Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Rasht-Astara Railway Link


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Rasht-Astara Railway Link

Mains level : INSTC


Russia and his Iran has signed a deal to finance and build the 162 km Rasht-Astara Iranian railway, the main connection in the emerging North-South Transport Corridor.

Rasht-Astara Railway Link

  • The Rash Astra Railway is a 162-kilometer railway connecting Rasht (Iran) and Astara (Azerbaijan) on the border.
  • It is part of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and will significantly diversify global traffic flows.
  • The railway will facilitate connections between Russian ports on the Baltic Sea and Iranian ports in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf.


  • The INSTC is a 7,200-kilometer Multi-Mode Transit System connecting India, Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia, and Europe.
  • It promotes transportation cooperation among member states and includes ship, rail, and road routes.
  • Membership has expanded to include additional countries, and observer states and Baltic countries have expressed interest in joining.

Significance of INSTC for India

  • Central Asia trade: India has invested in the Chabahar Port in Iran, which serves as a doorway for trade with Central Asian countries.
  • Extended connection: INSTC offers potential connections to the Baltic, Nordic, and Arctic regions.
  • Bypassing Pakistan: INSTC provides an alternate route for India to connect with Central Asia, bypassing obstacles in Pakistan.
  • Fastest freight: It reduces transit time by 40% and freight costs by 30% compared to the Suez Canal route.
  • Alternative to Suez: Russia claims the project could ultimately rival the Suez Canal in terms of trade flows.

Challenges of INSTC

  • Challenges include limited financial support from major international institutions due to US sanctions on Iran.
  • Harmonization of tariffs and customs, increased private sector involvement, and improved informational connectivity are necessary for success.


  • More financing, cooperation, political will, and strategic planning are required to realize the full benefits of INSTC.
  • Addressing demand deficits and enhancing informational connectivity are crucial.
  • Collaboration and the establishment of industrial parks and special economic zones can contribute to the corridor’s development and commercial value.


Key terminologies

Multi-Mode Transit System: A system that integrates multiple modes of transportation, such as ship, rail, and road, for efficient movement of goods.

Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA): An agreement reached in 2015 between Iran and world powers regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

Suez Canal: A major global trade route connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea.

Chabahar Port: A port in Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan province, providing India with access to Central Asian countries.

Baltic Countries: Countries located in the Baltic region of Northern Europe, including Latvia and Estonia.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Eastern Economic Forum (EEF)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : EEF

Mains level : Read the attached story


Russia hosted the seventh Eastern Economic Forum- EEF Vladivostok from September 5 to 8. The four-day forum is a platform for entrepreneurs to expand their businesses into Russia’s Far East (RFE).

What is the Eastern Economic Forum-EEF?

  • The EEF was established in 2015 aiming to encourage foreign investments in the RFE to display:
  1. Economic potential
  2. Suitable business conditions and
  3. Investment opportunities in the region
  • Focus areas: The agreements focus on infrastructure, transportation projects, mineral excavations, construction, industry and agriculture.
  • With EEF, Russia is trying to attract the Asian economies in investing and developing the Far East.
  • This year, the Forum aimed at connecting the Far East with the Asia-Pacific

What does the EEF aim for?


  • FDI inflows: The primary objective of the EEF is to increase the Foreign Direct Investments in the RFE.
  • Natural resource exploitation: The region encompasses one-third of Russia’s territory and is rich with natural resources such as fish, oil, natural gas, wood, diamonds and other minerals.
  • Demographic revamp: The sparse population living in the region is another factor for encouraging people to move and work in the Far East.
  • Unleashing economic potential: The region’s riches and resources contribute to five percent of Russia’s GDP.

Success of EEF

  • Agreements signed at the EEF increased from 217 in 2017 to 380 agreements in 2021, worth 3.6 trillion roubles.
  • As of 2022, almost 2,729 investment projects are being planned in the region.
Who are the major actors in the EEF?
  • China is the biggest investor in the region as it sees potential in promoting the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative and the Polar Sea Route in the RFE.
  • China’s investments in the region account for 90% of the total investments.
  • South Korea has invested in shipbuilding projects, manufacturing of electrical equipment, gas-liquefying plants, agricultural production and fisheries.
  • Japan is another key trading partner. In 2017, its investments through 21 projects amounted to $16 billion.

How does Russia see Chinese investment in EEF?

  • Russia has been welcoming Chinese investments since 2015; more now than ever due to the economic pressures caused by the war in Ukraine.
  • The Trans-Siberian Railway has further helped Russia and China in advancing trade ties.
  • The countries share a 4000-km-long border, which enables them to tap into each other’s resources with some infrastructural assistance.
  • China is also looking to develop its Heilongjiang Province which connects with the RFE.
  • Both nations have invested in a fund to develop connectivity between the cities of Blagoveshchensk and Heihe.

India and Russia’s Far East

  • India seeks to expand its influence in the RFE.
  • In 2019, India also offered a $1 billion line of credit to develop infrastructure in the region.
  • During the forum, PM Modi expressed the country’s readiness in expanding trade, connectivity and investments in Russia.
  • India is keen to deepen its cooperation in energy, pharmaceuticals, maritime connectivity, healthcare, tourism, the diamond industry and the Arctic.

Strategic significance of EEF for Russia

  • Gateway to Asia: The RFE is geographically placed at a strategic location; acting as a gateway into Asia.
  • Negating the Ukrainian war impact: The Ukraine war is a worrying issue as it affects the economic growth of the country.
  • Surviving sanctions: Although, the EEF is an annual gathering, the forum comes at an opportune time for Russia who is dealing with the impact of the sanctions.
  • Supply chain resilience: The IPEF will also play a key role in building resilient supply chains.

Will India be able to strike a balance between the EEF and IPEF?

  • Both are incomparable: The US-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) and the EEF are incomparable based on its geographic coverage and the partnership with the host-countries.
  • India values both: India has not shied away from investing in the Russia-initiated EEF despite the current international conditions.
  • India is firm for its purpose: At the same time, India has given its confirmation and acceptance to three of the four pillars in the IPEF.


  • India understands the benefits of being involved in the development in the RFE but it also perceives the IPEF as a vital platform to strengthen its presence in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • India’s participation in the forum will help in disengaging from supply chains that are dependent on China and will also make it a part of the global supply chain network.


Also read:

[Sansad TV] Perspective: Russia’s Far East- Opportunities for India



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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Strains on India-Russia Defence Cooperation


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : India's import dependece for arms

As the war in Ukraine stretches over four months with no end in sight, it has given rise to apprehensions on Russia’s ability to adhere to timely deliveries of spares and hardware to India.

History of the bilateral defence ties

  • India was reliant, almost solely on the British, and other Western nations for its arms imports immediately after Independence.
  • However, this dependence weaned, and by the 1970s India was importing several weapons systems from then USSR, making it the country’s largest defence importer for decades.

A major chunk of India’s strategic arms

  • Russia has provided some of the most sensitive and important weapons platforms that India has required from time to time including nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers, tanks, guns, fighter jets, and missiles.
  • According to one estimate, the share of Russian-origin weapons and platforms across Indian armed forces is as high as 85%.
  • Russia is the second-largest arms exporter in the world, following only the United States.
  • For Russia, India is the largest importer, and for India, Russia is the largest exporter when it comes to arms transfer.

What saw the decline?

  • Between 2000 and 2020, Russia accounted for 66.5% of India’s arms imports.
  • Russia’s share in Indian arms imports was down to about 50% between 2016 and 2020, but it still remained the largest single importer.

Present status of defence cooperation

  • When the war began, Indian armed forces had stocks of spares and supplies for eight to ten months and the expectation was that the war would end quickly.
  • However, as it stretches on with no clear endgame, there are apprehensions on Russia’s ability to adhere to the timelines for both spares as well as new deliveries.
  • Armed forces are looking at certain alternative mitigation measures and identifying alternate sources from friendly foreign countries.
  • However, in the long term, this is also an opportunity for the private industry to step up production and meet the requirements.

Impact of the war

  • While some timeline lapses and shipping delays were possible, there would not be any dent on the Army’s operational preparedness along the borders.
  • In addition, the armed forces have also made significant emergency procurements since the standoff in Eastern Ladakh and have stocked up on spares and ammunition.
  • However, Russia has assured India that it would adhere to delivery timelines.
  • Since the war sees no end, Russian industry would be caught up in replenishing the inventories of their own armed forces.

What is the status of deals underway/new deals pending with Russia?

  • The defence trade between India and Russia has crossed $15 billion since 2018, in the backdrop of some big deals including the $5.43 billion S-400 long range air defence systems.
  • Other major contracts currently under implementation are construction of four additional stealth frigates in Russia and India,
  • There is a licensed production of the Mango Armor-piercing fin-stabilised discarding sabot (APFSDS) rounds for the T-90S tanks as also additional T-90S tanks, AK-203 assault rifles among others.

Deferred deals in downtime

  • There are several big deals deferred by the Defence Ministry as part of the review of all direct import deals.
  • This is in conjunction with efforts to push the ‘Make in India’ scheme in defence.
  • Russian deals have also been deferred including the one for 21 MiG-29 fighter jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF) along with the upgradation of 59 existing Mig-29 jets.
  • This also includes the deferment of the manufacture of 12 SU-30 MKI aircraft by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

What is the status of payments?

  • While India continues to remain Russia’s largest arms buyer with a major chunk of legacy hardware from Russia and the Soviet Union, the volume of imports has reduced in the last decade.
  • With Russia being shut out of the global SWIFT system for money transfers, India and Russia have agreed to conduct payments through the Rupee-Rouble arrangement.
  • With several big ticket deals including the S-400 under implementation, there are large volume of payments to be made.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Govt. steps in to tackle Russian trade hurdles


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Facets of Indian Diplomacy

The government has convened a multi-Ministerial group to look into how to overcome challenges in trade with Russia, including managing payments for exporters and importers.

Recent course of updates

  • Many parliamentarians have raised concerns over India’s abstentions at the United Nations and the impact of Indian policy on India’s trade and ties with the US.
  • Developments indicate a possible revival of “rupee-rouble trade” in the wake of economic sanctions against Russian banks and entities by more than 40 US and European allies.
  • India’s position has been “steadfast and consistent”, and India has repeatedly called for the immediate cessation of violence and end to all hostilities.

Gearing-up for a ‘Shaky’ response

  • FM responded to a question over India’s support on sanctions being “somewhat shaky” amongst Quad partners.
  • Leaders asked whether there would be any “negative impact” on India’s relations with its closest allies.

India’s clear stance

  • Indian foreign policy decisions are made in Indian national interest and we are guided by our thinking, our views and our interests.
  • So, there is no question of linking the Ukraine situation to issues of trade, the FM clarified.



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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Why NATO isn’t sending troops to Ukraine?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NATO

Mains level : Read the attached story

Amid Russia’s war on Ukraine, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has been rapidly deploying troops to member countries but has clarified that it has no plans of sending them to Ukraine.

What is NATO?

  • NATO is a military alliance established by the North Atlantic Treaty (also called the Washington Treaty) of April 4, 1949.
  • It sought to create a counterweight to Soviet armies stationed in Central and Eastern Europe after World War II.
  • Its original members were Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
  • NATO has spread a web of partners, namely Egypt, Israel, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland and Finland.

Why was it founded?

Ans. Communist sweep in Europe post-WWII and rise of Soviet dominance

  • After World War II in 1945, Western Europe was economically exhausted and militarily weak, and newly powerful communist parties had arisen in France and Italy.
  • By contrast, the Soviet Union had emerged from the war with its armies dominating all the states of central and Eastern Europe.
  • By 1948 communists under Moscow’s sponsorship had consolidated their control of the governments of those countries and suppressed all non-communist political activity.
  • What became known as the Iron Curtain, a term popularized by Winston Churchill, had descended over central and Eastern Europe.

Ideology of NATO

  • NATO ensures that the security of its European member countries is inseparably linked to that of its North American member countries.
  • It commits the Allies to democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law, as well as to the peaceful resolution of disputes.
  • It also provides a unique forum for dialogue and cooperation across the Atlantic.

What is Article 5 and why is it needed?

  • Article 5 was a key part of the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty, or Washington Treaty, and was meant to offer a collective defence against a potential invasion of Western Europe.
  • It states: (NATO members) will assist the party or parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.
  • However, since then, it has only been invoked once, soon after the 9/11 attack in the United States.

Why has Article 5 not been invoked this time?

