Muhammad Adan Nisar

There is no permanent friend or enemy in international politics or domestic politics. Interest prevails over everything. Every state protects its national interest.

Many changes have occurred in Indo-Russia relations in the last two decades. Russia has been a strategic ally of India during the Cold War.

Indo-Russia relations existed on three pillars during the cold war; soviet arms export to India, mutual public sector heavy economic philosophy, US-Pakistan-China vs. Indo-Soviet geopolitical alignment.

The disintegration of the Soviet Union, the emergence of China as a superpower, the US-China rivalry, the Russian-China strategic partnership, and the Indo-US strategic partnership have affected Indo-Russia relations.

Now only one pillar exists which is Russian arms to India. India has to rely on Russia to get the spare parts of the equipment and for the upgradation of its equipment. However, Russia competes in the Indian arms market.

According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Russian equipment was the largest import by Indian Military in the last decade.

Now this import of arms has shrunk by nearly half from 2012 to 2021. In recent years, India has changed its policy. Now India is more focused on developing its defense industry, and getting equipment and the latest technology from the West.

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year in February 2022, major powers condemned Russian aggression. India was initially reluctant to condemn Russian aggression towards Ukraine and faced Western criticism.

Indian stance was very balanced. India restrained itself from voting against Russian aggression in the United Nations, and the Western governments were frustrated by the Indian behavior.

However, India ramped up its purchasing of Russian oil since the Ukraine war, which was very concerning for the West.

In mid of March 2022, the spokesperson of the White House, Jen Psaki, questioned India on its Russian stance that where you will be when history is being written.

In September last year, India first time changed its policy towards Russia. It voted against it, backing to Invite of Ukrainian President Zelenskyy to deliver a speech at Security Council via video.

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Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi showed his concerns at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand in September last year and asked President Putin if this era is not of war.

Modi’s remarks seem to have admonished President Putin, and these were described as “significant” by Secretary Blinken.

Political Analyst Happymon Jacob explains that Delhi is shifting its strategy from Russia to the United States. Both (US and India) are coming close strategically, which is a major shift in Indian policy.

Russia has veto power in the Security Council of the United Nations; it has played a key role for India in the past. It assisted India at every forum of the United Nations and opposed the adoption of resolutions or sanctions against India.

Indian policymakers today think that France and the United States would play the same role, which Russia has been playing for India, and would protect Indian interests at the Security Council.

India and US are strategic partners. This partnership is deepening over time. India is protecting the US’s interest in this region against China, which is the rivalry of both (the US and India).

The relationship between China and India is getting worse with the passing of every day. India considers China a potential threat to its national security.

China and Russia are coming close strategically to countering US hegemony in this region, which concerns India. Indian concerns are growing that China may influence Russia on the Security Council in China’s favor.

Indian policymakers think that if Skirmishes between Chinese forces and Indian troops occur again in the Himalayan region, China will pressure Russia to stop providing arms and ammunition to India and diplomatic backing.

India is going into the Western Camp, and decoupling itself slowly from Russia but steadily, which is not surprising for the strategic community.

Both countries have a long history of strategic partnership and a great deal of cooperation during the cold war. Now both counties seem like they need more natural strategic partners.

The shape of the future geopolitical framework is very clear. India is moving toward the US to deter China, and India is underway to withdraw from its strategic partnership with Russia.

This decoupling will take place slowly. However, India will depend on Russia until it does not find an alternate military supplier such as the United States, France, and Israel.

The United States provides arms, and ammunition to India with some conditions (unlike France or Russia). Growing diplomatic trust between US and India will enhance the defense ties.

The writer is a Diplomacy & Strategic Studies graduate from the University of the Punjab, Lahore, and is associated with The Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI). He can be reached at mohammadadannisar@gmail.com

**The Diplomatic Insight does not take any position on issues and the views, opinions & findings represented herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Diplomatic Insight and its staff

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