Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans to move forward with closer bilateral ties.

The leaders were attending the BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organization summits in the Russian city of Ufa, where they discussed plans for bilateral civil nuclear energy cooperation between the two nations. Their meeting took place shortly after Modi arrived in Russia for a 3-day visit.

Russia, India To Engage In Greater Civil Nuclear Cooperation

Leaders excited for increased cooperation

Modi and Putin took an hour and a half to discuss civil nuclear cooperation, as well as undertaking a “comprehensive review” of bilateral defense cooperation, according to Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar. “They paid a lot of attention to accelerate civil nuclear cooperation,” he said.

Also on the agenda was India’s future membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Putin said that he is “looking forward to developing the cooperation (between the two countries).”

Modi thanked Putin for his willingness to welcome India into the group. The process of approving India’s membership is expected to be completed by 2016, and Putin called Modi personally to inform him of the decision.

Putin said that the process was underway to make India a member, and added that it was “a very important event.”

Modi to visit Russia later this year

India and Russia enjoy a close relationship, and Modi announced plans to visit Russia once again later in the year for an annual bilateral summit. Modi is keen to see India play a key role in the SCO, as well as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, after growing frustrated at India’s lack of clout in the Western dominated Bretton Woods financial institutions.

A close relationship with Russia is also of strategic importance to India given increasingly warm relations between Pakistan and China. Tensions are running high between India and Pakistan at a time when Beijing is increasingly working in partnership with Islamabad.

Plans have been approved for a Chinese-funded $46 billion economic corridor through Pakistan, which has been hailed as a new Silk Road. India has contested the plans because part of the proposed route runs through the disputed territory of Kashmir.

The recent docking of a Chinese submarine in the Pakistani port of Karachi provides further evidence of cooperation between the two countries. Rumors abound that China may sell advanced submarines to Pakistan, which would surely be a worry for India.

India and Russia: an important regional relationship

Modi may see close ties with Russia as a way of counterbalancing China and Pakistan’s relationship. The geopolitical situation is becoming increasingly complicated throughout Asia, with relations between India and China also strained.

Pakistan will also become a member of the SCO, and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will be attending the summit in Ufa. It is expected that Modi and Sharif will meet on the sidelines of the talks, and their discussion is seen as an important test of the current relationship between the two countries.

A number of factors have contributed to their decline in recent months, but it must be hoped that this next meeting will go some way towards clearing the air and reducing tensions between the two nations. Both countries have more pressing issues to be concerned with rather than engaging in nuclear saber rattling, but the historic enmity is difficult to forget thanks to the continuing influence of hawkish elements in both countries.