  • The reason is simple: Ukraine is a partner of the Western defence alliance but not a NATO member.
  • As a result, Article 5, or the Collective Defense Pledge, does not apply.
  • While NATO has said it will not be sending troops to Ukraine, it did invoke Article 4, which calls for a consultation of the alliance’s principal decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council.
  • In its history, it has only been activated half a dozen times.
  • But the fact that this time around eight member nations chose to invoke it was enough to demonstrate the seriousness of the situation at a global level.

What may prompt NATO to invoke Article 5?

  • NATO will invoke Article 5 only if Russia launches a full-blown attack on one of its allies.
  • Some top US officials have warned of the impact of some of Russia’s cyberattacks being felt in NATO countries.
  • When you launch cyberattacks, they don’t recognize geographic boundaries.
  • Some of that cyberattack could actually start shutting down systems in eastern Poland.

But what is NATO’s problem with Russia?

  • Russia has long been opposed to Ukraine’s growing closeness with European institutions, particularly NATO.
  • The former Soviet republic shares borders with Russia on one side, and the European Union on the other.
  • After Moscow launched its attack, the US and its allies were quick to respond, imposing sanctions on Russia’s central bank and sovereign wealth funds.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Switzerland’s Neutral Foreign Policy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Neutral foreign policy

Mains level : Switzerland’s Neutrality Policy

Switzerland broke its 200-year long neutrality policy to sanction Moscow and its leaders.

What is the news?

  • Switzerland announced that it would join the European Union (EU) in closing the Swiss airspace to Russian aeroplanes.
  • It also wished for imposing financial sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin and other leaders.

Switzerland’s Policy of Permanent Neutrality

  • The tiny Alpine nation the size of Haryana has had a neutrality policy in place since 1815.
  • Its official website attests to this, noting that “permanent neutrality is a principle of Swiss foreign policy.”
  • Though it serves as the headquarters of several diplomatic missions and as the venue for historic treaties like the Geneva Convention, Switzerland is not a part of the European Union or NATO.
  • Historically, the Swiss had been famed warriors with expansionist ambitions until the 1500s when they lost the Battle of Marignano to the French.
  • The years that followed saw the Swiss shift its foreign policy to that of being an armed impartial state during wartime, a stance which was sorely tested in the decades that followed.

The World Wars and Switzerland

  • Switzerland shares borders with Germany, France and Italy.
  • During WW II, Switzerland found itself surrounded by Axis forces, with Hitler describing the land-locked territory as “a pimple on the face of Europe”.
  • It used a combination of military deterrence, strategic planning and economic neutrality to hold its own in 1940s Europe.
  • Besides this, the Swiss pursued a policy of armed neutrality, putting into place compulsory military service (which continues till date) to maintain military readiness in event of an invasion.

Recent deviations

  • Switzerland joined the United Nations as recently as 2002, putting an end to years to debate after 54 per cent of its population voting in favour of the move.
  • The Swiss federal government had said that it had weighed its neutrality and peace policy considerations into account to reach its decision.
  • The Swiss government has initially adopted a traditional and very narrow interpretation of neutrality, which translated to a decision to not issue any sanctions.
  • However, the Swiss parliament and citizens strongly pushed back, arguing that Russia’s massive military aggression cannot be tolerated.
  • This prompted the government to reconsider its position.



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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Doubts over Defence Supplies to India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : S-400 Triumf system

Mains level : Complications over India-Russia defence deals

With tensions escalating between Russia and the West over the Ukraine crisis, India, which has major defence cooperation with Moscow and Kyiv, faces uncertainty over timely deliveries of the S-400.

About S-400

  • The S-400 is known as Russia’s most advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defence system, capable of destroying hostile strategic bombers, jets, missiles and drones at a range of 380-km.

US reservations against S-400 purchase

  • The US has made it clear that the delivery of the five S-400 systems is considered a “significant transaction”.
  • Such deals are considered under its Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) of 2017.
  • It could trigger sanctions against Indian officials and the Government.


  • The CAATSA is designed to ensure that no country is able to increase military engagement with Iran, North Korea and Russia without facing deterrent punitive action from the US.
  • The sanctions are unilateral, and not part of any United Nations decision, and therefore no country is bound to accept them.
  • Section 231 says the President shall impose no fewer than five different sanctions on any Government that enters into a significant defence or intelligence deal with Russia.
  • Section 235 lists 12 options, including stopping credit lines from US and international banks such as the IMF, blocking sales of licensed goods and technology, banning banks, manufacturers and suppliers, property transactions and even financial and visa sanctions on specific officials.
  • However, the law also empowers the President to waiver sanctions or delay them if the waiver is in the US’s “vital national security interests”.

Has the US used CAATSA before for S-400 sales?

  • The US has already placed sanctions on China and Turkey for purchase of the S-400.
  • The sanctions included denial of export licences, ban on foreign exchange transactions, blocking of all property and interests in property within the US jurisdiction and a visa ban.

Types of sanctions laid

  • In 2020, the US sanctioned its NATO partner Turkey, which it had warned about CAATSA sanctions for years, besides cancelling a deal to sell Ankara F-35 jets.
  • The sanctions on Turkey’s main defence procurement agency, also included a ban on licences and loans, and blocking of credit and visas to related officials.

Likely impacts after India’s purchase

  • The Biden administration has no firm indication on where it leans on India’s case.
  • However, several senators (US parliamentarians) have called upon the Biden administration to consider a special waiver for India.
  • This is on account of India’s importance as a defence partner, and as a strategic partner on US concerns over China and in the Quad.
  • Other US leaders thinks that giving a waiver to India would be the wrong signal for others seeking to go ahead with similar deals.

India’s dependence on Russia

  • While Russia has been a traditional military supplier sharing platforms and technologies that others would not, the cooperation has further deepened in recent years.
  • The defence trade between the two countries has crossed $15 billion since 2018.
  • Even today, over 60% of Indian military inventory is of Russian origin, especially with respect to fighter jets, tanks, helicopters and submarines among others, while several deals are in the pipeline.

Why is the S-400 deal so important to India?

  • Security paradigm: S-400 is very important for India’s national security considerations due to the threats from China, Pakistan and now Afghanistan.
  • Air defence capability: The system will also offset the air defence capability gaps due to the IAF’s dwindling fighter squadron strength.
  • Russian legacy: Integrating the S-400 will be much easier as India has a large number of legacy Russian air defence systems.
  • Strategic autonomy: For both political as well as operational reasons, the deal is at a point of no return.


  • The deal is a way for the Government to assert its strategic autonomy.
  • India had earlier agreed to stop buying Iranian oil over the threat of sanctions in 2019, a move that caused India both financial and reputational damage.
  • Not giving in to the US’s unilateral sanctions would be one way to restore some of that.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

What is the International Court of Justice?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ICJ, ICC

Mains level : Not Much

Ukraine has filed an application before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), instituting proceedings against the Russian Federation for committing Genocide.

International Court of Justice

  • The ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN).
  • It was established in June 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations and began work in April 1946.
  • The court is the successor to the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ), which was brought into being through, and by, the League of Nations.
  • It held its inaugural sitting at the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands, in February 1922.

Its establishment

  • After World War II, the League of Nations and PCIJ were replaced by the United Nations and ICJ respectively.
  • The PCIJ was formally dissolved in April 1946, and its last president, Judge José Gustavo Guerrero of El Salvador, became the first president of the ICJ.
  • The first case, which was brought by the UK against Albania over concerning incidents in the Corfu channel — the narrow strait of the Ionian Sea between the Greek island of Corfu and Albania.

Seat and role

  • Like the PCIJ, the ICJ is based at the Peace Palace in The Hague.
  • It is the only one of the six principal organs of the UN that is not located in New York City.
  • The other five organs are:
  1. General Assembly
  2. Security Council
  3. Economic and Social Council
  4. Trusteeship Council
  5. Secretariat
  • The court as a whole must represent the main forms of civilization and the principal legal systems of the world.
  • The judges of the court are assisted by a Registry, the administrative organ of the ICJ. English and French are the ICJ’s official languages.

Jurisdiction of ICJ

  • All members of the UN are automatically parties to the ICJ statute, but this does not automatically give the ICJ jurisdiction over disputes involving them.
  • The ICJ gets jurisdiction only if both parties consent to it.
  • The judgment of the ICJ is final and technically binding on the parties to a case.
  • There is no provision of appeal; it can at the most, be subject to interpretation or, upon the discovery of a new fact, revision.
  • However, the ICJ has no way to ensure compliance of its orders, and its authority is derived from the willingness of countries to abide by them.

Judges of the court

  • The ICJ has 15 judges who are elected to nine-year terms by the UN General Assembly and Security Council, which vote simultaneously but separately.
  • To be elected, a candidate must receive a majority of the votes in both bodies, a requirement that sometimes necessitates multiple rounds of voting.
  • Elections are held at the UNHQ in New York during the annual UNGA meeting.
  • A third of the court is elected every three years.
  • The judges elected at the triennial election commence their term of office on February 6 of the following year.
  • The president and vice-president of the court are elected for three-year terms by secret ballot. Judges are eligible for re-election.

India in ICJ

  • Four Indians have been members of the ICJ so far.
  • Justice Dalveer Bhandari, former judge of the Supreme Court, has been serving at the ICJ since 2012.
  • Former Chief Justice of India R S Pathak served from 1989-91, and former Chief Election Commissioner of India Nagendra Singh from 1973-88.
  • Singh was also president of the court from 1985-88, and vice-president from 1976-79.
  • Before him, Sir Benegal Rau, who was an advisor to the Constituent Assembly, was a member of the ICJ from 1952-53.

Indian cases at the ICJ

  • India has been a party to a case at the ICJ on six occasions, four of which have involved Pakistan.
  • They are:
  1. Right of Passage over Indian Territory (Portugal v. India, culminated 1960);
  2. Appeal Relating to the Jurisdiction of the ICAO Council (India v. Pakistan, culminated 1972);
  3. Trial of Pakistani Prisoners of War (Pakistan v. India, culminated 1973);
  4. Aerial Incident of 10 August 1999 (Pakistan v. India, culminated 2000);
  5. Obligations concerning Negotiations relating to Cessation of the Nuclear Arms Race and to Nuclear Disarmament (Marshall Islands v. India, culminated 2016); and
  6. (Kulbhushan) Jadhav (India v. Pakistan, culminated 2019).


Relationship with the United Nations Independent; UN Security Council may refer matters to it Primary judicial branch of the UN.
Members 105 members 193 members (all members of the United Nations).
Derives authority from The Rome Statute Charter of the United Nations and the Statute of the International Court of Justice.
Scope of work Criminal matters – investigating and prosecuting crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes Civil matters- settling legal disputes between the member-states and giving advisory opinions on international legal issues
Jurisdiction Only the member nations of the ICC, which means around 105 countries. Can try individuals. All the member nations of the UN, which means 193 countries. Cannot try individuals and other private entities.
Composition 1 prosecutor and 18 judges, who are elected for a 9-year term each by the member-states which make up the Assembly of State Parties with all being from different nations 15 judges who are elected for a 9-year term each and are all from different nations.
Funding Funded by state parties to the Rome Statute and voluntary contributions from the United Nations, governments, individual corporations, etc. Funded by the UN.



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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

The anatomy of India’s Ukraine dilemma


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NATO

Mains level : Paper 2- Implications of Ukraine crisis for India


Late last week, India abstained from a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution which called for condemning the Russian military action against Ukraine.

Understanding India’s position on the Ukraine issue

  •  New Delhi has taken a subtle pro-Moscow position on the question of Russian attacks against Ukraine.
  • A geopolitical necessity: India’s Russia tilt should be seen not just as a product of its time-tested friendship with Moscow but also as a geopolitical necessity.
  • There are understandable reasons for India’s (subtle) pro-Russia position: an aggressive Russia is a problem for the U.S. and the West, not for India.
  •  North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) expansion is Russia’s problem, not India’s.
  • China problem: India’s problem is China, and it needs both the U.S./the West and Russia to deal with the “China problem”.
  • Neighbouring China as the rising superpower and Russia as its strategic ally challenging the U.S.-led global order at a time when China has time and again acted on its aggressive intentions vis-à-vis India, and when India is closest to the U.S. than ever before in its history, throws up a unique and unprecedented challenge for India.
  • There is an emerging dualism in contemporary Indian strategic Weltanschauung: the predicament of a continental space that is reeling under immense pressure from China, Pakistan and Taliban-led Afghanistan adding to its strategic claustrophobia; and, the emergence of a maritime sphere which presents an opportunity to break out of the same.

