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Chapter: 12th Political Science : Chapter 9 : India and the World

India-Russia Relations

The Soviet Union was India’s closest friend and a strategic partner since 1947.

India–Russia Relations

Indian-Soviet Union Relations (1947-1991)

The Soviet Union was India’s closest friend and a strategic partner since 1947. The relationship between the two countries has withstood several challenging geopolitical circumstances. Unlike the USA, Russia has historically understood and respected India’s strategic autonomy. It views India as an ancient civilisation rich in culture, knowledge systems and wisdom. This basic quality of the relation has enabled the bilateral ties to flourish over the years.

Initially, when India became free, the Soviet Union (USSR) under the leadership of Joseph Stalin was suspicious of the genuineness of India’s independent policy of non-alignment. However, India-Soviet bonhomie started with the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s visit to the USSR in June 1955 which was followed by the Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s visit to India in December 1955.

This was also the time when India adapted Soviet-style state planning and a ‘socialistic pattern of society’. In this era, the USSR used instruments of aid, trade and diplomacy in developing countries to limit Western influence. Subsequently, India-Soviet relations flourished over the decades in the fields of metallurgy, defence, energy and trade sectors.

The India-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation was signed by the two sides in 1971. This was a landmark in the relationship between the two countries.

During the India–Pakistan war in 1971, the USSR took a firm position in favour of India and sent ships to the Indian Ocean to counter any move by the USA, which had already sent its 7th Fleet into the Bay of Bengal. The results of the 1971 India– Pakistan war and emergence of Bangladesh established a trusted partnership between India and the USSR.


India-Russian Relations (1991- present)

With the fall of the USSR in 1991, bilateral relations between Russia and India went through a period of uncertainty. The Treaty of 1971 became ineffective as the Soviet regime no longer existed. Russia was also pressed to shift its focus towards domestic affairs and its relations with the USA and Europe. India now had to deal with a Russia which did not have an interest nor the resources for developing its ties with other nations.

During his visit to New Delhi in 1993, the Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed a new Treaty of Friendship which was an effort to rekindle the spirit in which the 1971 Treaty was signed. However, the fundamental character of the Treaty was transformed as the new Treaty just called for regular consultation and coordination in case of any threat to peace. Unlike in the Soviet era, Yeltsin described India as a ‘natural partner’ but he did not give the impression of a ‘special relationship’. Though the relationship continued between the two countries in the early 1990s, the ‘benign neglect’ of India by Russia in this period was evident.

Deal for S-400 Air Defence System

India and Russia have formally inked the $ 5.2 billion deal for S-400 system in the year 2018.The air defence system is expected to be delivered by the year 2020. 400 Triumf is an advanced surface-to-air missile system, developed by Russia’s state-owned company Almaz-Antey, and can shoot down hostile aircraft and ballistic missiles. It has an estimated range of 250 kilometres and a possible upgrade is speculated to extend it to 400 kilometres.

The new Russian leadership under Vladimir Putin (President, 2000–present) reversed the Yeltsin-era drift in India-Russia bilateral relations. Russia signed the Declaration on Strategic Partnership with India in 2000 and established the institution of annual summit meetings. Its declaration was further elevated to the level of “Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership” in 2010. Moscow realized that as a Eurasian power, an active Russian role in an emerging Asia would be limited without a solid partnership with old friends like India.


Areas of Cooperation

Currently, India is the largest importer of Russian defence equipment. The defence facet of the relationship is one of the strongest pillars of the India-Russia relationship and has gone through the test of time. Russia is also the only country that lays emphasis on sharing high-end defence technology with India which highlights the mutual trust between the two countries.

India, Russia and other neighbouring countries are engaged in efforts to operationalise the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) which promises to propel connectivity and trade relations between the two countries.

India and Russia deeply cooperate in a diverse set of areas which includes nuclear energy, trade, oil and gas, space program, science and technology, at the UN, BRICS, SCo and other international fora. The two countries share common ground on critical global challenges such as terrorism, cybersecurity, climate change, preventing the weaponisation of outer space and prevention of weapons of mass destruction. Russia also supports India’s permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council. It also has remained a strong supporter of India in the Kashmir issue which is of India’s core interest.

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12th Political Science : Chapter 9 : India and the World : India-Russia Relations |

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