Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Explained: In India-China, the Russia role

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RIC

Mains level : India-China border skirmishes and its de-escalation

Russia has emerged, all of a sudden, as a key diplomatic player amid the tension between India and China. It is set to host the Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral foreign ministers’ meeting.

Practice question for mains:

Q. In pursuit of a ‘Special Strategic Partnership’ with the US, India has compromised its ties with Russia. Discuss.

Raksha Mantri stepping in at RIC

  • Tensions being at the peak, India will discuss supply and purchase of new defence systems — like the S-400 missile defence system — with the Russian top brass in the military and government.
  • India has made this decision to reach out to Russia not just out of choice, but also out of necessity.
  • Moscow has leverage and influence to shape and change Beijing’s hard stance on the border issue.

Russia: A mediator for both

  • While India and China have been talking at each other — and not to each other — the outreach to Moscow is noteworthy.
  • It is widely known that Russia and China have grown their relationship in the past few years.
  • The Moscow-Beijing axis is crucial, especially since Washington has been at loggerheads with China in recent months and Russia much more calibrated, even in its response on the Covid-19 outbreak.

Sino-Russian ties: A response to US

  • Russia and China have had a rocky start to their relationship after Mao Zedong founded the People’s Republic of China.
  • When Mao made his first visit to Moscow after winning control of China, in 1949, he was made to wait for weeks for a meeting with the Soviet leader.
  • During the Cold War, China and the USSR were rivals after the Sino-Soviet split in 1961, competing for control of the worldwide Communist movement.
  • There was a serious possibility of a major war in the early 1960s and a brief border war took place in 1969.
  • This enmity began to reduce following Mao’s death in 1976, but relations were not very good until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

India and Russia

  • India has a historical relationship with Russia, spanning over seven decades.
  • While the relationship has grown in some areas and atrophied in some others, the strongest pillar of the strategic partnership is of the defence basket.
  • Although New Delhi has consciously diversified its new purchases from other countries, the bulk of its defence equipment is from Russia.
  • Estimates say 60 to 70 per cent of India’s supplies are from Russia, and New Delhi needs a regular and reliable supply of spare parts from the Russian defence industry.
  • In fact, Prime Minister Modi has held informal summits with only two leaders — Xi and Putin.

Russia position: then & now

  • During the Doklam crisis in 2017, Russian diplomats in Beijing were among the few briefed by the Chinese government.
  • While Russia’s position during the 1962 war was not particularly supportive of India, New Delhi takes comfort in Moscow’s support during the 1971 war.
  • On the events in Galwan, Moscow responded in a much-calibrated manner.
  • Kremlin has expressed its concerns over a clash between the military on the border between China and India but believes that the two countries could resolve this conflict themselves.
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