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Why Russia is no longer a strategic ally for India in new bipolar world led by US and China

In episode 720 of #CutTheClutter, Shekhar Gupta explains why Russian FM’s visit to India underlines radical shift in strategic balance for New Delhi.

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New Delhi: Russia is no longer a strategic ally for India as underlined by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s visit to New Delhi earlier this week, said ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta in episode 720 of ‘Cut the Clutter’ Thursday.

Lavrov arrived in New Delhi Monday and held talks with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar about defence cooperation among other aspects of bilateral ties. He also laid the groundwork for a bilateral summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in the national capital, later this year.

Gupta explained that over the last four years, the global power balance has changed. “It’s been a confused world for the past four years, but it’s now quite clear that it is again becoming a bipolar world.”

The United States is one pole and China is the other pole. Meanwhile, Russia has resigned itself to being “the junior partner of China”, observed Gupta. India is an aspiring big power and the world is increasingly looking at it as a “balancing new power”, he added

‘What was America has now become Russia’

Gupta explained that during the Cold War, India was very friendly with what was then the Soviet Union as it helped grow its public sector steel plants with advanced technology, among other things. Now, after a few lows in the bilateral relationship with Russia, Putin has been able to put it back on an “even keel”, he observed.

“Since Vajpayee came to power, we have seen the India-US relationship get warmer and stronger and the relationship with Russia becoming more transactional,” said Gupta.

For decades, India had wanted Washington D.C. to de-hyphenate it with Pakistan and put an end to the concept of “two country rule”, explained Gupta. “Post Cold War, Indian foreign policy worked very hard to get these two things out of the way as they would irritate India,” explained Gupta. This has worked out well as Pakistan has started to disappear from India-US joint statements and American dignitaries who come to India no longer also make a trip to Pakistan, he added.

“But what was America, has now become Russia,” said Gupta. Though Moscow and New Delhi have shared a “special” relationship with elements of “nostalgia”, the former has started to hyphenate India with Pakistan, he said. “This became obvious with Lavrov’s visit,” he added.

Lavrov first visited India and then Pakistan and his statements in both countries were markedly different, explained Gupta. While in Pakistan, Lavrov said Russia sees Pakistan as an “important friend”, seeks to continue exercises called ‘friendship druzhba’ and is willing to supply Pakistan high-tech or specialised military equipment to fight terrorism.

Asked about a potential security agreement between Russia and China at a press conference in India, earlier this week, Lavrov denied it but referred to alliances like the “Asia NATO” as disruptive, said Gupta. “That was a platitudinous statement… you know that he was turning the knife a little bit into India,” he added.

Gupta also observed that Lavrov did not get an audience with PM Modi on the pretext that the former was campaigning in West Bengal. “In January 2020, when Lavrov came to India, he had been given an audience by Modi. On the other hand, when he goes to Pakistan, he meets… the Army Chief who matters most of all, and the Prime Minister.’’

So if anything, “he [Lavrov] had much more ceremony about his visit to Pakistan,” said Gupta.

Also read: Has Russia hyphenated India & Pakistan? Growing Moscow-Islamabad ties have Delhi ‘worried’

India’s reliance on Russia for military supplies may change with France factor

Citing a paper by Stimson Center titled “The Influence of Arms: Explaining the Durability of India-Russia Alignment”, Gupta said that over 80 per cent of India’s military hardware is still Russian.

“In fact, if India goes to war with anybody right now… all the tanks will be regimes that will be T-72s and T-90s,” said Gupta. “Two-thirds of combat Indian Air Force will be of Russian origin which are Sukhois and the various MiGs.”

But, he pointed out, that although a nuclear-powered submarine has been routinely leased to India by Russia, the growing India-France relationship for military supplies may change this. “Meanwhile, Russia’s dependence on China now is extreme as China is a market for a lot of Russian military technology,” Gupta revealed.

‘Russia compliments China’s power against America and its friends’

“It [Russia] is a big military power… but in no other area does it have parity with either America or China,” said Gupta.

It has “alienated the Germans” over what it has done in Ukraine, caught the world’s attention over its treatment of dissident Alex Navalny and upset Britain after, allegedly, poisoning a former Russian spy in the UK,’’ he explained.

With Russia now “resigned to being the junior partner of China”, it reflects the new global balance of power, with America on one side and China on the other, said Gupta. “Russia supplements or compliments China’s power against America and its friends,” he added.

When Lavrov interacted with Jaishankar, the latter used the expression ‘Indo-Pacific’ while the former used the phrase ‘Asia Pacific’. Gupta said this could not have been casual as Lavrov has spent a lot of time in Sri Lanka, Maldives and South Asia.

“Russians have let it be known that they are skeptical of the Indo-Pacific concept and Quad and see it as a destabilising entity.. .and an anti-China grouping,” said Gupta.

Watch the full episode here: 

Also read: India-Russia ties can grow despite differences. We don’t agree on everything with US either


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  1. All news and journal mostly filtered by central government or state government. We don’t know mostly secret behind news because of filter. We never don’t know deep history and deep future behind news. So that’s why true legend of journalist is never praised.