Why India needs to balance relations with Russia and the US

  • Relations with Russia to manage continental challenges: New Delhi needs Moscow’s assistance to manage its continental difficulties be it through defence supplies, helping it ‘return’ to central Asia, working together at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) or exploring opportunities for collaboration in Afghanistan.
  • Relations with US to manage maritime challenges: When it comes to the vast maritime sphere, the Indo-Pacific to be precise, Russia is not of great consequence to India.
  • That is where its American and western partners come into play. India is simply not in a position to address the China challenge in the maritime space without the active support of American and western navies and, of course, the Quad.
  • This unavoidable dualism in the contemporary Indian strategic landscape necessitates that India balances the two sides.

Implications of war on Ukraine for India

  • 1] It will embolden China: Russian action in Ukraine dismissing the concerns of the rest of the international community including the U.S. will no doubt embolden China and its territorial ambitions.
  • 2] Sanctions on Russia will impact India’s defence cooperation: The new sanctions regime may have implications for India’s defence cooperation with Moscow.
  • 3] Russia-China axis: The longer the standoff lasts, the closer China and Russia could become, which certainly does not help India.
  • 4] Focus will move away from Indo-Pacific: The more severe the U.S.-Russia rivalry becomes, the less focus there would be on the Indo-Pacific and China, which is where India’s interests lie.

Foreign policy challenge for India

  • Position of geopolitical vulnerability: India’s responses to the Russian aggression on Ukraine underline the fact that India is operating from a position of geopolitical vulnerability.
  • Going forward, India’s ability to be a “swing state”, “major power” or a “leading power” stands diminished.
  • There will be more middle-of-the-road behaviour from New Delhi rather than resolute positions on global strategic developments.
  • Interests over principles: India’s position also shows the unmistakable indication that when it comes to geopolitics, New Delhi will choose interests over principles.
  • A careful reading of India’s statements and positions taken over the past few days also demonstrates a certain amount of discomfort in having to choose interests over principles.
  • There is perhaps a realisation in New Delhi that a dog-eat-dog world, where rules and good behaviour do not matter, does not help India in the long run either.
  • Mastering the art of balancing extremes: Going forward, if tensions between Russia and the West persist, balancing extremes will be a key feature of Indian diplomacy.
  • Even though New Delhi abstained from voting on it (thereby siding with Moscow), it made its unhappiness about the Russian action clear in the written note.
  • Sticking to the principle of strategic autonomy: New Delhi’s response to the recent crisis, especially its “explanation of vote” at the UNSC indicates a careful recourse to the principle of strategic autonomy: India will make caveated statements and will not be pressured by either party.


India’s indirect support to the Russian position is not a product of Russian pressure but the result of a desire to safeguard its own interests.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SWIFT

Mains level : Global sanctions on Russia

The U.S., Europe and several other western nations are moving to exclude Russia from SWIFT, an international network for banks worldwide to facilitate smooth money transactions globally.

What is SWIFT?

  • SWIFT is an international network for banks worldwide to facilitate smooth money transactions globally.
  • It is basically a messaging network used by banks and financial institutions globally for quick and faultless exchange of information pertaining to financial transactions.
  • The Belgium-headquartered SWIFT connects more than 11,000 banking and securities organizations in over 200 countries and territories.
  • First used in 1973, it went live in 1977 with 518 institutions from 22 countries, its website states.

What exactly is it?

  • SWIFT is merely a platform that sends messages and does not hold any securities or money.
  • It facilitates standardized and reliable communication to facilitate the transaction.

How does it facilitate banking?

  • Each participant on the platform is assigned a unique eight-digit SWIFT code or a bank identification code (BIC).
  • If a person, say, in New York with a Citibank account, wants to send money to someone with an HSBC account in London, the payee would have to submit to his bank the London-based beneficiary’s account number along with the eight-digit SWIFT code of the latter’s bank.
  • Citibank would then send a SWIFT message to HSBC. Once that is received and approved, the money would be credited to the required account.

How is the organization governed?

  • SWIFT claims to be neutral. Its shareholders, consisting of 3,500 firms across the globe, elect the 25-member board, which is responsible for oversight and management of the company.
  • It is regulated by G-10 central banks from Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, the UK, the US, Switzerland, and Sweden, alongside the European Central Bank.
  • Its lead overseer is the National Bank of Belgium.
  • The SWIFT oversight forum was established in 2012.
  • The G-10 participants were joined by the central banks of India, Australia, Russia, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, the Republic of Turkey, and the People’s Republic of China.
  • Europe, Middle East, and Africa are highest contributors to SWIFT.

What happens if one is excluded from SWIFT?

  • US excluding Russia from SWIFT could have serious repercussions on how Russian banks carry out international financial transactions.
  • If a country is excluded from the most participatory financial facilitating platform, its foreign funding would take a hit, making it entirely reliant on domestic investors.
  • This is particularly troublesome when institutional investors are constantly seeking new markets in newer territories.
  • An alternative system would be cumbersome to build and even more difficult to integrate with an already expansive system.

Are any countries excluded from SWIFT?

  • Iranian banks were ousted from the system in 2018 despite resistance from several countries in Europe.
  • This step, while regrettable, was taken in the interest of the stability and integrity of the wider global financial system, and based on an assessment of the economic situation.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Russian Aggression on Ukraine and International Law


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Russia-Ukraine War

The Russian annexation of Russia has been condemned widely and raised several questions concerning violation of international law.

How is Russia violating the UN Charter?

(1) Principle of Non-Intervention

  • The Russian attack on Ukraine is violative of the non-intervention principle, and amounts to aggression under international law.
  • The principle of non-intervention in domestic affairs is the foundational principle on which existing international order is based.
  • The principle is enshrined in article 2(4) of the UN Charter requiring states to refrain from using force or threat of using force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.
  • It prohibits any kind of forcible trespassing in the territory of another state, even if it is for temporary or limited operations such as an ‘in and out’ operation.

(2) Principle of Non-Aggression

  • The UN General Assembly Resolution 3314 (1974) defines aggression as the use of armed force by a state against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another state.
  • Additionally, allowing one’s territory to be used by another state for aggression against a third state, also qualifies as an act of aggression.
  • Accordingly, Belarus can also be held responsible for aggression as it has allowed its territory to be used by Russia for attacking Ukraine.
  • Aggression is also considered an international crime under customary international law and the Rome statute establishing the International Criminal Court.

(3) Principle of Political Independence

  • Russia’s desire to keep Ukraine out of NATO is a prime reason for its use of force against Ukraine.
  • This is violative of Ukraine’s political independence under article 2(4) as Ukraine being a sovereign state is free to decide which organizations it wants to join.
  • Also, by resorting to use of force, Russia has violated article 2(3) which requires the states to settle their dispute by peaceful means in order to preserve international peace and security.

(4) Principle of Self-Defence

  • In face of the use of force by Russia, Ukraine has the right to self-defence under international law.
  • The UN Charter under article 51 authorizes a state to resort to an individual or collective self-defense until the Security Council take steps to ensure international peace and security.
  • In this case, it seems implausible for the UNSC to arrive at a decision as Russia is a permanent member and has veto power.

Russia’s hype:

(1) Nuclear escalation

  • It has been claimed by Russia that Ukraine may acquire nuclear weapons with the help of western allies.
  • However, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Legality of Threat of Nuclear Weapons case held that mere possession of nuclear weapons does not necessarily constitute a threat.
  • Thus, even if Ukraine has, or were to acquire nuclear weapons in the future, it does not become a ground for invoking self-defence by Russia.

(2) Aggression against Russia

  • Further, mere membership in a defence alliance such as NATO cannot necessarily be considered as a threat of aggression against Russia.
  • Thus, here too Russia cannot invoke self-defence.

(3) Act in self-defence

  • Russia can also not invoke anticipatory self-defence.
  • Such invocation according to the Caroline test would require that the necessity of self-defence was instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.
  • However, this is not the case with Russia.

What options is Ukraine left with?

  • Ukraine has a right under international law to request assistance from other states in form of military assistance, supply of weapons etc.
  • On the other hand, Russia has also claimed that it is acting in self-defence.
  • This claim is questionable, as there has been no use of force, or such threats against Russia by Ukraine.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Changing dynamics of Pakistan-Russia Relations


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : TAPI gas pipeline

Mains level : Russia-Pakistan affinity and its impact on India

The two-day visit to Moscow by Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan comes at a time when President Vladimir Putin is the bad boy of the world for his actions against Ukraine.

Pakistan–Russia Relations: A backgrounder

  • The Soviet Union and Pakistan first established diplomatic and bilateral relations on 1 May 1948.
  • For most of the Cold War, the Soviet Union’s relations with Pakistan have seen ups and downs during the different periods in the history of Pakistan.
  • Pakistan is credited for playing a key role for allying and supporting the West during this time period of the Cold War.
  • In recent years their ties have warmed as a countermeasure to warming ties between India and the United States.

Instances of Russia defying India

  • The two countries carried out their first-ever joint military drills in 2016 despite Indian requests to postpone due to the Uri attack.
  • Pakistan and Russia signed an agreement for the Pakistan Stream Gas pipeline from Karachi to Kasur, and reached a price accord by December 2016.
  • Pakistan has also granted Russia access to a warm water port in the Arabian Sea (Gwadar Port).
  • Their mutual partnership with China that has grown in recent years signals the undeniable development of a new axis in South Asia and Central Asia.
  • The two countries take the lead in projecting the Taliban as the rightful claimants to power in Kabul.

A timeline of relations

  • Cold war era: Pakistan’s relations with Russia have come a long way since the time it was a willing ally and treaty partner of the US bloc against the Soviet Union. It had helped the US repair its relations with China, which sent Beijing and Moscow further apart.
  • Paving way for India: In response, India and USSR solidified their ties with a defense pact and increased economic and people-to-people exchanges.
  • Afghan War: Pakistan saw itself as a frontline state against the spread of communism, and actively aided and assisted in the defeat of the Red Army in the first Afghan war, with the US and Saudi Arabia using the Pak Army.
  • Fall of USSR: The collapse of the Soviet Union led to major shifts in international relations. From their vantage points, Pakistan and Russia watched the US and post-economic-reforms India draw closer.

Pakistan parted with the US

  • Putin’s Russia began looking for new markets for its military hardware, as well as new international partners, began building ties with Pakistan.
  • By then, serious rifts had emerged between the Obama Administration and Pakistan.
  • The killing of Osama bin Laden in a stealth raid by US marines in Pakistan’s Abbottabad became the turning point.


(1) Helping the lonely Pakistan

  • In 2011, to New Delhi’s shock, Russia lifted its four-decade-old arms embargo on Pakistan — and within four years, would sell Pakistan its first MiG attack helicopters.
  • As a US defeat in Afghanistan began to look certain, both countries made common cause on Afghanistan, again to India’s dismay.
  • In September 2016, after the Jaish-e-Mohammed attack in Uri, Russia went ahead with a joint military exercise with Pakistan, ignoring New Delhi’s appeal.
  • In 2017, with Indo-Pak relations at their lowest, Russia sold more helicopters to Pakistan.

(2) Enters the old dragon

  • After its 2014 annexation of Crimea, Russia found a friend in China, the long-time friend of Pakistan, triangulating the relationship.
  • Both Pakistan and Russia are participants in China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
  • After the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, the world has seen the three take common positions and in tacit acknowledgment of each other’s interests in that country.

Impact on ties with India

  • The Russia-India relationship is not what it used to be in the Soviet days, both sides recognise its continued mutual benefits. However-
  1. Russia is hardly starry-eyed about its relations with Pakistan.
  2. It has clear views against Pakistan’s patronage of terrorists.
  3. While it is supportive of the Taliban regime, Russia is concerned about radical terrorism expansion from Afghanistan.
  • Russia remains India’s biggest arms supplier, and India took the risk of being sanctioned by the US when it bought the Russian S 400 missile defence system.
  • New Delhi has not yet allowed its close ties with the US to tilt its delicate balance on the Ukraine issue.

Significance of Pak Visit

  • IK is visiting Russia on the Kremlin’s invitation sides to convey their own messages to the West about building partnerships in a changing world.
  • He will become the first foreign leader to visit Russia after Putin recognized two breakaway regions of Ukraine as independent republics.
  • He is also the first Pakistani PM to travel to that country since the landmark visit by Nawaz Sharif in 1999.

What does Pakistan seeks to have?

  • Pakistan wants Russia to invest in, and construct a $2.5 billion gas pipeline from the seaport in Karachi to Kasur in the Punjab hinterland, even though this pipeline is unlikely to transport Russian gas.
  • Moscow, however, appears to be more interested in the possibility of building the 1,800-km Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Russia-China Axis


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : China-Russia axis and implications on India

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to China this month, as well as the Ukraine crisis, have turned the spotlight on Russia’s relations with China.

