To the extent that Russian and Indian leaders exchange visits each year, Manmohan Singh's trip is somewhat routine. That said, though, these visits have not always led to the development of real agreements. This year, however, the visit of the prime minister of India was filled with real agreements in the area of military-technical cooperation, including cooperation on the development of a multipurpose transport plane, as well as cooperation in the peaceful use of atomic energy. Furthermore, agreements were signed involving tourism and lending and financial operations.
If we compare the results of this visit with those of Manmohan Singh's trip to the U.S. at the end of November of this year, there appears to be more specific dialogue with Moscow than with Washington. In Moscow, the verbal understandings were codified in signed agreements, whereas in Washington they were documented in memorandums of understanding or memorandums of intentions. However, the list of questions discussed in the U.S. was significantly broader than in Russia. It included the issues of energy security, climate change, agriculture, health care, patents, and copyright.
On the one hand, the difference in the results of Singh's two trips serves as confirmation of the solid ties between India and Russia, which are based on well defined interests. Thus claims that India has left Russia once and for all and turned to the U.S. are groundless. On the other hand, juxtaposing the two trips brings into sharp focus the limitations of Russian-Indian relations, which remain concentrated in traditional spheres – military-technical cooperation, peaceful atomic energy, tourism, etc. – whereas the American-Indian dialogue embraces a number of promising directions, requiring the creation of an atmosphere of intellectual cooperation.
Although the dialogue between India and the U.S. has not led to real agreements so far, the very character of the dialogue should draw Russia's close attention. The problem is not that India is aspiring to build strategic relations with another state (as is its lawful right), but that India prefers turning to other countries – and not to Russia, its traditional partner – when seeking cooperation in innovation-driven sectors. Military-technical cooperation and atomic energy are knowledge-intensive areas of cooperation, but innovation is not limited solely to these spheres. And even in these two spheres, Russia is already encountering growing competition in India from other states, including the U.S.
Clearly it is in Russia's interest, while maintaining its strong positions in India, to search for a way to move beyond the traditional spheres of cooperation, in order not only to maintain the strategic nature of their bilateral relations in the long run, but, using these relations, to enhance the innovative character of its own economy.