Moscow and New Delhi in the Shadow of Beijing and Washington: Geopolitics


in a This analysis, published in Foreign Policy, C. Raja Mohan looks at the changing relationship between Moscow and New Delhi. It gives an overview of the past and present and how things might develop in the future. Mohan is the Director of the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore and a former member of the Indian National Security Advisory Board.

Since the 1950s, India has maintained good relations with the then Soviet Union to act as a counterweight to US and UK relations with Pakistan. India pursued a nonaligned strategy during the Cold War. The Special Unit also used its veto in the Kashmir issues. This relationship has also translated into a number of arms deals. After the collapse of the applicable union, and while relations with Washington slightly improved, India was “hedging its bets and keeping[ing] On the Moscow Partnership. “
The growing assertiveness of a rising China is causing serious concern in New Delhi, but it is seen as the best bet toward multipolarity in Moscow. “India continues to participate in the BRICS and other multilateral forums dominated by Russia and China, without any concern about open disagreements with the former and ongoing conflicts with the latter. Meanwhile, New Delhi is aggressively pushing for the strengthening of the quadripartite framework.” This shift from nonaligned to what The author considers it an “unapologetic pursuit of an interest-based foreign policy”. While relations with Western powers are improving, India is also experiencing setbacks in its neighbourhood, as recent events in Afghanistan have further strained relations between India and Russia. While Moscow desires stability and sees the new administration as most likely to achieve this, India is deeply concerned about Pakistan’s growing influence.
[Added info] Russian arms exports decreased by 22% from 2016 to 2020. With exports to Algeria, China and Egypt increasing, 90% of the decline is attributed to India reducing Russian arms imports by 53% (Sibri, 2021). [/end]
Russia is trying to normalize relations between Beijing and New Delhi through formulas such as BRICS and is trying to maintain good relations with India through new channels of communication at the highest level. […] It is now deeply structural; Diplomatic aid will not solve the problem.”
The author notes that this new complex mechanism between Russia and India is due to their respective relations with Beijing and Washington. This and Russia’s cooperation with Pakistan on Afghanistan is likely to increase the rift between Moscow and New Delhi.

I think the author makes a reasonable case and was wondering how deeply the Russian and Indian economies are intertwined and how India’s defense still depends on Russian weapons, even when we’ve already seen efforts to address this potential security risk.

As India is a democracy, the Modi government is also more accountable to public opinion. I must admit that it is hard for me to understand the Indian interior at times. How is the public perception of Russia, is the recent divergence of interests observed?

I was also hoping to get some opinions on how wide the rift between the two is. Since Russia is in an “uneasy alliance” with China it depends, and may continue to depend, on India as a counterweight. But could Russia’s increased engagement with Pakistan or China’s increasing dominance lead to hostile relations between New Delhi and Moscow? Can India ‘trade’ the Russian veto for the US veto on Kashmir or is it no longer relevant?

Edit: There are a lot of great comments here already and I can’t thank everyone. So consider this a blanket, thank you for all that insight.

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