Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Difficulties faced by India and Russia in following convergent policies


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Indra exercise

Mains level: Paper 2-India-Russia relations

The article analyses the challenges in the India-Russia relations against the background of changing global order.


  • India decided to pull out of Russia’s Kavkaz 2020 military exercises, where it was scheduled to participate alongside other Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member states.

Russia’s role in India-China dispute

  • The ongoing conflict between two prominent members, and both close partners of Russia, has given rise to concerns about its impact on India-Russia ties.
  • Moscow has been playing a quiet diplomatic role during the recent border clashes without actively taking sides.
  • Recent visits by India’s Defence Minister to Russia saw detailed discussions around furthering the India-Russia defence relationship alongside the promise to accelerate certain supplies based on New Delhi’s requirements.
  • The September visit coincided with the biannual Indo-Russian naval exercises, INDRA.

India-Russia relations

  • India and Russia have spent the past few years strengthening their partnership, particularly since the 2018 Sochi informal summit.
  • From substantive defence engagement to regional questions in Central Asia, Afghanistan and West Asia, a conversation with Moscow remains an important element of Indian foreign policy.
  • India and Russia are pragmatic players looking at maximising their strategic manoeuvrability,
  • Both recognise the value of having a diversified portfolio of ties. .
  • India on its part has sought to include Russia in its vision of the Indo-Pacific that does not see the region as ‘a strategy or as a club of limited members’.
  • Reports indicate that a proposal for a India-Russia-Japan trilateral is being explored.

Multilateral forums and Challenges in India-Russia relation

  • The multilateral forums are important as they foster continued India-Russia cooperation at the bilateral and multilateral levels.
  •  Increasingly divergent foreign policies of its members pose challenges of agenda-setting and overall scope.
  • At this moment of flux, countries such as India and Russia are keeping all their options open.
  • We live in a ‘curious world’ where one cannot view engagement with different parties as a ‘zero-sum game’.
  • Worsening India-China ties or a burgeoning China-Russia relationship does not automatically mean a breakdown of the India-Russia strategic partnership.
  •  It is the combination of a changing regional order, closer Russia-China ties and India’s alignment with the United States and other like-minded countries to manage Beijing’s rise that has the potential to create hurdles for India-Russia cooperation in the Asia.

Consider the question “Despite difficulties in pursuing convergent policies, India-China relations retains its relevance. Comment.”


Although the evolving global order makes it difficult for India and Russia to pursue fully convergent policies, it does not preclude the bilateral relationship from retaining its relevance.

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