News: China-factor in Ukraine Crisis

  • Many in the west have blamed the Russia-China axis for motivating Moscow’s recent moves and ensuring it will not be completely isolated in the face of western sanctions.
  • At the same time, Beijing has found itself walking a tightrope in its response and has so far stopped short of endorsing Russia’s actions.

Russia-China Relations: A backgrounder

  • Relations between China and the former Soviet Union were frosty, marked by mistrust and doctrinal differences for most of the Cold War decades.
  • The change came in 1989, when Mikhail Gorbachev became the first Soviet leader to land in Beijing since Nikita Khrushchev in 1958.
  1. Economic dependency: A decade after the Soviet Union broke up, disappointed and humiliated and deep in economic crisis, Russia under Putin’s first presidency turned to China under President Jiang Zemin.
  2. Neighborhood: In 2001, the two countries signed the Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation, paving the way for expanding economic and trade ties.
  3. Technological support: For the new People’s Republic of China, the Soviet Union was the most important source of financial and technological support.
  4. Respect for sovereignty: Russia’s backing for China’s position on Taiwan is also a benchmark.

Current state of ties

  • Last year, Russia’s Foreign Minister has described relations as the “best in their entire history”. Both premiers have met 38 times (in person and virtually) since 2013.
  • The biggest factor behind their current closeness is:
  1. Shared discomfort with the US and its allies
  2. NATO and its ideological cold war approaches
  3. Indo-Pacific strategy and QUAD
  4. One-China Principle

Military closeness

  • China in 2014 became the first foreign buyer of the S-400 missile defence system, which India has also purchased (although there have been reported delays in delivery for reasons unknown).
  • Their joint exercises have also grown in scope.
  • Last year, a third “joint strategic air patrol” was held over the East China Sea.

Trade and Commerce

  • Russia is China’s largest source of energy imports and second largest source of crude oil.
  • Energy set to account for 35% of trade in 2022.
  • China has been Russia’s biggest trading partner for 12 consecutive years and accounts for close to 20% of Russia’s total foreign trade (Russia, on the other hand, accounts for 2% of China’s trade).
  • But Russia is, for China, a key market for project contracts besides energy supplies.
  • Chinese companies signed construction project deals worth $5 billion last year — for the third straight year.

Chinese response to the Ukraine Crisis

  • Given these deep trade linkages, China does not want instability (or, for that matter, a spurt in energy prices).
  • China has iterated that the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected and safeguarded.
  • China has preferred resolution to the current crisis through diplomacy and a return to the Minsk Agreement.
Minsk Agreement: They were a series of international agreements which sought to end the war in the Donbas region of Ukraine.

Implications for the world

  • China has repeatedly underlined that it is sympathetic to Russia’s concerns on NATO, which mirror its own opposition to America’s allies in the Indo-Pacific.
  • As strategic back-to-back fraternal partners, China is obliged to bolster Russia in time of need.
  • With consistent support from China, the Russian economy has become increasingly resilient following years of sanctions imposed by the US and other Western developed countries.
  • A strong economy will back up Moscow to deflect ruthless economic coercion from the US.

Implications for India

  • Strategists in the west and in India have often questioned the robustness of the relationship as well as Russia’s possible unease at being the “junior partner” and increasingly beholden to Chinese interests.
  • The Russian President’s invite to Pak PM Imran Khan is the recent unwelcomed moved for India.
  • In this regard, New Delhi expects Sino-Russian closeness to continue, which poses its own challenges.
  • This is not, however, an entirely new situation, as history reminds us, on how the Soviet Union responded to China’s attack on India in 1962.


  • It is no doubt that India would restrict its foreign policy choices and undermine its own status as a rising power of global standing by taking sides in a conflict that has nothing to do with it.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

India and the Great Power rivalry


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : AUKUS

Mains level : Paper 2- Challenges for India as world moves toward bloc politics


Germany has become a weaker link in the Western coalition against Moscow and Beijing.

The US-Russia-China power dynamics

  • There is a convergence between China and Russia on a range of issues from NATO expansion to the AUKUS alliance. 
  • Despite their problems with the US, both Moscow and Beijing want a productive partnership with Washington.
  • Both Russia and China want to leverage the united front to negotiate better terms from America.
  • Exploiting the contradiction between Russia and China: Washington, in turn, wants to explore the cleavages between Moscow and Beijing.
  • Focus on challenges from China: Biden’s outreach to Putin last year was based on the premise that the US could better focus on the challenges from China in the Indo-Pacific if there was a reasonable relationship with Russia in Europe.
  • Putin is trying to take advantage of that proposition by raising the stakes in Europe.
  • Exploiting economic means: If Putin is focused on military means to rewrite the European security order with the US, Xi is focused on the economic means to alter the US ties.
  • Xi is making a big play for the Wall Street bankers who see merits in engagement with Beijing and lobby Washington to scale down the confrontation with China.

The US resilience

  •  The chaos of American domestic politics and the continuing arguments between the US and its European partners tend to amplify the disagreements within the West.
  •  It would be a mistake for Putin and Xi to mistake Western disagreements for strategic divergence.
  • Consensus on challenging China: The last few years have seen the quick emergence of a new US consensus on challenging China despite the polarisation of the American political class.
  • The idea that the US can’t risk a two-front challenge with Russia and China is popular but mistaken.
  • Power of the US and its allies: Despite the dramatic rise of China and its new partnership with Russia, the united front can’t really match the comprehensive national power of the US and its allies.
  • India is now a strategic partner of the US and faces growing challenges from China.
  • In Asia, Biden has revived the Anglosphere (the AUKUS alliance with the UK and Australia), elevated the Quad to the summit level, and reached out to the ASEAN.
  • In Europe, the US is getting NATO in order.
  • Britain has taken the lead in the diplomatic confrontation with Russia.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron is coordinating with the US in dealing with the Ukraine crisis.
  • Beyond the rebuilding of US alliances, Washington has an important lever which is the exploitation of the domestic political vulnerabilities of “Czar Putin” and “Emperor Xi”.

Challenge for India

  • New dynamics between two coalitions: India’s approach will depend upon the new dynamic between the two coalitions as well as its own relations with China, Russia, and the US.
  • As both sides consolidate their global coalitions, it will get harder to be in the middle.
  • India would like to see Russia find accommodation with the West in Europe; but if Russia’s relations with the West deteriorate further in Europe, Delhi is unlikely to let Moscow undermine its growing partnership with the US and its allies.


With the return of great power rivalry coinciding with India’s deteriorating ties with China, Delhi now stands closer than ever before to the West.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

What Russia really wants


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NATO

Mains level : Paper 2- Disruption in Central Asia and role of Russia


Vladimir Putin, who annexed Crimea in 2014 has now mobilised some 100,000 troops on the Ukraine border.

How insecurity and history plays role in Russia’s actions

  • Russia, the world’s largest country by land mass, lacks natural borders except the Arctic Ocean in the north and the Pacific in the far east.
  • Its vast land borders stretch from northern Europe to Central and north east Asia.
  • The country’s heartland that runs from St. Petersburg through Moscow to the Volga region lies on plains and is vulnerable to attacks.
  • In the last two centuries, Russia saw two devastating invasions from the west — the 1812 attack by Napoleonic France and the 1941 attack by Nazi Germany. 
  • After the Second World War, Russia re-established its control over the rim land in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, which it hoped would protect its heartland.
  • But the disintegration of the Soviet Union threw its security calculations into disarray, deepening its historical insecurity.

NATO’s expansion after disintegration of the Soviet Union

  • When the Soviet Union collapsed, Russia lost over three million square kilometres of sovereign territory.
  •  In the last months of the Soviet Union, the West promised that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) would not “expand an inch to the east”.
  • The United States and the United Kingdom repeated the pledge after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
  • But despite the promises, NATO continued expansion.
  • In March 1999, in the first enlargement since the end of the Cold War, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland (all were members of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact) joined NATO.
  • Five years later, seven more countries — including the three Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, all of which share borders with Russia — were taken into the alliance.
  • Russia felt threatened but was not able to respond.
  • But in 2008, when the U.S. promised membership to Georgia and Ukraine in the Bucharest summit, Russia, which was coming out of the post-Soviet retreat, responded forcefully.

How Russia see NATO expansion as threat to its dominance on Black Sea

  • Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania, all Black Sea basin countries, are NATO members.
  • Ukraine and Georgia are the other countries that share the Black Sea coast, besides Russia.
  • Russia was already feeling squeezed on the Black Sea front, its gateway to the Mediterranean Sea.
  • If Ukraine and Georgia also join NATO, Russia fears that its dominance over the Black Sea would come to an end.
  • So, in 2008, Mr. Putin sent troops to Georgia over the separatist conflict in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
  • In 2014, when the Kremlin-friendly regime of Ukraine was toppled by pro-western protesters, he moved to annex the Crimean peninsula, expanding Russia’s Black Sea coast, thereby protecting its fleet based in Sevastopol in Crimea.

Restoring the rim land

  • In recent years, Mr. Putin has tried to turn every crisis in the former Soviet region into a geopolitical opportunity.
  • South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the self-proclaimed republics that broke away from Georgia, are controlled by Russia-backed forces.
  •  In 2020, when protests erupted in Belarus after a controversial presidential election, Mr. Putin sent assistance to the country to restore order.
  • In the same year, Russia sent thousands of “peacekeepers” to end the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
  • Earlier this year, Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko, with Mr. Putin’s backing, manufactured a migrant crisis on the Polish border of the European Union.
  • This month, when violent unrest broke out in Kazakhstan, the largest and wealthiest country in Central Asia, its leader turned to Russia for help.

How do geopolitical circumstances favour Russia?

  • The U.S.’s ignominious withdrawal from Afghanistan has left the Central Asian republics deeper in the Russian embrace.
  • Europe is very much dependent on Russian gas, which limits its response.
  • For years, the West, the winner of the Cold War, discounted Mr. Putin.
  • Having failed to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan, NATO is unlikely to pick a war with Russia over Ukraine.


By destabilising Georgia and Ukraine and re-establishing Russia’s hold in Belarus, Caucasus and Central Asia, Moscow has effectively stalled NATO’s further expansion into its backyard.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

CSTO troops deployed in Kazakhstan


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CSTO

Mains level : Russia military moves in erstwhile USSR countries

A Moscow-led military alliance called Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) dispatched troops to help quell mounting unrest in Kazakhstan.

Ongoing situation in Kazakhstan

  • Long seen as one the most stable of the ex-Soviet republics of Central Asia, energy-rich Kazakhstan is facing its biggest crisis.
  • There are ongoing protests over rising fuel prices escalated into widespread unrest.
  • The nationwide protests are also signifying a wider, region-wide longing for political change.
  • Under increasing pressure, Kazakh President appealed to the Russia for CSTO army to be deployed in Kazakhstan.

Concerns over CTSO troop’s deployment

  • It is argued that domestic turmoil could be utilized by Russian nationalists for asserting their claims in Northern Kazakhstan.

What is CSTO?

  • The CSTO is a Russia-led military alliance of seven former Soviet states that was created in 2002.
  • Current CSTO members are Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Russian Federation and Tajikistan.
  • Afghanistan and Serbia hold observer status in the CSTO.
  • Its purpose is to ensure the collective defence of any member that faces external aggression.

Outlined functions of CSTO

  • Version of NATO: It has been described by political scientists as the Eurasian counterpart of NATO, which has 29 member states, while the CSTO has just six.
  • Arms trade and mutual defense: CSTO supports arms sales and manufacturing as well as military training and exercises, making the CSTO the most important multilateral defence organization in the former Soviet Union.
  • Non- proliferation of weapons:  CSTO also coordinates efforts in fighting the illegal circulation of weapons among member states and has developed law enforcement training for its members in pursuit of these aims.

What does CSTO membership provide?

  • Barring relations with NATO: While CSTO membership means that member states are barred from joining other military alliances, limiting, for example, their relationship with NATO.
  • Benefits in arms import from Russia: Its members receive discounts, subsidies, and other incentives to buy Russian arms, facilitating military cooperation.
  • Assurance against military conquest: In the CSTO, aggression against one signatory is perceived as aggression against all. It however remains unclear whether this feature works in practice.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Why the Russia-West equation matters to India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Implications of Russia-West relations for India


Thirty years ago this week, the Soviet Union collapsed — after seven decades of an expansive global role. Few countries have been as significant as Russia for modern India’s evolution.

