Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

[op-ed snap] Oldest friends: India and Russia


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Testing times for India-Russia bilateral relations and options available with India


Russian President’s India Visit

  1. India-Russia summits have traditionally been short on time and ceremony and big on productivity
  2. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 22-hour visit to Delhi last week was no exception
  3. The two countries announced a number of agreements, including a $5.43 billion S-400 Triumf missile system deal, a space cooperation arrangement to put an Indian in space, and an action plan for a new nuclear plant

Exploring new avenues

  1. PM Modi and Mr. Putin also addressed a business summit, in an attempt to diversify ties and increase bilateral trade, currently below $10 billion
  2. Much of the fresh momentum in bilateral engagement will come from the energy sector
  3. Several billions of dollars worth of investment and energy deals are in the pipeline

Geopolitical implications of agreements done

  1. The signing of the S-400 air defence system deal is of far greater consequence than its size
  2. It denotes India’s desire to deepen defence cooperation with Russia which is prepared to do this despite U.S. warnings that the deal could attract sanctions
  3. This deal comes just a month after India signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) for better interoperability with the U.S. military is a sign that India will not be forced or even persuaded into putting all its eggs in one strategic basket

Difficulties ahead for India

  1. India chose to sign the S-400 deal but resisted concluding other major defence deals with Russia on helicopters, stealth frigates and assault rifles
  2. More defence deals with Russia will make it increasingly difficult for the U.S. to give India a waiver from sanctions under CAATSA, its legislation aimed at curtailing defence and energy dealings with Russia, Iran and North Korea
  3. Washington has already reacted to the S-400 deal, making it clear that any waiver will not be on a “country” basis, but on a “transaction-by-transaction” basis
  4. Accepting a waiver will implicitly commit India to reducing its intake of Russian military hardware

Way Forward

  1. New Delhi’s assertion of “strategic autonomy” and desire for multipolarity will be seriously tested in the coming months
  2. The situation can be much more complex when friends expect you to choose between them
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