Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Indo-Russian revamped relationship – Get in speed with the latest developments.

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:

US confirms pull out from INF treaty

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.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

[op-ed snap] Delhi needs to engage with Moscow on the unfolding Sino-Russian naval partnership


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Russia in the Indian Ocean


Russia is rejoining the major power scrum in the Indian Ocean littoral. 

Russia – Indian Ocean

    • Three recent events highlight Russia’s growing strategic interests in the Indian Ocean.
    • Perekop, a training vessel of the Russian Navy, arrived at the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka. 
    • Last month two Russian long-distance “Black Jack” nuclear bombers flew to South Africa. 
    • The Russian and the Chinese are conducting a trilateral naval exercise, Moris, with South Africa off the Cape of Good Hope. 

Significance of the events

    • This is the first time that the three of India’s partners in the BRICS forum along with Brazil, are doing such a joint exercise. 
    • The exercise reflects the growing weight of China and Russia in South Africa’s security.
    • Iran has said that it plans to hold joint naval drills with Russia and China in the waters of the Persian Gulf.

India – Indian Ocean

    • Until now, India’s discourse on the Indian Ocean has focused on the growing competition with China.
    • This led to the rapid expansion of India’s naval cooperation with the United States and Japan, regional partners like Indonesia, Singapore, and other ASEAN countries, nations in the Gulf as well as the east coast of Africa.
    • India has been developing a partnership with France, which is a resident power and a traditional security provider in the Western Indian Ocean and Africa.
    • India also wants to develop similar intensive engagement with Britain and the European Union.

Role of Russia

    • Russia’s return to the Indian Ocean is recent.
    • It must be seen as a part of its new strategic activism in the Middle East and Africa. 
    • Five decades ago, the US replaced Britain as the main security provider in the littoral. The Soviet Union expanded its strategic footprint in the Indian Ocean during the 1970s and 1980s. 
    • The collapse of the Soviet Union disrupted Moscow’s Indian Ocean pursuit.

Limits to Russia’s role

    • Russia is a vast continental state. Its limited access to the sea remains vulnerable to exploitation by its adversaries. 
    • The unfreezing Arctic will present new opportunities for Russia, but most of them are for the long-term. 
    • Russia is also constrained by its limited economic resources. China, Japan, Europe, and the US bring far greater economic weight to bear upon the region. 

Opportunities to shape outcomes in the region

    • Arms – Moscow is one of the world’s major arms exporters and has turned that into effective leverage in the Indian Ocean region.
    • Military intervention – The success of Russia’s military intervention in Syria in saving the Bashar al Assad regime got the attention of many countries coping with civil wars. 
    • The recent reports on Russia’s growing security role — such as the use of hybrid forces — in the Central African Republic, Libya, and Mozambique are a testimony to this.
    • MIlitary access – Russia is using its new security role in the region to gain privileged military access. Russia has stepped up its naval diplomacy in the region.
    • UNSC – As a permanent member, Russia also offers diplomatic protection for many regimes in the UNSC on such issues as human rights. 
    • Moscow’s strong support to the principle of non-intervention in internal affairs is of great value to many African nations.
    • Resources – Russian energy and mineral companies offer important options for resource development in many parts of the littoral.

Opportunities & Challenges – India

    • Russian activism in the Indian Ocean should be welcomed to the emerging multipolarity in the region. 
    • However, its deepening tensions with the West and the growing strategic embrace of China pose problems for India’s strategy.
    • The impact of Russia’s conflict with the US has impacted India’s purchase of S-400 missiles.
    • China and Russia have conducted naval maneuvers in the Western Pacific, the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean. The joint exercise with South Africa brings the naval partnership closer to India.

Way ahead

India needs an early and intensive dialogue with Moscow on its Indian Ocean collaboration with China.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

How will purchases from Russia affect India-U.S. ties?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CAATSA, S-400

Mains level : Implications of India's defense purchase from Russia



  • Exactly a year ago India and Russia signed a contract to buy the Russian Triumf missile system, concluding negotiations that began in 2015.
  • During that time, however, a new U.S. law, called “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act” or CAATSA was passed by the U.S. Congress.
  • This transformed what should have been a straightforward bilateral deal into a complex trilateral balancing game for India.

About S-400 Triumf

  • 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.

How significant is the deal for New Delhi?