Impact of Russian geopolitics on India’s worldviews

  • Russia’s relations with the West have always had consequences for India’s international relations.
  • India’s fear of a unipolar world dominated by the US: After the collapse of the USSR in December 1991, the loss of the long-standing Soviet ally left Delhi in fears of a unipolar world dominated by the US.
  • These anxieties were accentuated by post-Soviet Russia’s quick embrace of the US and the West.
  • However, by the turn of the millennium, relations between Russia and the West had begun to sour.
  • That drew India once again closer to Russia.
  • Russia’s growing closeness to China: Moscow also roped in Beijing to build a new coalition — the RIC — to promote a multipolar world that would limit the dangers of American hyperpower.
  • Improvement in India-US relations: India’s fears of the unipolar moment turned out to be overblown and Delhi’s ties with Washington began to see rapid improvement since 2000.
  • The upswing in India’s ties with America, however, coincided with a steady downturn in the relations between Russia and the US.

Tension between Russia and the West

  • The continuous escalation of tensions between Russia and the West culminated in the last few weeks in Ukraine — at the heart of Europe.
  • Moscow’s military mobilisation on the frontier with Ukraine — that was part of the Soviet Union until 1991 — raised alarm bells of a new war between the forces of Russia and the US-led European military alliance, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
  • Last week, Russia presented several proposals for a new European security architecture.
  • Moscow is calling for an end to NATO’s further eastward expansion.
  • Moscow also wants NATO to rescind its earlier promise to make Ukraine and Georgia — two former Soviet Republics — members of the military alliance.

Major compromises between US and Russia

  • The resolution of US-Russian differences, however, involves some major compromises.
  • Russia aware of the over reliance on China: While Russia has demonstrated that its interests can’t be simply ignored by the West, it also recognises the costs of a prolonged confrontation with the US and Europe and the dangers of relying solely on China to secure its geopolitical interests.
  • Russia seeking accommodation with US and Europe: While Moscow is unlikely to abandon the partnership with China, there is no doubt that an accommodation with America and Europe is a high priority for Russia.
  • US to focus on China challenge: The US, which is now focused on the China challenge, appears interested in easing the conflict with Russia.
  • Despite its extraordinary military resources, Washington can’t afford to fight in both Asia (with China) and Europe (with Russia).

Implications for India

  • Role of ideological sentiment: While coping with the complex dynamic of Russia’s relations with the West has been an enduring element of independent India’s foreign policy, Delhi’s thinking on Russia has too often been coloured by ideological sentiment.
  • In Delhi, the tendency is to over-determine Russia’s contradictions with the West.
  • It is not Russia’s national destiny to forever confront the West.
  • Russia’s current problems with the West are not about ideological principles.
  • It is about the terms of an honourable accommodation.
  • Prior to the 1917 revolution, Russia was a leading part of the European great power system.
  • Delhi can’t influence the new effort to build a mutually acceptable security order in Europe, but it can welcome and support it.
  • Role of Asian geopolitics: That the pressure for this attempted reset in Russia’s relations with the West is coming from Asian geopolitics is of some significance.
  • A reconciliation between Russia and the West will make it a lot easier for India to manage its own security challenges.


Delhi knows that stabilising the Asian balance of power will be difficult without a measure of US-Russian cooperation in Europe. If Moscow — at odds with the West in the last two decades — deepens its current close alignment with Beijing, it will be a lot harder to prevent Chinese dominance over Asia.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Reciprocal Exchange of Logistics (RELOS) Agreement with Russia


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various logistics agreement mentioned

Mains level : India-Russia Defense Cooperation

India and Russia are set to ink the RELOS logistics exchange pact during the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin for the Indo-Russia summit.

What are Logistics Agreements, in general?

  • Logistical exchange agreements are designed so that partner countries can enjoy ease of access to use each other’s military facilities like ports, bases, and military installations.
  • Such agreements save enormous time and also frees up the need for constant paperwork when one military obtains assistance on matters like refuelling, berthing, use of aviation infrastructure, etc.

RELOS Agreement with Russia

  • RELOS agreement with Russia would grant “access to Russian naval port facilities in the Arctic”, thus enhancing “Indian Navy’s reach and operational experience in Polar waters”.

Need for RELOS

  • Despite growing engagement with the US on military hardware and tech, Russia remains a partner with whom India has shared traditionally deep defence ties.
  • Russia’s growing proximity to China and Pakistan has of late been seen as casting a shadow on the Moscow-New Delhi engagement.
  • To that extent, RELOS will be an important step forward in the military sphere as it aims at fostering interoperability and sharing of logistics.
  • The “long overdue” agreement was to have come up for signing in 2019 but that was put off pending finalisation of its terms.

Strategic significance of RELOS Agreement

  • Naval Cooperation: It is usually the Indian Navy, the most outgoing force of the three services, that stands to benefit the most from a logistical exchange agreement.
  • Interoperability: These impart enhanced operational turnaround and strengthened interoperability on the high seas.
  • Military enhancements: Given the percentage of Russian military hardware in the Indian armed forces, the two sides can take advantage, through RELOS, of increased interoperability “in any hostile situation in the future”.
  • Future defence purchases: India has acquired advanced defence systems from Russia, including fighter jets, and is looking to again obtain a nuclear-powered attack submarine on a long-term lease from Moscow.

Fulfilling Arctic aspirations of India

  • Navigation: From a geostrategic point of view, it would give Indian Navy better access to northern sea routes and Russian ports in the Arctic, where India is looking to set up an Arctic station.
  • Energy cooperation: Russia and India are also exploring enhanced energy cooperation in the Arctic region.
  • Competing China: India’s presence in Arctic will act as a strategic counterweight to China’s strategic posturing with Beijing and Moscow sharing “synergy” in the Arctic.

Does India have similar arrangements with other Countries?

  • India has logistical exchange agreements with six other countries, including Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, partners US (LEMOA), Japan and Australia.
  • Singapore, France and South Korea are the other countries with which similar arrangements have been effected.
  • India has become more comfortable in concluding such arrangements with other countries and is currently pursuing one with the UK while exploring arrangement with other partners like Vietnam.

Other defence trade between the two countries

  • Russia continues to be among India’s biggest defence suppliers.
  • The two sides are now looking to move from licence manufacture to joint research and co-development of defence equipment.
  • Both nations have agreed for the manufacture of over six lakh AK-203 assault rifles by a Joint Venture, Indo-Russian Rifles Private Ltd, at Korwa, Amethi, in UP.
  • Russia has started deliveries of the S-400 Triumf long-range air defence systems to India. The first division will be delivered by the end of 2021.
  • There are several other big such as procurement of 21 Mig-29s and 12 Su-30MKI fighters, Igla-S short-range air defence systems and the manufacture of 200 K-226T utility helicopters.

Future trajectory of the defence cooperation

  • Timely supply of spares and support to the large inventory of Russian hardware in service with Indian military has been a major issue from India.
  • To address this, Russia has made legislative changes allowing its companies to set up joint ventures in India to address it following an Inter-Governmental Agreement signed in 2019.
  • This is in the process of being implemented.
  • With increased competition from the U.S., France, Israel and others who have bagged major deals in recent years, Russia is also focusing on timely deliveries and lifetime support.


  • Russia will remain a key defence partner for India for decades to come.
  • In line with India’s quest for self-sufficiency, such partnerships help curb the reliance of India over other countries.
  • This will thereby curb India’s dependency in near future.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

What’s behind the Russia-Ukraine Conflict?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Ukraine-Russia Conflict

Thousands of Russian troops have been deployed to stations along Ukraine’s border, sparking fears among Western leaders and Ukraine itself that Moscow is planning an invasion

Roots of the Russia-Ukraine Conflict

Ans. USSR disintegration

  • Ukraine was a part of the Russian empire for centuries before becoming a Soviet republic.
  • It won independence as the USSR broke up in 1991.
  • Since then, it has moved to shed its Russian imperial legacy and is in increasingly close ties with the West.
  • After the Crimean annexation, both nations have signed ceasefire agreements at Minsk in 2014 and 2015.

The beginning

Ans. Separatist insurgency in Ukraine’s East (by Russian speaking population)

  • In 2014, then Russian-leaning Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych rejected an association agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Moscow.
  • This sparked mass protests that led to his ouster in 2014.
  • Russia responded by annexing Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and throwing its weight behind a separatist insurgency that broke out in Ukraine’s east.

Beginning of armed conflict

  • More than 14,000 people have died in the fighting that devastated Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland known as Donbas.
  • Ukraine and the West accused Russia of sending its troops and weapons to back the rebels.
  • Moscow denied that, charging that Russians who joined the separatists were volunteers.
  • Earlier this year, a spike in cease-fire violations in the east and a Russian troop concentration near Ukraine fueled war fears.

Why is Russia resented over Ukraine?

  • Cultural ties defying the conflict: The Russian president has repeatedly described Russians and Ukrainians as “one people” and claims that Ukraine has unfairly received historic Russian lands during Soviet times.
  • Influence of the ‘West’: The Kremlin has accused Ukraine of failing to honor the 2015 peace deal and criticized the West for failing to encourage Ukrainian compliance.
  • Asylum to rebels: The agreement was a diplomatic coup for Moscow, requiring Ukraine to grant broad autonomy to the rebel regions and offer a sweeping amnesty to the rebels.
  • Affinity with the US and NATO: Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO represent a red line for Moscow.

American concern over Russian build-up

  • Buffer state with Russia: Ukraine is a crucial buffer between Russia and the West.
  • Heavy troop deployment: Russia hasn’t provided any details about its troop numbers and locations, saying that their deployment on its own territory shouldn’t concern anyone.
  • Invasion: Russia is planning to deploy an estimated 175,000 troops and almost half of them are already stationed along various points near Ukraine’s border in preparation for a possible invasion.
  • Protection of its ally: Ukraine has been a close ally of the US. Hence, NATO has placed its military infrastructure closer to Russia.

Recent developments

  • As it moves a large number of troops towards the border, Russia seeks assurances from the US that Ukraine will not be inducted into NATO.
  • However, US President Joe Biden has made it clear that he is not prepared to give any such assurance.
  • This has left the countries in a stand-off, with tens of thousands of Russian troops ready to invade Ukraine at short notice, and the West not budging on Russia’s demands.
  • Experts believe that Russia is keeping the tensions high at the Ukraine border in order to get sanctions relief and other concessions from the West.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Realising the potential of India-Russia ties


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : S-400

Mains level : Paper 2- India- Russia ties in the changed geopolitical context


The Russian president is on visit to India. Visits by Russian presidents to India always invoke a sense of nostalgia. The Moscow-Delhi relationship dates back to the Cold War era and it has been strong ever since.

Factors limiting the possibilities for bilateral partnership

  • The conflict between Russia and the West: One factor is the continuing conflict between the Kremlin and the West.
  • Absence of trade between India and Russia: The other is the absence of a thriving commercial relationship between India and Russia.
  • India-US relations: India’s relations with Washington has never been as intense as it is today.
  • Russia-China relations: Moscow’s embrace of Beijing is tighter than ever.
  • The US-China rivalry: That the US and China are now at each other’s throats makes the great power dynamic a lot more complicated for India and Russia.

Importance of trade ties

  • Need for robust business ties: That Delhi and Moscow have problems with the best friend of the other would have been more manageable if business ties between India and Russia were solid.
  • Where India and Russia have greater freedom is in the economic domain, but their failure to boost the commercial relationship has been stark.
  • India-Russia annual trade in goods is stuck at about $10 billion.
  • Slow progress on enhancing trade and investment ties: During the last 20 summits with Putin, the two sides have repeatedly affirmed the importance of enhancing trade and investment ties; but progress has been hard to come by.
  • How to fix the problem? The problem clearly can’t be fixed at the level of governments.
  • The Russian business elites gravitate to Europe and China. The Indian corporations are focused on America and China.

Russia-US ties and its implications for India

  • Implications for India? The structural constraints posed by the great power dynamic and vastly different appreciation of the regional security environment could be reduced if matters improve between Washington and Moscow.
  • In Washington, the Biden administration recognises the importance of ending this permanent crisis in US-Russian relations.
  • Winning a strategic competition with China: The Biden administration, which is focused on winning the intensifying strategic competition with China, values a stable relationship with Russia.
  •  Nothing pleases Moscow more than the image of being Washington’s equal on the global stage.
  • Relief for India: A less conflictual relationship between Washington and Moscow will be a huge relief for India; but Delhi can’t nudge them closer to each other.

