By Paul Beckett
JANUARY 10, 2011, 8:58 AM IST
After the heads of all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council visited India in the past year, which does India feel closest to?
After listening to Minister of External Affairs S.M. Krishna’s media briefing Friday, we would have to conclude that the answer—as it probably would have been at any point in the past five decades—is Russia.
Mr. Krishna said relations with Russia remain a top foreign policy priority. He described Russia as a “time-tested partner”—perhaps a subtle dig at those, such as the U.S. and the U.K., which have only recently put India at the top of their priority lists. And he described the India-Russia relationship as a “special and privileged strategic partnership.”
Take that, David Cameron’s “new special relationship!” It was Mr. Cameron who was the first of the Big Five to visit in 2010 but Britain didn’t warrant a mention from Mr. Krishna.
Nor did France, despite President Nicolas Sarkozy’s autumn visit though we should note that Mr. Krishna did mention the promise of the European Union-India free trade agreement which is expected to be finalized in the first few months of this year.
U.S. President Barack Obama arrived here to great fanfare in early November. The U.S. didn’t quite get the super special friend status accorded to Russia but Mr. Krishna did note that the U.S. and India have recently forged a “very strong strategic global partnership.” He also said their relationship had moved to a “qualitatively new level” and that India attaches a “very high importance to our relationship.”
He was decidedly less effusive about China, not surprisingly given the various areas of tension between them.
“India will continue to actively engage China across a spectrum of issues,” Mr. Krishna said, adding that exchanges between the two countries last year—including the visit to New Delhi last month of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao—had added “stability” to the relationship.
The two countries, he said, have agreed that, “as strategic partners,” they will enhance trade and commerce, science and technology, and people-to-people ties.
In short: Beijing, you are not Moscow.