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By Wg Cdr Dinesh Mathur, VSM (Retd)

The Background: After India became independent in 1947, though India deliberately joined the Non-Aligned Group of Nations, owing to avariety of reasons, both internal and external, India developed closer relations with Russia. Friendship between India and Russia has stood the test of time. Russia has assisted India in installing a number of heavy industries and produce nuclear energy, but Russia’s role in supply of defence equipment for the Indian Armed Forces, has been noteworthy. In fact, even now a very large number of weapons and other equipment in the Indian Armed Forces have their origin in Russia. Besides all these, Russia supported India in a number of international forums on a number of significant occasions. Therefore all these years, deservingly, India called Russia her best friend.

Subsequent developments: Consequent to collapse of USSR in December 1991, supplies of equipment and machinery from Russia started dwindling and also became costlier. A number of defence projects were delayed by Russia causing much discomfort in India. At this juncture, India started looking for military equipment from other countries as well. During the last four years, Indian government developed closer ties with US and relations between India and Russia suffered a setback. Critics opinioned that India somewhat neglected Russia and presently US has emerged as the biggest supplier of military equipment to India. During this period, barring Bangladesh, India’s relations with all other neighbouring countries also suffered a great deal owing to a variety of reasons. A new low was seen between India China relations, which led to Doklam standoff. Presently,China is Russia’s closest partner and all this also led to Russia coming closer to Pakistan, In the recent past, Russia even conducted a joint military exercise with Pakistan. All these developments compelled Indian strategic thinkers to consider whether India should develop closer relations with US at the cost of Russia ?

 Current situation: Keeping the above in view, India realised the significance of improving its relations with China as well as Russia. As a result, in April 2018, Indian PM had an informal summit with China’s President Xi. Subsequently, Indian PM also had an informal summit with Russian President Putin in Sochi in Russia. During this meeting in Sochi, complete range of India – Russia relations as well as other global subjects were reviewed comprehensively. Emphasis was laid on Russia-Indian strategic partnership and ways and means to improve the same. Need to revive close contacts and collaboration between Indian and Russian defence agencies was appreciated. Both countries expressed their concern to combat terror and radicalization in our region and restore peace and stability in Afghanistan. While recent US sanctions on Russia were discussed, India assured Russia that its defence ties would not be determined by a third country. On the economic front, both agreed to setup a strategic economic dialogue between NITI Aayog and Russia’s economic development ministry. Both countries are looking at entering the nuclear business together in third countries.

Conclusion : There is an urgent need to improve bilateral relations between India and Russia. Russia has always remained a true and close friend of India and India needs to balance its ties with US as well as Russia. Russia is currently helping India in building the third unit of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu. There is tremendous scope to revive and improve cooperation between India and Russia, which has suffered considerably in the recent past. 


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