Thursday, 11 December 2014

Russian roulette: Putin arrives for Indo-Russian summit

Ties between the close allies are fraying as Russia looks to Pakistan

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 11th Dec 14

For most of the past half-century, New Delhi and Moscow have been the closest of geostrategic partners. During India's deep tensions with China in the 1960s, its 1971 war with Pakistan, during Russia's ill-fated occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, through India's military struggle against Pakistan-backed insurrections and in their joint support to the Northern Alliance against the Taliban, New Delhi and Moscow have been able to truthfully declare that there was not the slightest conflict of interest between the two countries. Russia's strategic interests in South Asia were fully met through backing India; while New Delhi's differences with Western capitals during the Cold War, especially Washington D C, kept it onside with Moscow in every important way. Even without a significant trade relationship or people-to-people exchanges, Russia-India cooperation in the strategic defence, space and nuclear power sectors allowed Prime Minister Narendra Modi to tell Russia's President Vladimir Putin during the BRICS summit in July that every child in India knows that Russia is its best friend.

Mr Putin comes to Delhi at a time when this close relationship has begun to fray. Irked perhaps by India's growing relationship with the United States, which recently supplanted Russia as India's top weapons supplier, Moscow has transgressed a major Indian red line with a new arms-supply relationship with Pakistan. In mid-November, Sergei Shoigu became the first Russian defence minister to visit Pakistan since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In Islamabad, he signed a military cooperation agreement with Pakistan, declaring that the world “wants to do business with Pakistan now”. There is talk of a sale of Russian military helicopters to Pakistan. Moscow and Islamabad agreed to increase port calls by their respective naval warships, fight terrorism together and, perhaps most galling for New Delhi, work together to stabilise Afghanistan.

Even more worrying for New Delhi is Russia's deepening embrace of China, accelerated by Russia's isolation after its Crimean adventure. Although Moscow is painfully aware of its strategic and economic vulnerability vis-à-vis China, economic need has induced Russia to step up energy supplies to China, and supply arms and sensitive defence technologies that it knows China will quickly absorb, reproduce and even export. Russian technology and equipment previously supplied to China - such as the RD-93 jet engine - were diverted to Pakistan; the RD-93 engine now powers the Pakistan Air Force's JF-17 Thunder fighter.

As Narendra Modi and Vladimir Putin sit down together for the 15th Annual India-Russia Summit, they would do well to reflect on ways of resuscitating the “special and privileged strategic partnership”. There are still many common interests that can be built upon. Even as India diversifies its purchase of tactical weapon systems, it looks mainly to Russia for strategic projects like the design and leasing of nuclear submarines; and the co-development and manufacture of a fifth-generation fighter aircraft. India remains dependent on Russia for maintaining its huge Russian-supplied arsenal. Even as Moscow signs and negotiates gigantic hydrocarbon supply arrangements with China, it would want to retain a hedge by enhancing supply agreements with India. New Delhi has already pointed out that it refused to endorse western sanctions after Russia's annexation of the Crimea, and declined to apportion blame. New Delhi has announced that the two countries would spell out a joint road map for the next decade.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well India needs to ask itself whether current foreign policy of hostility towards pakistan and china is the right path.

Anonymous said...

Didn't see any news about agreements on 5th Gen fighter, MTA, mini Brahmos project, nor about potential leasing of a second nuclear submarine. Is India really telling Putin - you're a cold turkey ?

Anonymous said...


The time and oppurtunty must be used to get the technology for the 125mm tank gun , manufacturing technology for the 90 kms smertch rockets, spares and product support for the su30mki mig-29
and all russian equipment inthe navy where product support or base depots stocking spares is urgently required . With russian economy on the downslide , cutting edge technolgy to build the Russian BOERRIE CLASS SUBS BY l&T BE SOUGHT AT HSL SHIPYARD IN VIZAG . BEING A STRATEGIC PARTNER NO RUSSIAN DEFENCE SPACE OR ATOMIC ENERGY OR MISSILE TECHNOLOGY BE BANNED FOR SALE TO INDIA PROVIDED A FAIR PRICE IS PAID ESPECIALLY FOR SUB LAUNCHED 8000KM NEW GEN MISSILES WITH MIRV AND MARV WARHEADS . ALL NEW GENTANKS GUNS , MISSILES BE CO DEVELOPED WITH INDIAN PRIVATE CONSORTIUMS PLAYING A LARGE ROLE ESPECIALLY IN SOFTWARE , ELECTRONICS

Anonymous said...

Old shine has gone out of strategic indo-Russian relationship. Times have changed dramatically. India going in US direction because of formidable Chinese defence forces. Russia moving toward's China by supplying high end weapon systems.

Ajay Krishna said...

Russia's move to supply helicopters and enhance ties with Pakistan has been hyped by the media. Yes this will have some negative impact on India, but the real threat is Russia's relationship with China. This has been ignored by the media and not spoken by the government. Russia's relationship with China is more dangerous to India, than its relationship with Pakistan. Russia has sold more jets, submarines and other weapons to China than it has to India. This is mainly due to 3 reasons. 1 Economic necessity of Russia 2. Strategic interest to counter US in Asia & 3. Lack of assertiveness of successive Indian governments. If India had convinced Russia not to sell to China, by buying more jets, submarines and other weapons, the weapon sales to China could have been curbed to a great extent, if not completely eliminated. It has also failed to convince Russia of its relationship with other western countries, especially US. It should convince Russia that its relationship with west is not aimed at Russia but mainly against China. India can also still rectify this by buying more weapons, which it armed forces desperately need due to growing threats from China & obsolete weapons or the lack of it in its inventory. It can then force Russia to sell lesser weapons to China or even stop selling weapons to China. Russia will still be the dominant defence partner for India for at-least another couple of decades. India needs to recognize this and take action accordingly.

Anonymous said...

The Russian defense minister tries to strike a deal with Pakistan on helicopters, and then Putin tells us he is willing to make in India 400 helicopters. Reminds me of an old Indian children's story of Two cats and the Monkey.

victor raj said...

Ask them for more TOT in T-50 and stop the sales of helicopters to Pakistan.