Indian and Russian flags (AFP)
NEW DELHI: For the first time, an Indian military contingent comprising members of all 3 services will march through Moscow's Red Square on June 24. In 2015, the only time Indian forces joined the military parade, the participation was restricted to the Indian army.
The Russian parade is held every year on Victory Day (May 9), which marks the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945, but has been delayed this year because of the novel coronavirus.
PM Narendra Modi had been invited as a special guest for May 9 event this year. With Modi unlikely to attend the delayed event in these times, the government is hoping to make up for his absence by sending a tri-service contingent to take part in the parade which showcases Russia's military might.
A tri-service contingent comprising about 75-80 will depart for Moscow on June 19. President Vladimir Putin had invited Modi for the Victory Day celebrations during their meeting in Vladivostok last year.
Russia, in fact, has invited several others heads of state and government for the parade as the event this year marks the 75th anniversary of the "Victory over Nazism". Diplomatic sources said while details were still being worked out, the parade, depending upon the time available, was likely to include a mention of the contribution made by Indian soldiers in the Great Patriotic War.
Despite Russia's deep military and political ties with China, and its own relations with the US, India continues to look at Moscow as a key partner. There has been enough political signaling too to that effect recently, apart from the commitment to constantly upgrade defence cooperation with Russia, including to jointly develop military equipment.
Earlier this month, the day PM Narendra Modi spoke to US President Donald Trump about the Sino-Indian border standoff, foreign secretary Harsh Shringla also held a meeting with Russian ambassador Nikolay Kudashev and briefed him on the issue as first reported by ToI on June 4. In February this year, while the Trump visit was still on, India allowed 2 Crimean leaders, both proscribed by the US, to visit India.
Defence though remains the most significant aspect of India's relations with Russia with both sides looking to encourage joint manufacturing of equipment under India's Make-in-India programme and through transfer of technology.
The 2 countries had said in a joint statement after the Vladivostok summit last year that they "recognized" the requirement of an institutional arrangement for reciprocal provision of logistic support and services for the armed forces and tha they had agreed to prepare a framework for cooperation on it.
The 2 countries continue to encourage military to military cooperation through military political dialogue and joint military exercises. They last year carried out second joint tri-service exercise INDRA.