By- Anushka Tatia
(Student of OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat)
In a nutshell
1. Russia’s armaments will be used less frequently in India.
2. It plans to continue working with Russia on energy-related projects.
3. India wants to continue becoming the leader of the nonaligned Global South.
4. The U.S. and India are working together increasingly to handle challenges pertaining to China.
The United States believes that working with India will be essential in allaying Washington’s worries about China’s destabilising actions in the Indo-Pacific region. Russia is likewise considered a strategic danger by the United States.
On the other hand, Russia and India have a long and rich history of bilateral relations. Currently, Russia exports oil to India at nearly 1.6 million barrels per day (March, 2023) and weapons worth $13 billion during the previous five years.The possible course of long-term ties between Russia and India is being aggressively assessed by the United States. In light of the growing links between China and Russia, this judgement is especially important. The changing nature of the relationship between Beijing and Moscow raises questions about how this may affect US-Indian cooperation in addressing shared issues. The complexity of these evaluations entails a close scrutiny of the consequences for geopolitical alignments in the larger Indo-Pacific area as well as the diplomatic, economic, and strategic ramifications.
Indian-Russian relations’ nature
The Cold War was marked by deep cooperation between the USSR and India in the field of defence, technology and economy. This had strained relations with the Americans who ended up supporting Pakistan during the 1971 war and played an instrumental role in amassing support against India’s nuclear tests.
New Delhi furthermore became the head of the worldwide Non Aligned Movement (NAM). Soviet assistance for the movement was strong even though it claimed to avoid taking sides in the Cold War.
However with the end of the Cold War and the decline of Russia, India and America became closer. India views the United States’ strength and influence as essential to counteracting China’s ascent in the Indo-Pacific.
Establishing the Quad, a collaborative forum including Australia, Japan, the United States, and India, with the goal of balancing China and advancing a Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) along with several agreements like BECA, LEMOA and COMCASA, have marked significant steps in collaboration between the two countries.
However, despite this, India and Russia continue to have close military, political, and economic connections.
The challenge of Chinese-Russian collaboration
The ongoing alliance between China and Russia complicates India’s policy. Due to its war on Ukraine, Moscow has been cut off from the West and has turned to China for assistance. Russia’s top energy consumer is China as well. As part of a “no-limits” alliance announced by Presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, Russia has also asked China for military assistance.
With Moscow as the junior member, a Sino-Russian union poses a geopolitical conundrum for India. How will Beijing counter pressure India with its influence on the Russian government?
Constraints within the security alliance
The primary source of India’s problems is not the country’s energy supply. The country has no intention of stopping its energy imports and is committed to continuing its economic expansion. Because the United States aggressively collaborated with India to make sure that the shortages from Iranian imports were made up, New Delhi obliged when the United States imposed sanctions on Iranian energy. India was privately informed by the United States that Washington did not object to India continuing to purchase Russian oil while sanctions were in place against Russia.
Imports of weapons are the key concern. India imported 60% of its armaments from Russia before the conflict in Ukraine. Moscow remains at the top, although its percentage has decreased to 45%.
Even before Russia’s invasion, the country sought to diversify its military sources. Russian weapons are sometimes seen as being affordable, but over time, their true cost might increase due to the high life-cycle expenses associated with logistics, repair, maintenance, and replacement parts. Furthermore, it is becoming more widely accepted that weapons supplied by Western vendors are of higher quality than those made in Russia. India can diversify its weaponry supply thanks to closer ties with the United States, Europe, and Israel. India is the second largest arms importer with 9.5% of global share: SIPRI report .The country also wants to expand its domestic armaments sector for both local use and export.
Reliance on Russian weapons has become more problematic as a result of the conflict in Ukraine. Sanctions now imposed on Russian arms producers require Russia to redirect a large portion of its weaponry output to make up for lost military losses. Evidence of the Russians’ impending delivery and support delays for Indian military contracts is already apparent.Russia is unable to deliver vital defence supplies it had committed to India’s military because of the war in Ukraine, the Indian Air Force (IAF) says. It is estimated that the Russians will need three to seven years to rebuild all of their lost systems. For clients like India, that might imply sustained shortages.
Ultimately, the unsatisfactory performance of Russian weapons in Ukraine has decreased the demand for Russian armaments. The Vivekananda International Foundation, an Indian think tank with deep links to the present administration, recently concluded in a paper that the quality of Russian technology is increasingly being questioned, particularly in light of Western sanctions against Moscow. India has to gradually wean itself off of its reliance on Russian military technology in the long run.
Peace and diplomacy
India has painstakingly avoided criticising Russia’s conflict in Ukraine thus far. However, China and Russia recently humiliated India, the G20 chair this year, by refusing to accept a consensus statement on the conflict in Ukraine during a recent meeting of foreign ministers. India has rejected China’s Belt and Road Initiative and is positioning itself as a leader in the Global South, vying for influence with Beijing and Moscow.
India is still a fervent supporter of the BRICS economic alliance, which also consists of China, Russia, South Africa, and Brazil. The contradiction between India’s aspiration for nonaligned leadership and the necessity of meeting China’s global threat may be reflected in these contradictory diplomatic endeavours.
Along with these extensive outreach efforts, India has also reached out to Western Europe, the Middle East—especially Turkey, Israel, and the Gulf states—and Japan and Taiwan in the Pacific. Since these initiatives have an impact on India’s standing in the Indo-Pacific and its ties to the West, they are especially notable. India seeks to lessen its reliance on Chinese commerce. Due to the lack of connections through Pakistan to Afghanistan and beyond, it is unable to access markets and suppliers in the north. It appears to be getting harder to route through Russia, Armenia, and Iran. India’s natural route to the West passes via the Middle East, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Caucasus, on its way into Europe and Central Asia. India is becoming more interested in East Africa as a result of this. India is at conflict with China and Russia because of its extensive geopolitical interconnectedness.
India has surpassed China as the most populated country and has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. However, the nation lacks the might and money necessary to be regarded as a stand-alone powerhouse. With little prospects for a detente, China will continue to be its principal geopolitical adversary. An alliance with Moscow would provide India with less strategic advantages as China gains ground on Russia in terms of strength and influence. The significance of historical links to Russia will decrease as younger generations take on greater leadership and accountability roles. Ultimately, Moscow will lose credibility as an ally of New Delhi as Russia’s reliance on China increases.
These geopolitical themes coming together implies that future Russian-Indian collaboration may not be as significant. India will gradually move away from its strong diplomatic legacy of nonalignment and towards cooperation with countries that can support a free and open Pacific and India’s connectedness to the rest of the globe. This group probably consists of the United nations, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Europe, Australia, Israel, the Gulf nations, Turkey, and the Philippines.
India’s attempt to undermine the detente between Russia and China by promoting its Western connections seems improbable. The Indians are aware that their efforts are in vain already. In fact, New Delhi will give Western collaboration first priority.
The way that people view ties between Russia and India is expected to change substantially in the near future. It will no longer be seen as a geopolitical issue or as a barrier to closer cooperation between Washington and New Delhi. The common issue raised by China is anticipated to be the top priority for both the United States and India.The United States is unlikely to continue using Moscow’s tight ties to Beijing to put pressure on Russia or force India to change how it interacts with Russia. Rather, it is expected that Washington would take a position that gives New Delhi the freedom to draw its own conclusions and make its own strategic choices within the changing geopolitical environment. With an emphasis on shared problems and mutual interests, the United States is anticipated to continue pursuing improved bilateral ties with India, acknowledging the necessity of managing the complex geopolitical dynamics.