) this June. There is no doubt that terror emanating from Pakistan is a major cause of concern for India and hopefully in this regard Russia can play a role in influencing Islamabad to shun support to terror elements and join India on the path of economic development.
The coming days should be the time to galvanise economic ties and improve people to people connect. It is time industries from both sides invested in each other, created jobs and increased movement of people from both sides as there are huge opportunities for Indo-Russian cooperation in infrastructure, energy, electronics, aerospace, metals and mining, building materials, engineering services, education, health and information technology sectors.
Besides, what is needed is strengthening of India-Russia partnership in improving cultural and people connect. There was a time when Russian leaders and the country’s lifestyle were very popular in India. So was the Russian Circus which drew huge crowds in India. Similarly, Raj Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan were household names in Russia. Though Bollywood has still kept its connect intact, somewhere other things have faded away from the minds of people in both countries.
A generation of Indians has grown up chanting Hindi Russi Bhai Bhai and reading Sputnik magazine for children. This generation still has stories to tell about the visits of prominent Russian leaders. The generation between 1940s-80s developed its literary taste in India, reading English and Hindi translations of Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dostovesky, Turgnev and Pushkin. Noted Indian writer Bhishm Sahni stayed in Russia for six years and translated several works from Russian to Hindi including Tolstoy’s Resurrection. Similarly, Premchand was extensively translated in Russian and was popular. Subramayam Bharti’s writings on new Russia… the list can be long.
To some extent media also is to be blamed for this. There was once a time when most of the media houses in India used to station their correspondents in Russia. While Russian media houses still have stationed a large number of their correspondents in India, over the years, Indian media houses have withdrawn most of their correspondents. There are two media channels in Russia particularly devoted to programmes connected to India, be it yoga or films. One rarely gets to know things about Russia except for main news. It is once again time to renew collaborations between Indian and Russian media houses.
Connecting students to this partnership is another important aspect. Russian as an additional language needs to be promoted more in Indian schools. Recognition of Russian technical degrees are still an issue in India. Which is why there has been a drop in students movement too. This aspect, too, needs immediate course correction.
In the fast changing world order and interesting development happening in several countries, Russia can open its market for Indian companies and technology experts in a big way. Who knows America’s loss can someday become Russia’s gain and hopefully the coming years would give us a chance to raise a toast.
After all, there is a lot of Russia in every Indian’s life due to the security net it has provided to the country. And then there is a bit of Russia in several Indians life due to vodka. Similarly, there is a lot of India in several Russians life due to yoga and some chai.
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