Why the partnership with India matters to Russia

  • Dangers of excessive reliance on China: Persistent conflict with the US, Europe, and Japan have moved Moscow ever closer to Beijing.
  • But Moscow knows the dangers of relying solely on a neighbour which has risen to greatness — the Chinese economy at nearly $15 trillion today is nearly 10 times larger than that of Russia.
  • Sustaining the traditional partnership with India: While resetting Russia’s relations with the West is hard, sustaining the traditional partnership with Delhi is of some political value to Moscow.
  • Longstanding defence ties: Russia is pleased that the S-400 missile sale has gone through despite strong US opposition.
  • For it signals Delhi’s commitment not to let Washington roll back India’s longstanding defence ties with Russia.
  • Russia knows India’s strategic cooperation with the US has acquired an unstoppable momentum; and Delhi knows it has no veto over the Sino-Russian strategic partnership.
  • Moscow and Delhi are learning to live with this uncomfortable unreality and stabilising their political ties within that context.

Consider the question “While both India and Russia have drifted apart from the depth of past partnerships, there is a need for stabilising their political ties within the changed context.Comment.”


Delhi and Moscow have no reason to be satisfied with the poor state of their commercial ties. The success of Monday’s summit lies not in squeezing more out of bilateral defence ties, but in laying a clear path for expansive economic cooperation, and generating a better understanding of each other’s imperatives on Afghanistan and the Indo-Pacific.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Energy cooperation as the backbone of India-Russia ties


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Energy partnership with Russia


With its abundant energy sources and appetite for trade diversification, Russia could be an ultimate long-term partner of India as it tries to diversify its trade relations.

Energy partnership

  • Indian Prime Minister in a virtual address at 6th Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Russia’s Vladivostok said that “India-Russia energy partnership can help bring stability to the global energy market.”
  • Indian and Russian Energy Ministers announced that the countries’ companies have been pushing for greater cooperation in the oil and gas sector beyond the U.S.$32 billion already invested in joint projects.
  • India’s Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Hardeep Singh Puri referred to Russia as the largest investor in India’s energy sector.
  • One of the examples of cooperation between the two countries in energy transformation is the joint venture between India’s Reliance Industries Ltd. and Russia’s Sibur, the country’s largest petrochemicals producer.
  • Apart from accounting for most of the Indian butyl rubber market, Reliance Sibur Elastomers exports its products to Asia, Europe, the United States, Brazil and other countries.
  • A few years ago, Rosneft invested U.S.$12.9 billion in India’s second-largest private oil refiner, Essar Oil, renamed Nayara Energy, marking it one of the most significant foreign investments in years.
  • Partnership in renewable: In efforts to transition to green energy, India has recently achieved a significant milestone of completing the countrywide installation of 100 gigawatts of total installed renewable energy capacity, excluding large hydro.
  • A recent Deloitte report has forecasted that India could gain U.S.$11 trillion in economic value over the next 50 years by limiting rising global temperatures and realising its potential to ‘export decarbonization’.
  • Unknowns of climate change and threats of a new pandemic suggest that the country should accelerate its energy transition. Russia, one of the key global players across the energy market, could emerge as an indispensable partner for such a transition.
  • Partnership in nuclear energy: Russian companies have been involved in the construction of six nuclear reactors in the Kudankulam nuclear power project at Tamil Nadu.
  • India and Russia secure the potential of designing a nuclear reactor specifically for developing countries, which is a promising area of cooperation.
  • India’s nuclear power generation capacity of 6,780 MW may increase to 22,480 MW by 2031, contributing to the country’s efforts to turn to green energy.

Way forward

  • In September, almost all of Russia’s major energy companies were interested in projects in India, Russia’s Energy Minister said at the Vladivostok forum in September, adding that he sees prospects for energy cooperation in all areas.
  • However, the current bilateral exchange rate needs to accelerate for India to grasp its potential from energy transformation.


To meet its growing energy demand and succeed in green transformation, India needs approximately U.S.$500 billion of investments in wind and solar infrastructure, grid expansion, and storage to reach the 450 GW capacity target by 2030. Therefore, more efforts are needed to expand cooperation with such partners as Russia.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Russia breaks diplomatic ties with NATO


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

Mains level : Russia Vs. Nato

Russia has decided that it would halt the activities of its diplomatic mission to NATO after it expelled eight Russian diplomats in a row over spying.

Why such move?

  • NATO had set up a prohibitive regime for Russian diplomats in Brussels by banning them from its headquarters building.
  • Relations between Moscow and the West have been strained for years, but the immediate impetus for the Russian move was a spy scandal.
  • Military tensions have also escalated in recent years, including last spring when Russian troops massed along Ukraine’s border (probably for invasion).

Significance of the move

  • The decision will end a post-Cold War experiment, never very successful, in building trust between Russia and the Western alliance.
  • It was established decades ago to contain the Soviet Union, which officials in Moscow accused of later encroaching on former Soviet territory.

About North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

  • NATO is a military alliance established by the North Atlantic Treaty (also called the Washington Treaty) of April 4, 1949.
  • It sought to create a counterweight to Soviet armies stationed in Central and Eastern Europe after World War II.
  • Its original members were Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
  • NATO has spread a web of partners, namely Egypt, Israel, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland and Finland.

Why was it founded?

Ans. Communist sweep in Europe post-WWII and rise of Soviet dominance

  • After World War II in 1945, Western Europe was economically exhausted and militarily weak, and newly powerful communist parties had arisen in France and Italy.
  • By contrast, the Soviet Union had emerged from the war with its armies dominating all the states of central and Eastern Europe.
  • By 1948 communists under Moscow’s sponsorship had consolidated their control of the governments of those countries and suppressed all non-communist political activity.
  • What became known as the Iron Curtain, a term popularized by Winston Churchill, had descended over central and Eastern Europe.

Ideology of NATO

  • NATO ensures that the security of its European member countries is inseparably linked to that of its North American member countries.
  • It commits the Allies to democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law, as well as to the peaceful resolution of disputes.
  • It also provides a unique forum for dialogue and cooperation across the Atlantic.

The Article 5

  • The heart of NATO is expressed in Article 5, in which the signatory members agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.

Why in news now?

  • The relationship between NATO and Russia is at its lowest point since the end of the Cold War.
  • The NATO (rather US) sees their aggressive actions, not least against Ukraine, but also the significant military buildup and violations of important arms control agreements.
  • NATO suspended practical cooperation with Russia in 2014 after it annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

NATO fires Russian Diplomats


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NATO

Mains level : Not Much

NATO has withdrew the accreditation of eight Russian officials to the military alliance in response to a rise in malign activities by Moscow.


  • NATO is a military alliance established by the North Atlantic Treaty (also called the Washington Treaty) of April 4, 1949.
  • It sought to create a counterweight to Soviet armies stationed in Central and Eastern Europe after World War II.
  • Its original members were Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
  • NATO has spread a web of partners, namely Egypt, Israel, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland and Finland.

Why was it founded?

Ans. Communist sweep in Europe post-WWII and rise of Soviet dominance

  • After World War II in 1945, Western Europe was economically exhausted and militarily weak, and newly powerful communist parties had arisen in France and Italy.
  • By contrast, the Soviet Union had emerged from the war with its armies dominating all the states of central and Eastern Europe.
  • By 1948 communists under Moscow’s sponsorship had consolidated their control of the governments of those countries and suppressed all non-communist political activity.
  • What became known as the Iron Curtain, a term popularized by Winston Churchill, had descended over central and Eastern Europe.

Ideology of NATO

  • The NATO ensures that the security of its European member countries is inseparably linked to that of its North American member countries.
  • It commits the Allies to democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law, as well as to peaceful resolution of disputes.
  • It also provides a unique forum for dialogue and cooperation across the Atlantic.

The Article 5

  • The heart of NATO is expressed in Article 5, in which the signatory members agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.

Why in news now?

  • The relationship between NATO and Russia is at its lowest point since the end of the Cold War.
  • The NATO (rather US) sees their aggressive actions, not least against Ukraine, but also the significant military buildup and violations of important arms control agreements.
  • NATO suspended practical cooperation with Russia in 2014 after it annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Reciprocal Exchange of Logistics Agreement (RELOS)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RELOS

Mains level : Various logistics agreement mentioned

India is all set to conclude the bilateral logistics agreement with Russia soon while the agreement with the U.K. is in the final stages of conclusion.

What is Logistics Agreement?

  • The agreements are administrative arrangements facilitating access to military facilities for exchange of fuel and provisions on mutual agreement simplifying logistical support and increasing operational turnaround of the military when operating away from India.
  • India has signed several logistics agreements with all Quad countries, France, Singapore and South Korea beginning with the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with the U.S. in 2016.

Reciprocal Exchange of Logistics Agreement (RELOS)

  • RELOS gives India access to Russian facilities in the Arctic region which is seeing increased global activity as new shipping routes open up and India’s own investments in the Russian Far East.
  • In addition, it comes at a time when both nations are looking at significantly scaling up the already broad military-to-military cooperation.

The RELOS is likely to be signed in a month or two while the one with the U.K. is in the final stages and should see a conclusion soon.

Foundational agreements with the US

  • India has now signed all four foundational agreements with the US, LEMOA in 2016, Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) in 2018 and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA)in 2020.
  • While the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) was signed a long time ago, an extension to it, the Industrial Security Annex (ISA), was signed in 2019.
  • India now has access to encrypted communication systems from the U.S. under COMCASA and to geospatial information through BECA which cumulatively have been beneficial.
  • The agreements with the US and those with Australia and Japan have been especially beneficial as they also operate several common military platforms along with India’s increasing share of U.S. origin platforms.



  • BECA will help India get real-time access to American geospatial intelligence that will enhance the accuracy of automated systems and weapons like missiles and armed drones.
  • Through the sharing of information on maps and satellite images, it will help India access topographical and aeronautical data, and advanced products that will aid in navigation and targeting.


  • LEMOA was the first of the three pacts to be signed in August 2016.
  • LEMOA allows the militaries of the US and India to replenish from each other’s bases, and access supplies, spare parts and services from each other’s land facilities, air bases, and ports, which can then be reimbursed.
  • LEMOA is extremely useful for India-US Navy-to-Navy cooperation since the two countries are cooperating closely in the Indo-Pacific.


  • COMCASA was signed in September 2018, after the first 2+2 dialogue during Mrs. Swarajs’ term as EAM.
  • The pact allows the US to provide India with its encrypted communications equipment and systems so that Indian and US military commanders, and the aircraft and ships of the two countries, can communicate through secure networks during times of both peace and war.
  • The signing of COMCASA paved the way for the transfer of communication security equipment from the US to India to facilitate “interoperability” between their forces.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Places in news: Black Sea


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Black Sea mapping

Mains level : Not Much

Russia accused Britain of spreading lies over a warship confrontation in the Black Sea.

What is the issue?

  • Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, a move that was not recognized by most countries in the world.
  • Russia has frequently responded at NATO warships visits near Crimea, casting them as destabilizing.
  • NATO members Turkey, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria are in the Black Sea, but warships from the US, UK and other NATO allies also have made increasingly frequent visits in a show of support to Ukraine.

About Black Sea

  • The Black Sea is a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean lying between Europe and Asia; east of the Balkans (Southeast Europe), south of the East European Plain in Eastern Europe, west of the Caucasus, and north of Anatolia in Western Asia.
  • It is supplied by major rivers, principally the Danube, Dnieper, and Don.
  • The watersheds of many countries drain into the sea beyond the six that share its coast.
  • The Black Sea is bordered by Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine.

Must answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q.Consider the following pairs:


Bordering country

1. Adriatic Sea Albania
2. Black Sea Croatia
3. Caspian Sea Kazakhstan
4. Mediterranean Sea Morocco
5. Red Sea Syria

Which of the pair given above are correctly matched? (CSP 2020)

(a) 1, 2 and 4 only

(b) 1, 3 and 4 only

(c) 2 and 5 only

(d) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Russia-China Relations and its effects on India-Russia Relations


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RIC and BRICS

Mains level : Paper 2- India-Russia relations

The article highlights Russia’s increasing inclinations towards China and its implications for India.


Russian President Vladimir Putin has recently asserted that both the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, are “responsible” enough to solve issues between their countries, while underlining the need to debar any “extra-regional power” to interfere in the process.