  • A year after PM Modi and Russian President Putin signed an agreement, the deal continues to cast a cloud over India-U.S. ties.
  • The agreement to purchase the Triumf missile system boosted India-Russia defence ties at a point of inflection last year.
  • Russia has traditionally been India’s biggest defence supplier, but was surpassed by the U.S. in the last few years, a fact that had added to a perceptible drift in bilateral ties.
  • The Indian Air Force has also backed the superior air defence system in that it will fill the gap in India’s particular needs: countering its main adversaries and neighbours, China and Pakistan’s growing air power, while dealing with a depleting stock of fighter aircraft.

Is India the only country facing CAATSA sanctions?

  • By coincidence, CAATSA has now been invoked by the US twice already, and both times for countries buying the Triumf system from Russia.
  • In September 2018, US announced sanctions for the procurement of the S-400 Triumf air defence system and Sukhoi S-35 fighter aircraft.
  • Washington expelled Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet programme in July this year after the first delivery of S-400s was received.
  • India is neither like China, which has an inimical relationship with the U.S., and hence not bound by its diktats, nor like Turkey which is a NATO ally of the US.

Is a sanctions waiver possible for India?

  • There is also an exit clause in CAATSA which states that the US President may waive the application of sanctions if the he/she determines such a waiver is in the national security interest of the US.
  • The U.S. Congress also modified the waiver clause to allow the President to certify that a country is cooperating with the US on other matters that are critical to its strategic national security interests.
  • It is no secret that US has misgivings about the CAATSA sanctions which were meant to curtail its own powers to deal with Russia, and the other countries included in the act — Iran and North Korea.
  • It is hoped that Mr. Trump will grant India a waiver on the deal, thanks to good bilateral relations with India and the fact that it is a “major defence partner” of the U.S.
  • Hence India expects to comply with Washington’s demands, and hence hopes to escape CAATSA sanctions.

What happens if a waiver is not granted?

  • Section 235 of the CAATSA stipulates 12 kinds of punitive sanctions against transactions in defence, energy, oil pipelines and cybersecurity technology with any of the U.S.’s “adversaries”.
  • According to the Act, the US may impose “five or more of the sanctions described”.
  • These measures include export sanctions, cancellation of loans from U.S. and international financial institutions, ban on investments and procurement, restrictions on forex and banking transactions, and a visa and travel ban on officials associated with any entity carrying out the sanctioned transactions.
  • None of these is expected to go into process until India takes delivery of the five S-400 systems it has paid an advance on, which are expected to begin in about 20 months and conclude by 2023.

Has India given the U.S. a fait accompli on the S-400?

  • India’s firm-footed response to the U.S. threat of sanctions on the Russian S-400 is in sharp contrast to its decision to “zero out” oil purchases from Iran, which were sanctioned by the U.S. last year.
  • It denotes that while the India is prepared to diversify its energy sources, it will not be bullied on its defence security options.
  • Given the stakes involved, the government hopes that the U.S. will put its burgeoning strategic, defence and business bilateral relationship with India above its rancour with Russia.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Eastern Economic Forum


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : EEF

Mains level : Act Far East Policy of India

  • The Plenary Session of the 5th Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) was recently held in Vladivostok, Russia.

Eastern Economic Forum (EEF)

  • According to its website, the EEF was established by a decree of the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, in 2015.
  • It aimed for supporting the economic development of Russia’s Far East, and to expand international cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • The ongoing EEF Summit at the Far Eastern Federal University is the fifth in its history.
  • Among the participants in the Summit are India, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, and South Korea.
  • The Summits have roundtable conferences, panel sessions, business breakfasts, besides business dialogues and bilateral talks and agreements.

Achievements of EEF

  • In the last five years, as many as 17 different countries have invested in the Far East, according to the EEF website.
  • These include regional and global heavyweights like China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and Vietnam.
  • As a result, 20 advanced special economic zones and five free ports have been put in place.
  • A total of 1,780 new investment projects, worth over 3.8 trillion rubles, and 230 new enterprises have become functional, the EEF website says.

