S. Jaishankar in New York
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar addresses a meeting in New York | PTI photo
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External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar described the talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov as “excellent” that reflects the “Special and Privileged Partnership” between the two countries. And Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting in Russia and a stopover in Tehran indicates something is changing, especially because Jaishankar also followed the same route. New Delhi is attempting to forge a new regional alliance and Moscow is slowly appearing to move away from Beijing.

During his visit, Rajnath Singh lauded the ‘steadfast support’ provided by Russia in response to India’s defence and security needs. Notwithstanding the stark reality of geopolitics, in which Russia no more enjoys the power of the Cold War era, New Delhi values Kremlin’s friendship highly. Importantly, it is necessary to wean Russia away from the ongoing China-Iran-Russia partnership.

Also read: Army thwarting PLA on Pangong Tso south bank is a warning that India is ‘fighting fit’

Deepening defence ties

In the wake of heightened tensions between India and China, Russia has agreed to speed up the supply of 33 fighter jets, a deal signed after Prime Minister Narendra Modi “warmly congratulated” Russian President Vladimir Putin on the constitutional reforms allowing him to continue to be number one in political hierarchy till 2026.

According to Russia’s Federal Service for Military and Technical cooperation (FSVTS), India has ordered for a huge $14.5 billion worth of defence equipment between 2018 and 2019, including the $5 billion purchase of S-400 air defense missile system. All this, in spite of the serious threat of sanctions from the US. Besides the supply of Admiral Grigorovich-class (Project 1135.6P/M) guided-missile frigates to the Indian Navy, and other ammunitions to the Air Force and Army, the India-Russia deal inked by PM Modi and President Putin last year includes greater engagements in energy and shipping sectors as well that will take the bilateral trade to about $30 billion by 2025. After the US, Russia is the second-largest defence exporter of the world, a status not likely to be altered by Beijing in the near future.

Despite New Delhi’s diversifying basket of defence purchases, Russia’s defence exports to India still accounts for 58 per cent of our total defence imports and is likely to almost double in the next few years. This will be more than Russia’s share of defence exports to China by the year 2030. From 2012 to 2016, India imported 68 per cent of its defence equipment from Russia while China imported 57 per cent. But from 2016 to 2019, the Russian arms export to China went up to 76 per cent.

Except India, Russia has no other major defence equipment buyer, especially in the region. Much to the discomfort of the domestic ‘comrades’, Russia is, by and large, a regional power now, with limited influence in the rest of the world.

Also read: India and China once again agree to de-escalate in Ladakh, maintain peace, build trust

Russia’s Asian dependence

India-Russia friendship and cooperation in the fields of industrial, technical, space and nuclear advancements is nearly seven decades old now. Indo–Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation, signed in 1971, came at a time when the US was against India and China feigned to stay neutral while tilting towards Pakistan. China recognised Bangladesh only in 1975.

Post-Cold War, Russia inherited the (treaty) obligations of the erstwhile USSR, retained the UNSC membership, but seriously began looking for a new identity, shorn of ideology. Russia finally moved towards Atlanticism, (though it majorly involved closer ties with the US, which Russia did not relish) and found its roots in Europe. Vladimir Putin, after assuming office in 2000, made the much-needed course correction, admitting that Russia is part of European culture. “Russia is part of the European culture. And I cannot imagine my own country in isolation from Europe and what we often call the civilised world. So it is hard for me to visualise NATO as an enemy,” Putin had said in an interview to the BBC in 2000.

But, with Brexit and a number of European Union economies struggling economically, Russia will have to depend more on its Asian cousins. The Coronavirus pandemic has effected tectonic shifts in regional and global geopolitics, bringing about an unprecedented economic decline. The two decades of trade-oriented power supremacy has completely destroyed the already creaking power pecking order and global institutional frameworks.

Also read: India sits on Black Top with Helmet under its boots. A 1962 tactic by China is now likely

Containing China

The US is aware of the fact that the post-Cold War order has collapsed and with the emergence of ‘not-so-peaceful’ China, the immediate challenge is to its own position of pre-eminence in global affairs. Strategic community in the US could be looking        to formulate a second Containment policy — this time to target China. The first had followed the containment of the Soviet Union. This time, the ‘Soviet satellite states’ will have to be substituted with the ‘Chinese satellites’ States, like Pakistan and countries that have got inextricably intertwined in Beijing’s Belt and Road debt trap. The emerging Indo-Pacific framework will provide a larger base for almost half of the UN member countries from all the continents to forge a new trade and investment bloc. The new rules of engagement will need a balanced approach based on cooperation and mutual respect among countries. Why will Russia prefer to be part of a new power structure where rules are written by a hegemonic China?

Like the Indian political establishment, Putin, too, must be betting on the return of Donald Trump as US President for another term. An anti-China Trump will help keep the pressure on Beijing and work as a dampener for China’s aggressive moves in the region, in the immediate neighbourhood, in South China Sea, and more importantly, in countries which were once under Russia’s political and economic influence.