  2. Gupta should get his facts right
    . Russia, despite the barrage of sanctions imposed against it is again an economic power on the ascendancy. Russia is THE world leader in nuclear power technology. US is nowhere in the picture, neither is China. Russia is the leading producer and exporter of wheat. US was in that position few years ago. in military domain , Russian technology is unrivalled in many areas such as hypersonic missiles and futuristic weapon systems like S 400 or Poseidon torpedo. Guptaji was once saying that Russian Sputnik Vaccine was an odd man out in terms of vaccine effectiveness. now it holds the most potential globally. don’t parrot what you hear in thr western MSM, Mr. Gupta

  3. Though Russia is on china’s side it doesn’t make sense of authors above.
    India’s relation ship with other nations is only with that nation and it doesn’t matter whether Russia is with china.
    Coming down to individual level do you stop talking to your friend just because he speaks to a person whom you do not like.
    India has for long adopted non alignment as its state policy and let it continue. As a fact it was erstwhile USSR that supported india during critical times and USA even to this day is not fully reliable.

  4. I would suggest viewers to please read our former envoy to Russia during UPA 1’s article on the Print.Mr Sinal has actually been in the diplomatic profession for 4 decades.This article is quite radical and highly opinionated.Although, few would deny India’s interests closely align with the US at this juncture. As Dr. Jaishankar, has been stating repeatedly that we must not look at one relationship in light of another.Hence, our ties to both Russia and the US must be independently nurtured and Indian diplomacy under the leadership of someone as erudite as Dr Jaishankar has the ability to take on this challenge.

  5. Things are nowhere near as simple as Gupta makes it out to be. Russia’s economic power may be limited nowadays but China is nowhere near to being a true superpower in the sense that the USSR was; i.e. able to project massive hard power all over the globe. China relies on oil imports and it can be choked at the Straits of Malacca if war broke out. China cannot build fully-powered jet engines for its J-20s which can be detected using conventional radars. China still depends heavily upon Russia for technology which it copies, often illegally, as it does with US tech (of course, the USSR also stole Western tech). Russia still has 7,000 nukes compared to less than 300 for China and Russia’s stretches from Vladivostok in the East to Kaliningrad in the West making it a strategic player regardless of economic power. And Russia, with a declining population, remains suspicious of China’s intentions in Manchuria, Siberia and Central Asia and Putin has made moves to counter China so Russia is hardly a wingman for China!

  6. As I wrote when Modi moved India towards the US with the significant junking of the PAK FA fighter project, India, far too weak for is size due to it own suicidal Constitutional”Inequality under law” reflected in Quota (Reservations/ License0 and Corruption (Extortion / Percentage) Policies is getting set to do Nanga Nach between the Great Powers of China, US and Russia. Gupta underestimates Putin. Spurned by India, Russia has everything to
    gain from watching the US and China grind each other down. India is irrelevant.
    Booming like a bittern, it is inconsequential to global affairs sans hard power, sans moral high ground, sans economic muscle and sans technological competence. And the US will re embrace Pakistan after cutting off India from Russia. Long knife soldier who speaks with forked tongue can never be trusted.

  7. As I wrote when Modi moved India towards the US with the significant junking of the PAK FA fighter project, Indi, far too weak for is size due to it own suicidal Constitutional “Inequality under law” reflected in Quota (Reservations/ License0 and Corruption (Extortion / Percentage) Policies is getting set for Nanga Nach between the Great Powers of China, US and Russia. Gupt underestimates Putin. Spurned by India, Russia has everything to gain from watching the US and China grind themselves down. India is irrelevant. Booming like a bittern, it is inconsequential to global affairs sans hard power, sans moral high ground, sans economic muscle and sans technological competence..

  8. Gupta analysis is not well studied geo politics. Its looklike someone ordered such views are to be printed for public.
    He is right that now it is multipolar world. Emetging 2 super powers are in Asia. But China canot be overtaken by India due to ourpolitical system which is very unstable.
    In case of china it steady progress and faster.

    China dezperately need Russia to secure it stability and economic growth for many reasons. Defence tech copperation, strategical resources and it geographyical area. Putin Russia is again retained it super millitarypower and can handle US and it allies aggressive role in the world. Example Syria.

    In such ,China need Russia to secure it economic domination and protect from US attack on various aspects and can challenge the west techno power. Plus control over AsiaPacific Region.( Japan Korea Australia are not just paper tigers for china)

    So where is India? With whom she sud ally? Which ally will give us to progress and develop? With QUAD? NO. Bcoz QUAD want to use India as a pawn in chess play with China.

    So who will the losser? Defejitely India.

    So we must ally with Russia to control on China wrong moves towards India. Not with US whob use us to solve their issue with china.

    So, the current geo politics cordially changed. NATO will be disolved soon, EC is breathing badly in all sectors.

    Asian country will be super power. And that is possible if you ally with trust worthy partner.

  9. Putin’s Russia is no longer dependable as an ally.All they want to do is milk India as much as they can for inflated obsolete military hardware.In the meantime Russia has become most important ally of China and its satellite Pakistan.Putin has not made any serious attempts to persuade Xi to stop his aggressive moves at the borders with India.Putin values China more than India.India was kept out of Afghan peace conference at China/Pak behest.As they say there are no permanent friends,just permanent interests.Time to dump Russia and make a common cause with US,Japan,Australia and other victims of Chinese expansionism to contain and then neuter Chinese fascism.

  10. No harm in a little caviar and vodka being on the table, along with the large barbecue and Budweiser.

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