India’s engagement with Russia

  • Indian firms have invested over $7 billion in taking stake in Russian oil and gas fields.
  • India ventured into Russia when its flagship overseas firm ONGC Videsh in 2001 acquired a 20 per cent stake in Sakhalin-1 oil and gas field in Far East Russia.
  • OVL later bought Imperial Energy, which has fields in Siberia, as also stakes in Vankor oilfield in eastern Siberia.
  • IOC and its partners have picked up 29.9 per cent stake in a separate Taas-Yuryakh oilfield in East Siberia.
  • Russian oil firm Rosneft in 2017 bought Essar Oil, which operates in Vadinar oil refinery in Gujarat and some 5,500 petrol pumps, for USD 12.9 billion.
  • Going beyond the bonhomie and historical ties, India is also a key customer of the Russian arms industry.
  • In March, India entered into a joint venture with Russia to manufacture the legendary Kalashnikov assault rifles in India.
  • In 2018, Russia sold the S-400 advanced air defence system to India.
  • India is interested in expanding the level of trade between the two countries. An area of special interest for India is the exploration of hydrocarbon reserves along the coast of Russia’s Far East.

India’s interest in the EEF

  • PM Modi has described the EEF as a “historic opportunity” to give new impetus to the cooperation between India and Russia.
  • He has said that the relationship between the two countries has “special chemistry, special ease”, even pointing out that Siberian cranes migrate to “my home state Gujarat”.

Extending to Act Far East Policy

  • The PM recalled that India was the first country in the world to open a consulate in Vladivostok, and underlined the age and depth of the country’s relations with the Far East.
  • Engaging closely with East Asia was in line with India’s policy goal of “Act East”.
  • PM also unveiled the “Act Far East” policy to boost India’s engagement with Russia’s Far East region.
  • This will also give a new dimension to our economic diplomacy.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Sea route from Chennai to Vladivostok


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the sea route

Mains level : India-Russia bilateral relations

  • During PM’s visit to Vladivostok this week, a MoI was signed to open a full-fledged maritime route between Russia’s eastern port city and Chennai on India’s eastern seaboard.


  • In Russian, Vladivostok is ‘Ruler of the East’.
  • Located on the Golden Horn Bay north of North Korea and a short distance from Russia’s border with China, it is the largest port on Russia’s Pacific coast, and home to the Pacific Fleet of the Russian Navy.
  • It is the eastern railhead of the legendary Trans Siberian Railway, which connects the far east of Russia to the capital Moscow, and further west to the countries of Europe.
  • At Vladivostok’s massive port, shipping and commercial fishing are the main commercial activities.
  • Automobiles are a major item of import at the port, from where they are often transported further inland.

To Chennai, by sea

  • An ocean liner travelling from Vladivostok to Chennai would sail southward on the Sea of Japan past the Korean peninsula, Taiwan and the Philippines in the South China Sea, past Singapore and through the Strait of Malacca.
  • It will emerge into the Bay of Bengal and then cut across through the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago to Chennai.

Time and distance

  • This sea route covers a distance of approximately 5,600 nautical miles, or about 10,300 km.
  • A large container ship travelling at the normal cruising speed of 20-25 knots, or 37-46 km/hour, should be able to cover the distance in 10-12 days.
  • At suboptimal “slow steaming” speeds of 18-20 knots (33-37 km/hour), at which long-distance vessels sometimes travel to in order to save fuel, it might take slightly longer — 12-13 days.

Trade and strategy

  • India is building nuclear power plants with Russia’s collaboration in Kudankulam on the sea coast in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district.
  • The opening of a sea route is likely to help in the project.
  • Even otherwise, a vibrant sea route will help in the upscaling of trade relations between the two nations.
  • It will also increase India’s presence in the Indo-Pacific, and especially the South China Sea, a deeply contested patch of the ocean that Beijing considers its stomping ground.

Significance of the route

  • Opening of this route between Chennai and Vladivostok assumes significance because it ensures there will be connectivity between the two major ports.
  • It will give impetus to the cooperation between India and the Russian Far East.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

[op-ed snap] Taking a ‘Far East’ turn to deepen a friendship


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mapping: Far East region

Mains level : Rebuilding India-Russia relations

  • Some 48 years ago, when the U.S. and British Navies tried to threaten Indian security during the India-Pakistan war in 1971, the Soviet Union dispatched nuclear-armed flotilla from its Pacific Fleet in support of India.
  • Ever since then, the city of Vladivostok, located in Russia’s Far East, has had a special place in the hearts of Indians.

The less developed Far East

  • The Far East lies in the Asian part of Russia and is less developed than the country’s European areas.
  • India’s plans to invest in Russia’s Far East, thus, paying back the long-held Indian debt to Vladivostok.
  • As part of his ‘Pivot to Asia’ strategy, President Putin is inviting foreign countries to invest in this region.