New Delhi has put its best diplomatic foot forward. But much more needs to be done as far as economic engagement with our neighbours is concerned. A renewed India-Russia-US axis, moving closely with a more realistic approach towards an Indo-Pacific structure, will give India a great advantage. What is important is to set our own house in order, improve our economic fundamentals and increase global alliance partners without compromising with our strategic autonomy.

The author is a member of the National Executive Committee of the BJP and former editor of Organiser. Views are personal.

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11 Comments Share Your Views


  1. Seshadri Chari is right on mark. The present day Russia takes it as an insult if it is compared to erstwhile Soviet Union. The former Soviet Union or USSR as it was called, was a Communist totalitarian establishment, established by Vladimir Lenin in November 1917. Contrary to popular perceptions, Lenin’s takeover of Russia and other regions of the erstwhile Russian Empire was by way of a coup and had nothing to do with any popular uprising in favour of his movement. This coup was facilitated mainly on account of Russian setback in the First World War, coupled with support of Imperial Germany. Besides suppression of human rights, Lenin was apparently keen on elimination of Christianity across the world. This resulted in the Russian civil war, which Lenin won more on account of better organisation. Lenin died in 1924 and was soon succeeded by Joseph Stalin, a far more ruthless dictator. Stalin is credited with having murdered about 30 million people, during his rule, which lasted till his death in March 1953. Post Stalin, the Communist leaders of USSR tried to live down the past legacy to an extent, but their steps were considered inadequate. The end of the Cold war and the disintegration of the erstwhile USSR by 1991, marked a new watershed in global politics. Post 1991, Russia has tried to reinvent itself, as a democracy. Many post Communist leaders including its current President Vladimir Putin, consider themselves to be devout Christians. India has always been considered by many Russians as a good friend and Russians would not like to be put at the same pedestal as Communist China.

  2. Why would Russia listen to Jaishankar or Rajnath Singh, and move away from its dearest friend China? Russia needs China more than any other country to fight the US.

  3. India is a big country big economy and was progressing at high speed but it faips to understand that unless they resolved all security matters within india and with its neighbor , it cannot keep pace of its progress. How its possible while its bleeding. Pakistan , a much smaller country than india . But indian policies r always dominated by Pakistan orientation even indian election need adventures like pulwama and Balakot, such a small mentality by a compartively bigger country. Now back in June india was well on path of invading or misadventure in GB Gilgit Baltitan. But it is caught in Ladakh by chinese becoz in GB indian designs were to interrupt BRI and CEPEC which india forget r chinese mega and strategic projs. This brings india , for ever, from now on a suspicious neighbor for china. Pakistan was already tasting it since its birth. So without any reason indian both neighbors will remain with hot borders and with this reality indian progress which always based on peace is damaged seriously and nobody knows but one can guess this will seriously harm indians future.

  4. A bit disappointed that the author didn’t cover anything on India Iran probabilities. I was misled by the heading. Otherwise the article gave fine analysis on current situation. Can we not think out of the box? Most countries by now acknowledge that China is evil. If Pakistan can broker a relation between China and the USA in the past, can we not attempt to forge a strong alliance covering India, USA, Japan, Australia, Russia, Iran and Israel? Sworn enemies like the Arab world and Israel have forged new relations, then its worth looking at India looking for a role in bringing countries mentioned above together. If not all, at least most of them. Pakistan is only capable of exporting uneducated Islamist as cannon fodder. Yet they have caused India to allocate considerable war effort, money and peace of mind.
    An idea.

  5. Multiple hugs of uncle Sam to begging Mullah Iran!
    Designer suit global trotting to unshaved Rishi Yogi at home and peace with peacocks !
    Life has come full circle and lot talking Global Neta , so silent or talking about no encroachment by PLA!
    What a strategic autonomy in last 6 yrs,neglecting loyal Russians and now rushing to Russia as Uncle Sam is so silent!!
    Great Nationalist Hindu Party is free to day dream as per their Idiosyncracies!
    Unless Ego, intrangience,talking and taking people of diverse Bharat together, crises will creep every 6 months!
    Unless sick secular parties, Nationalist party is far better but worse with their Myopic utopian outlook and attitude!
    When Hinduism is saying world is one family(Vasudeva Kudumbagam), why India is divided along all fault lines of religion, language and petty politics even after full majority?
    Autocratic but patriotic Putin built Russia agains US from Yeltsin era shambles!
    When in 6 years we lost all friends in our neighbourhood to China, now we are moving Russia away from China!!!??
    Haha! No end to deluding self and people of great Bharat!!
    Good luck to new project of “Moving Russai away from China and befriending the noblest Mullah Iranis””!
    Awaiting next crisis and another new project ,forgetting the word “Development”in the 6 year crisis to crisis , dramas and traumas of common humans!

  6. Totally wrong assessment, Russia n Iran is trying to convince India, to shake hands with China n leave America n the West. N ultimately India will make China friend , whether Modiji stays in Power or not.


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