Implications for India-Russia ties

  • By this remark, Russia expects India to give up all efforts to reverse Beijing’s encroachment strategies.
  • The remarks can only be seen as reinforcing China’s claim that the Quadrilateral or Quad is aimed at containing China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • Russia’s continued criticism of the Indo-Pacific and the Quad suggests the divergent perspectives of India and Russia on how to deal with China’s rise to global prominence.
  • While India needs Russia’s partnership for its defence needs, India cannot endorse the Russian perspective on the Indo-Pacific and the Quad
  • The Russian attitude toward China’s growing power and influence will be the touchstone of Russia’s relations with India.
  • Russia has rejected the Indo-Pacific construct in favour of the Asia-Pacific on the ground that the first is primarily an American initiative designed to contain both China and Russia.
  • With the rise of populist nationalism amidst the decline of globalisation, the resolution of the Sino-Indian boundary dispute appears a difficult task.

Background of India’s balancing strategies

  • Following the disintegration of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), India soon realised Russia was much weaker than the erstwhile USSR and incapable of helping India balance potential threats from Beijing. 
  • On the other hand, Russia began to cast Moscow as the leader of a supposed trilateral grouping of Russia-India-China against a U.S.-led unipolar world.
  • Russia became an early proponent of the ‘strategic triangle’ to bring together the three major powers.
  • India’s fear of the unipolar moment too made it easier for India to become part of this initiative.
  • But China’s dismissive attitude toward Indian capabilities, coupled with an emerging China-Pakistan nexus, prevented the success of this trilateral.
  • India, instead, invested its diplomatic energies in rapprochement with the United States.
  • Thus, India decided to get integrated in the economic order it once denounced.
  • Economic liberalisation also allowed India to buy sophisticated weapons from a wider global market that included suppliers such as Israel and France.
  • As the logic of intensive engagement with the West was effectively established, strategic partnership with the U.S. was a logical corollary.
  • India has been searching for other major powers to balance against China as it does not have the sufficient means for hard balancing.
  • India has deepened its ties with Japan and Australia in a way that is close to soft balancing. 
  •  among all of India’s balancing efforts, the stupendous growth in ties with the U.S. has been the greatest source of concern for China which views the India-U.S. rapprochement as containment.

Way forward for India-Russia ties

  • While other powers such as France, Australia, Japan and Russia will have an impact on the emerging maritime structures of the Indo-Pacific region, it is the triangular dynamic between India, China and the U.S. that is going to be the most consequential.
  • Russia is yet to realise that it will gain immensely from the multilateralism that the Indo-Pacific seeks to promote.
  • Being China’s junior partner only undermines Moscow’s great-power ambitions.
  • Given Russia’s preoccupation with ‘status’ rivalry with the U.S., Russia’s view of India-China relations seems understandable.
  • But there is a danger in permitting it to harden into a permanent attitude as an increasingly pro-Beijing Russia might adopt more aggressive blocking of India’s policy agendas.
  • That is why India is particularly interested in a normalisation of relations between Washington and Moscow.
  • The normalisation of relations between the U.S. and Russia will help India steer ties among the great powers.

India-China ties

  • Non-alignment, painful memories of colonial subjugation, opposition to great-power hegemony, and strong beliefs in sovereignty and strategic autonomy have been the key influencers in shaping India’s and China’s engagement with each other as well as the western world.
  •  But this has begun to change as Beijing is asserting its hegemony over Asia.
  • In such circumstances, multilateral forums such as the Russia-India-China (RIC) grouping and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) have little practical value for Indian diplomacy.
  • Without China’s reciprocity, options before India are limited.
  • The response cannot be just symbolic or rhetorical. The absence of any material evidence of reciprocity is bound to doom an attempt at Sino-Indian rapprochement.


China is undoubtedly the most powerful actor in its neighbourhood but it cannot simply have its way in shaping Asia’s new geopolitics.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Russia’s Nord Stream 2 Pipeline


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nord Stream 2 Pipeline

Mains level : Not Much

The US government has decided to waive sanctions on the company behind Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Europe.

Nord Stream 2 Pipeline

  • It is a system of offshore natural gas pipelines running under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany.
  • It includes two active pipelines running from Vyborg to Lubmin near Greifswald forming the original Nord Stream, and two further pipelines under construction running from Ust-Luga to Lubmin termed Nord Stream 2.
  • In Lubmin the lines connect to the OPAL line to Olbernhau on the Czech border and to the NEL line to Rehden near Bremen.
  • The first line Nord Stream-1 was laid and inaugurated in 2011 and the second line in 2012.
  • At 1,222 km in length, Nord Stream is the longest sub-sea pipeline in the world, surpassing the Langeled pipeline.

US sanctions

  • Nord Stream projects have been opposed by the United States as well as by several Central and Eastern European countries because of concerns that the pipelines would increase Russia’s influence in the region.
  • The US resistance to Nord Stream 2 is also influenced by the country’s increased production of natural gas, which gives the US economic incentive to resist the Russian supply of gas to the EU, in favour of US shale gas.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

India and Russia look for a reset


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CAATSA

Mains level : Paper 2- India-Russia relations

Avoiding military alliances and retaining its strategic autonomy could help India play an important role in geopolitics at the same time maintaining the diversity in its relationships.

Transformation in India-Russia relations

  • The principal objective of the Russian Foreign Minister was to prepare the ground for the visit of President Vladimir Putin later this year.
  • The Indian perspective on the Indo-Pacific was conveyed to the Foreign Minister of Russia.
  •  India insists that its Indo-Pacific initiatives seek a cooperative order, that the Quad is not the nucleus of a politico-military alliance.
  • A $1 billion Indian line of credit for projects in the Russian Far East and activation of a Chennai-Vladivostok maritime corridor were announced in 2019.
  • The message was that India’s effort to restrain Chinese aggression is compatible with Russia’s vision of a Eurasian partnership.
  • Russia remains unconvinced, either because it feels India’s words do not match its actions or because of its close ties with China.

China factor in India-Russia relations

  • India is concerned about Russia’s China embrace, encompassing close political, economic and defence cooperation: Russia accounted for 77% of China’s arms imports in 2016-20.
  • India’s apprehensions about their technology- and intelligence-sharing were heightened by Mr. Putin’s remark that he would not rule out a future Russia-China military alliance. 

Russia-Pakistan relations

  • Foreign Minister visited Pakistan directly after India — the first time a Russian Minister has done so.
  • .He confirmed that Russia would strengthen Pakistan’s “counter-terrorism capability” .
  • Russia is now Pakistan’s second-largest defence supplier, accounting for 6.6% of its arms imports in 2016-20.
  • Their cooperation includes joint “counter-terrorism” drills and sharing perspectives on military tactics and strategic doctrines.

Factors to consider about defence cooperation with Russia

  • Despite being a major defence supplier of China and Pakistan, Russia remains a major supplier of cutting-edge military technologies to India.
  • The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) records that Russia supplied 49% of India’s arms imports in 2016-20.
  • SIPRI estimates that recent orders for Russian arms could boost future import figures. T
  • his is a reality check.
  • Defence cooperation is not a transactional exchange. Sharing of technologies and strategies is underpinned by a mutual commitment to protection of confidentiality.
  • Sustainable defence cooperation is based on a credible assurance that what is transferred to our adversaries will not blunt the effectiveness of our weapons systems.
  • In this already complex mix, the American sanctions legislation, CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act), adds an external layer of complexity.

Criticality of geography influence India’s relationship with Russia and China

  • The Eurasian landmass to India’s north is dominated by Russia and China.
  • Strategic and security interests in Central Asia, West Asia and Afghanistan dictate our engagement with the region and the connectivity projects linking it, like the International North-South Transport Corridor through Iran.
  • India cannot vacate this space to a Russia-China condominium (with Pakistan in tow), without potentially grave security consequences.

The broader geopolitical context

  • The principal element in this is the drive for the superpower status of a powerful, assertive China.
  • The U.S., as the pre-eminent superpower, seeks to retard this process.
  • In a deviation from classical geopolitical strategy, the U.S. is taking on both China and Russia.
  • This move is driving Russia and China together and arguably accelerating the move to bipolarity.
  • Even so, the differentials in military, economic and political power across countries may complicate the emergence of two clear poles of the Cold War variety.
  • A decline in Western hostility to Russia could add to the complexity, if Russia takes the opportunity to loosen the Chinese embrace and position itself as a pole in the multipolar world.

Consider the question “The depth of India’s relationship with Russia will depend on the willingness and capacity of both countries to show mutual sensitivity to core security concerns. Comment.” 


India has to explore the space within these processes to maximise its global influence by steering clear of alliances and retaining the autonomy of policy.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Russia withdraws from Open Skies Treaty


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Open Skies Treaty (OST)

Mains level : Open Skies Treaty (OST)

Russia has announced that it was pulling out of the Open Skies Treaty, saying that the pact had been seriously compromised by the withdrawal of the United States.

The New START, INF and now the OST …. Be clear about the differences of these treaties. For example- to check if their inception was during cold war era etc.

Open Skies Treaty (OST)

  • OST is an agreement that allows countries to monitor signatories’ arms development by conducting surveillance flights over each other’s territories.
  • The idea behind the OST was first proposed in the early years of the Cold War by former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower.
  • It came to existence decades later and was signed in 1992, during the George H.W. Bush presidency and after the Soviet Union had collapsed.
  • The OST came into effect in 2002 under the George W. Bush administration and it allows its 34 signatories to conduct unarmed reconnaissance flights over the territory of treaty countries.

Issues with the OST

  • The U.S. has used the treaty more intensively than Russia.
  • Between 2002 and 2016, the U.S. flew 196 flights over Russia (in addition to having imagery from other countries) compared to the 71 flights flown by Russia.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

What is New START Treaty?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : OST, INF Treaty, New START policy

Mains level : US-Russia power tussle

Russian President Mr Putin has proposed a one-year extension without conditions of the last major nuclear arms reduction accord, the New START Treaty between Russia and the U.S.

The New START, INF and the Open Skies …. Be clear about the differences of these treaties. For example- to check if their inception was during cold war era etc.

New START Treaty

  • The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) pact limits the number of deployed nuclear warheads, missiles and bombers and is due to expire in 2021 unless renewed.
  • The treaty limits the US and Russia to a maximum of 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, well below Cold War caps.
  • It was signed in 2010 by former US President Barack Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
  • It is one of the key controls on superpower deployment of nuclear weapons.
  • If it falls, it will be the second nuclear weapons treaty to collapse under the leadership of US President Donald Trump.
  • In February, US withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), accusing Moscow of violating the agreement.

Also read:

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO)

Mains level : Not Much

Russian Navy along with CSTO members has begun military exercises in the central waters of the Caspian Sea north of the Azerbaijani capital Baku.

Try this MCQ:

Q.The Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) sometimes seen in news is an alliance led by:


(a) Russia (b) USA (c) India (d) European Union

Collective Security Treaty Organization

  • CSTO is an intergovernmental military alliance that was signed on 15 May 1992.
  • In 1992, six post-Soviet states belonging to the Commonwealth of Independent States—Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan—signed the Collective Security Treaty
  • This is also referred to as the “Tashkent Pact” or “Tashkent Treaty”.
  • Three other post-Soviet states—Azerbaijan, Belarus, and Georgia—signed the next year and the treaty took effect in 1994.
  • Five years later, six of the nine—all but Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Uzbekistan—agreed to renew the treaty for five more years, and in 2002 those six agreed to create the CSTO as a military alliance.

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.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Exercise Kavkaz 2020


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Exercise Kavkaz 2020

Mains level : Not Much

India has turned down Russia’s invitation to participate in the multilateral defence exercise Kavkaz 2020.

Go through the list for once. UPSC may ask a match the pair type question asking exercise name and countries involved.

Exercise Kavkaz 2020

  • The Kavkaz 2020 is also referred to as Caucasus-2020.
  • The exercise is aimed at assessing the ability of the armed forces to ensure military security in Russia’s southwest, where serious terrorist threats persist and preparing for the strategic command-staff drills.
  • The main training grounds that will be involved are located in the Southern Military District.
  • The invitation for participation has been extended to at least 18 countries including China, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey apart from other Central Asian Republics part of the SCO.

Why didn’t India participate?

  • While it is learned that China has confirmed its participation, Pakistan is also likely to send its troops for the exercise.
  • In the response communicated to Russia, New Delhi cited Covid-19 as the official reason to skip ‘Exercise Kavkaz 2020’.
  • The move comes in the backdrop of a border standoff with China in eastern Ladakh.

Earlier instances

  • Exercise Tsentr last year had the participation of India, Pakistan and all Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member-nations.
  • India had participated in SCO peace mission exercise in 2018, and in 2019, for the first time, was involved in a strategic command and staff exercise as part of Exercise Tsentr.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Explained: In India-China, the Russia role


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.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Private: Growing Russia-India-China Tensions: Splits in the RIC Strategic Triangle?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : India’s current position in multipolar world



India’s Minister of External Affairs Dr. S Jaishankar will be heading to Russia later in the month for a ministerial-level trilateral meeting among three Eurasian powers of the RIC group: Russia, India and China (RIC)

What is RIC?