Friends distanced with time

  • The country’s outreach to Asian nations has especially gained momentum after the 2014 Crimea crisis spoiled its relations with the West.
  • At the same time, the idea of an ‘Indo-Pacific region’, which signals India’s willingness to work with the U.S. mainly to counter China’s assertive maritime rise, has also left Russia concerned.
  • Moscow is apprehensive that the U.S. would exert pressure on India’s foreign policy choices and that it could lose a friendly country and one of the biggest buyers of Russian military hardware.

Convincing Russia for a multipolar Indo-Pacific

  • New Delhi, on its part, has maintained that Indo-Pacific is not targeted against any country and stands for inclusiveness and stability.
  • PM Modi made this clear to Mr. Putin during their Sochi informal summit in 2018.
  • Later, at the Shangri-La dialogue, he again emphasised that for India, Indo-Pacific is not a club of limited members and that New Delhi wants to have inclusive engagement with all the relevant stakeholders.
  • This constant engagement has borne fruit and the two countries are now working for a multipolar Indo-Pacific.

Russian stance

  • On its part, Russia also wants to make sure that China does not become a hegemon in the Eurasian region and is hence deepening cooperation with countries like India, Vietnam and Indonesia.
  • India has also been able to convince Russia that its engagement with the U.S. is not going to come against Russian interests.

How Far East is game-changer?

  • The Far East has the potential to become an anchor in deepening India-Russia cooperation; more so considering that New Delhi has expanded the scope of its ‘Act East policy’ to also include Moscow.
  • The area has the potential to strengthen India-Russia economic partnership in areas like energy, tourism, agriculture, diamond mining and alternative energy.

India’s move forward

  • Modi’s visit to Vladivostok (coming Sept) would not be an event in isolation as both nations have been drawing up the plan to cooperate in the region in the last few years.
  • A bilateral business dialogue was included in the business programme of EEF in 2017 and, in 2018, India was one of the 18 countries for which Russia simplified electronic visas to encourage tourism in the Far East.
  • New Delhi will also provide an annual grant of $10,000 to fund the study of Indology at the Centre of Regional and International Studies at Far Eastern Federal University.
  • Also, a MoU has been signed between Amity University and Far Eastern Federal University to intensify cultural and academic exchanges in the areas of research and education.

The indispensable opportunity

  • A lack of manpower is one of the main problems faced by the Far East and Indian professionals like doctors, engineers and teachers can help in the region’s development.
  • Presence of Indian manpower will also help in balancing Russian concerns over Chinese migration into the region.
  • Further, India, one of the largest importers of timber, can find ample resources in the region.
  • Japan and South Korea have also been investing and New Delhi may explore areas of joint collaboration.

State-to-province ties

  • India has also given due importance to ‘paradiplomacy’ where Indian States are being encouraged to develop relations with foreign countries.
  • States like Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Haryana and Goa would be collaborating with Russian Provinces to increase trade and investments.
  • For India, there is immense potential for mid-sized and small businesses who should be assisted to overcome language and cultural barriers so that they successfully adopt local business practices.
  • A meeting between the heads of the regions of Russia and various Chief Ministers from Indian States may soon take place and this should become a regular feature.

Getting started

  • The two countries are also looking at the feasibility of Chennai-Vladivostok sea route that would allow India access to Russia’s Far East in 24 days, compared to the 40 days taken by the current route via Suez.
  • This route would potentially add the required balance to peace and prosperity in South China Sea and could open new vistas for India, like the India-Russia-Vietnam trilateral cooperation.

Way forward

  • Great power rivalry is back in international politics, making it more unpredictable.
  • It is time when U.S. is interested in ‘deglobalisation’ and China is promoting ‘globalization 2.0 with Chinese characteristics’.
  • It makes sense for India and Russia to increase their areas of cooperation and trade in order to hedge against disruptive forces and make their ties sustainable.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

[op-ed snap] On the edge of the big league


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : India to work on its soft powerd to have better standing at global forum.


History of alignments

Post world war

Post World War II, Japan, Germany and the UK were closely aligned to the US and other western European nations were also in the US camp through NATO. India’s non-alignment post Indira Gandhi became Soviet Union-leaning and the US moved closer to Pakistan as a check on the Soviets who had taken control of Afghanistan. One could have argued India made a bad choice, but frankly, we were not very exciting to the US and strong Soviet backing to India after the 1971 war allowed the liberation of Bangladesh.

Nineties Fashion

  • The collapse of the Soviet Union left us weak internationally and our economic policies had taken us into a major balance of payments crisis in 1991.
  • This was a blessing in disguise as it forced us to review both our economic policies and our global alignments.
  • With an IMF assisted structural adjustment programme, many parts of the economy were liberalised.
  • After the initial pain, we slowly moved away from the import substituting industry model we had followed and became a more market-friendly economy.


  • Two forces dominated the geopolitical context in the first decade of the 21 century — China and technology.
  • China became the second-largest economy in the world with its GDP going from $1 trillion to $10 trillion dollars in 15 years.
  • At the same time, the progress in technology was transformative on the back of massive computing power, ubiquitous high-speed connectivity, cheap and unlimited storage and the creation and capture of enough data to make machine learning intelligent and powerful.
  • As a result, technological power and cyber capabilities also became a superpower compulsion.
  • These two developments have led to a change in the basis of power and geopolitical alignment in today’s world. It has all happened in 15 years.

Evaluation of Power

  • Power now needs to be evaluated on four levels — military, economic, cyber and soft power.
  • Interestingly, now different countries lead in different areas, making alignment and geopolitics more complicated.
  • Militarily, it is still the the US and Russia in the lead.
  • China is a clear third.
  • In terms of economic power, the US leads followed by China, and Russia does not figure.
  •  Cyber power – In the cyber domain, five countries have established positions – the US, China, Russia, Israel and Iran and others are lagging. Consider the Russian attack on the US elections, the purported cyber-attack by the US on Iran, the banning of Huawei, Iranian cyber-attacks on the Saudis and China’s great strength in digital and artificial intelligence.
  • Soft Power – In soft power, the US leads but China and Russia don’t really feature. In fact, India has a play.

The multilayered strategy of India

  • If we just observe India’s actions, it is comforting to note we are following a multilayered strategy, walking a complicated tightrope.
  • We continue to ally with Russia on arms’ purchases with our purchase of the S-400 Air Missile System, despite the threat of American sanctions.
  • Economically, though, we are trying to get closer to the US and are not fighting their unilateral sanctions against Iran on oil, despite the substantial impact on our balance of payments.
  • It is both sad and ironic that despite our great capability in technology and our big presence in Silicon Valley, we lag in cyber preparedness at great risk to ourselves.
  • India’s movement on data localisation is needed. Even Europe has imposed the GDPR. But overall, we need to act fast.

India’s Soft power Vision

  • With soft power, India is doing better.
  • We are advancing with our music, food and Bollywood and are going beyond West Asia into the affluent Indian diaspora in the US and UK.
  • Getting the UN to recognise a World Yoga day has been a master stroke by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is a great first step but our inbound tourism still lags behind.


If we act, we are well positioned. Faster arms purchases, developing cyber capability and using technology to address major gaps in education and healthcare are needed. We have the opportunity but not the right to become a third major power. No one will give it to us.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

PM to get Russia’s highest civilian award


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various awards mentioned

Mains level : India-Russia bilateral relations

  • Russia has announced  that it will confer its highest civilian award, the “Order of the Holy Apostle Andrew the First,” on PM Narendra Modi for his work on bilateral ties.

Why this award?

  • The order was presented to the PM for his distinguished contribution to the development of a privileged strategic partnership between Russia and India and friendly ties between the Russian and Indian peoples.
  • The Russian honour comes after a week of the Indian premier being awarded the UAE’s highest civilian award, the Zayed Medal, for his crucial role in boosting the strategic relationship between the two countries.

About the Award

  • The award was established in 1698 but it was abolished during the communist era, before being reinstated in 1998.
  • Since then, it has been awarded to 18 people, mostly Russians, such as AK-47 designer Mikhail Kalashnikov, former president Mikhail Gorbachev and author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

Facts for Prelims

  • The Russian honour is the seventh international award conferred on Modi since he came to power in 2014.
  • The Zayed Medal by the UAE (2019), Grand Collar of the State of Palestine (2018), Amir Abdullah Khan Award is Afghanistan (2016) and Order of King Abdullaziz from Saudi Arabia (2016) are the most significant civilian awards given to the Indian prime minister by heads of Islamic nations.
  • He has also been awarded with the UN’s ‘Champions of the Earth’ Award for his leadership of the International Solar Alliance and pledge to eliminate single use plastic in India by 2022.

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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