  • RIC came together as a strategic triangle in the late 1990s under the mentorship of Yevgeny Primakov as “a counterbalance to the Western alliance.”
  • The Russian goal was the “end[ing] its foreign policy guided by the US,” and rebuilding old partnerships with countries like India nurturing relatively newer friendships such as with China.

How India’s agenda has changed over the past 2 decades

  • The original objective of the RIC may have fitted at least partially with India’s goals in those years, it is unclear if this fits with Indian objectives now as New Delhi increases its strategic engagements with the United States and American allies. 
  • Indeed, India’s growing strategic partnership with the United States, Japan, and Australia conflicts with the RIC’s goals and objectives of seeking to undermine Washington’s role in the Indo-Pacific. 
  • Washington’s support to India on a number of critical issues, demonstrated most recently when China attempted to raise the Kashmir issue at the UN Security Council, is important. 
  • In fact, it is the rise of China that is at the front and center of many of India’s strategic engagements.

Expected agenda of the upcoming summit

  • According to reports, the meeting will possibly discuss the recently-concluded Afghanistan peace deal, the return of the Quad (quadrilateral security dialogue involving Australia, India, Japan and the United States), the Indo-Pacific concept and the implications of the end of the INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) Treaty for the region.

Issues being faced by RIC

A.China’s hostile attitude towards India

  • China’s rather hostile attitude towards India in recent years is increasingly forcing Indian decisionmakers to confront what China’s growing power has come to mean for India. 
  • The 72-day long Doklam crisis, China’s repeated actions at the United Nations, and other forums appears to demonstrate that China is aggressive and unfriendly towards India. 
  • This makes it difficult to see how engagements through platforms such as RIC, the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS), or the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) are going to alter the basic conflictual nature of relations between India and China.

B.Growing bonhomie between Russia and China

  • Even though Russia has remained an old friend for India, New Delhi seems to realize that Moscow is increasingly under stress to follow China’s dictates. 
  • In January this year, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was openly opposing the Indo-Pacific concept, at the Raisina Dialogue, a major geopolitical conference organized by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), a prominent Indian think-tank.
  • Even on issues such as the Jammu and Kashmir, which China raised at the UN Security Council, Russia preferred taking a middle position, not supporting India’s stand entirely for fear of offending China. 
  • It seems that while relations with India are important but for Moscow, its ties with Beijing are far more important and takes precedence over every other relationship.

C.Changed position of Russia on Kashmir

  • In UNSC, the Russian representative at the UN said, “Russia continues to consistently promote normalization of India – Pakistan ties.  
  • We hope that existing divergences around Kashmir will be settled bilaterally by political and diplomatic means only.. .. on the basis of Simla Agreement of 1972 and Lahore declaration of 1999, in accordance with UN Charter, relevant UN resolutions and bilateral agreements between India and Pakistan.
  • Highlighting the UN resolutions to resolve the bilateral disputes between India and Pakistan “marked a sharp variance from Russia’s traditional position on Kashmir.

What is so special about Rafale fighter jet?

  1. India in September 2016 inked a direct deal with the French government to purchase 36 new Rafale fighter jets in a 7.87 billion euro deal that is likely to bring major work to the Indian private sector in terms of offsets under the make in India policy.
  2. The Rafale deal for 36 jets includes over 3 billion euros of work for the Indian industry over the next 7-8 years according to top defence ministry officials. “This has a huge potential to develop direct and indirect employment opportunities.
  3. high end technology like engine know-how, major structural assembly is also likely in India, besides a chunk of avionics work.
  4. India will also get latest weapons like the Meteor and Scalp missiles as part of the contract, besides a 5 year support package that assures high availability of the fighter. India will pay a 15 % advance and deliveries are to start in three years.

India Specific enhancements

The Rafale deal caters to specific Indian air force needs. The fighter jet will be modified by France to meet the following:

  • Helmet mounted sights and targeting system to give the pilots lightening quick ability to shoot off weapons.
  • Ability to taken off from high altitude airbases like Leh on a ‘cold start’ – for quick reaction deployment
  • radar warning receiver to identify hostile tracking systems
  • A towed decoy system to thwart incoming missile attacks
  •  French industrial support for fighter for 50 years


  • 7.87 billion Euro: Deal cost. This includes weapon systems, five year support, training, infrastructure and warranties. 15% to be paid in advance.
  • 91.7 million euros: as per contract, if other costs like weapons, training etc not counted, per unit price of single seat Rafale is 91.7 million euros
  • 75 % availability: French side will ensure that at any given point, at least 75 percent of the fleet is combat worthy. Failing which, heavy penalities to be invoked.
  • 67 months delivery: All aircraft ordered to be delivered within 67 months with first one coming in by 36 months
  • 50% offsets: Indian industry to get major boost as French side will invest half of deal value in Make in India products or technology transfer. Indian Partners to be firmed up within a year.
  • 328 million Euros: Saved by negotiation efforts by the Indian side on the Rafale deal, according to defence ministry sources.
  • 28/8: according to deal, India to get 28 single seater jets and 8 twin seaters for training.


  • Overall, India’s strategic goals appear to be increasingly incongruent with that of Russia and China. 
  • As another case in point, even as the three foreign ministers will be meeting to discuss the Afghan peace deal, 
  • Moscow did not invite India to the recent meeting it hosted in Afghanistan. While there is merit to India engaging both Russia and China, it cannot mask the fact that there are growing tensions within the RIC grouping.

India-Russia relations : Momentum in transforming Strategic Partnership


In late December, Indian Prime Minister made his first state visit to Russia to take part in the 16th annual bilateral summit. PM Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin used the summit to review bilateral ties across a number of areas. Let’s glance over revamped relations of India-Russia!


Can we have some background of bonding legacy?

  • Relations with Russia are a key pillar of India’s foreign policy, and Russia has been a longstanding time-tested partner of India.
  • India & Russia signed “Declaration on the India-Russia Strategic Partnership” in October 2000.
  • Under the Strategic Partnership, several institutionalized dialogue mechanisms operate at both political and official levels to ensure regular interaction and follow up on cooperation activities.
  • During the visit of the Russian President to India in December 2010, the Strategic Partnership was elevated to the level of a “Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership.

Let’s dive into the PM’s visit for bilateral summit in Russia?

  • With the signing of sixteen agreements, this is being seen as very significant in sustaining and expanding India-Russia ties.
  • One major step taken is a deepening of India’s defense partnership with Russia for Make in India.
  • On the eve of Modi’s visit to Russia, the Indian government announced the purchase of five S-400 supersonic air defense systems from Russia, costing around $6 billion.
  • For instance, the two sides agreed that the Kamov 226 helicopter would be manufactured in India.

How will bilateral partnership boost Make in India programme?

  • India and Russia agreed to strengthen the defense partnership in line with the “Make in India” program. So while only the public sector has been involved in defense cooperation between the two countries to date.
  • The new initiatives will encourage joint manufacturing of defense products in India and motivate the private sector to play a role in developing a strong defense manufacturing base in India.
  • It should be emphasized that “Make in India” also aims at having India emerge as an essential player in the global defense market.
  • India is forecast to spend $250 billion over the next decade upgrading its military and Russia wants to seize the opportunity to become a major part of this mission, expressing its readiness to work jointly with India on defense manufacturing.

So, How does economic and trade cooperation matters in economic growth?

  • Enhancing trade and economic cooperation between India and Russia is a key priority for the two governments.
  • On the economic front, India and Russia decided to institutionalize the CEO’s Forum, which will meet twice a year – once in India and the other in Russia.
  • During 15th Annual Summit, the two leaders set a target of US$30 billion bilateral trade by 2025.
  • Hydrocarbons is an active area for exploring cooperation between the two countries.
  • In May 2014, ONGC and Rosneft signed an MoU for bilateral cooperation in subsurface surveys, exploration, appraisal and hydrocarbons production in the offshore Arctic region of Russia.
  • In September 2015, OVL signed an agreement with Rosneft to acquire 15% stakes in Vankorneft project.


Did you know about India-Eurasian Economic Union FTA?

  • Moscow is a gateway for India to Central Asia.
  • In this regard a significant move by PM Modi was the effort to move forward on the India-Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
  • The EEU FTA will introduce the free movement of goods, capital, services and people-people contacts and provides for common transport, agriculture and energy policies, with provisions for a single currency and greater integration in the future.
  • The FTA between India and the EEU comprises of Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.
  • It offers India access to a huge market with a population of over 180 million, with a joint GDP of an estimated $2.7 trillion.
  • As Russia tries to re-calibrate its economic orientation towards the Asian region, India, as one of the fastest growing G20 economies can be a significant partner for Russia.

Shall we move into Political Relations?

  • Annual Summit meeting is the highest institutionalized dialogue mechanism under the Strategic Partnership between India and the Russian Federation.
  • So far, 15 Annual Summit meetings have taken place alternatively in India and Russia with the 15th Annual Summit held in New Delhi during the visit of President Putin to India on 11 December 2014.
  • During the Summit, 20 documents were signed covering cooperation in nuclear energy, defence, hydrocarbons, science & technology, trade and investment etc.
  • Prime Minister Modi and President Putin also adopted a Joint Statement “Druzhba-Dosti: A Vision for strengthening the Indian-Russian Partnership over the next decade.”

Let’s see our Defence Cooperation with Mighty Russia?

  • India-Russia military technical cooperation has evolved from a simple buyer – seller framework to one involving joint research, development and production of advanced defence technologies and systems.
  • BrahMos Missile System, Joint design and development of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft, as well as the licensed production in India of SU-30 aircraft and T-90 tanks, are examples of such flagship cooperation.
  • An Indian contingent participated in the military parade in Moscow on 9 May 2015, during the 70th anniversary of the victory in the World War II.
  • The Inter Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC) is in place to review defence cooperation between the two countries.

Let’s know about importance of International North-South Trade Corridor (INSTC) ?

  • The INSTC was initiated by Russia, India and Iran in September 2000.
  • To establish transportation networks among the member states and to enhance connectivity with the land locked region of Central Asia.
  • The North-South Transport Corridor is an ancient route that connected South Asia with North Europe for centuries.
  • This route was used by the European, Indian, Russian and many other foreign traders.
  • During the late 17th and early 19th centuries, Indian traders used this route to reach out to the Central Asian markets.
  • The modern day INSTC is a multi-modal transportation route linking Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea via Iran, and onward to northern Europe via St. Petersburg in Russia.

How is it important to India to protect its strategic and economic interest?

  • The INSTC envisages movement of goods from Mumbai (India) to Bandar Abbas (Iran) by sea, from Bandar Abbas to Bandar-e-Anzali (an Iranian port on the Caspian Sea) by road.
  • Then from Bandar-e-Anzali to Astrakhan (a Caspian port in the Russian Federation) by ship across the Caspian Sea, and thereafter from Astrakhan to other regions of the Russian Federation and further into Europe by Russian railways.
  • Given India’s strategic interests in the West and the Central Asian region, and need for greater economic and energy cooperation between South, Central and the West Asian region.
  • New Delhi has stepped up its engagement to reconnect with its extended neighbourhood.

Was there any momentum on Nuclear power deal?

  • Russia is an important partner in peaceful uses of nuclear energy and it recognizes India as a country with advanced nuclear technology with an impeccable nonproliferation record.
  • In December 2014, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Russia’s Rosatom signed the Strategic Vision for strengthening cooperation in peaceful uses of atomic energy between India and Russia.
  • Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) is being built in India with Russian cooperation.
  • KKNPP Unit 1 became operational in July 2013, and attained full generation capacity on 7 June 2014.
  • While its Unit 2 is in the process of commissioning in the later part of 2015.
  • India and Russia have signed a General Framework Agreement on KKNPP Units 3 & 4 and subsequent contracts are under preparation.

What’s Next to the geopolitical space?

  • Needless to say, defence remains at the centre-stage of the bilateral relationship, although with a diversified supplier base India is at a better position today to negotiate deals with Russia especially concerning technology transfer and co-production.
  • A sharp rise in Russia-China defense ties, the assertive foreign policy of a rising China in the Indo-Pacific, the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, and the China-Pakistan nexus will all encourage India to continue to strengthen ties with Russia.
  • It is clear that India-Russia relations remain vital for both countries amid a changing regional and global security environment.

Published with inputs from Arun
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