Both India and Russia have had similar foreign policies and outlook towards the international theatre. During the Cold war, while India did follow the policy of Non alignment on the one hand but on the other hand India also did seek Russia’s interest by reiterating that the non-alignment was framed in such a manner in which the third world countries could further their own national interests and not be mere puppets in the hands of the superpowers. Similarly, USSR had also kept its national interest at the top. After the cold war, there was a major confluence in the visions of both of the countries in terms of their outlook towards the international setting. Both of the countries aspired to create a more multipolar world setting rather than a unipolar world order. However now in contemporary times, the grand vision may be the same for both of the countries, but the paths and roads towards that vision between the two countries have diverged and that has become a contention between the two countries. Thus, while the thesis is that both countries do have a lot of good relations in a lot of arenas and dimensions, however in recent times an anti- thesis has emerged between the two countries because of changing international dynamics. This article aims to understand these forces of dialectics and aims to find a synthesis for the same.
THE THESIS: CURRENT AREAS OF COOPERATION BETWEEN THE TWO COUNTRIES
It is a pandemic world, and a lot has changed during this time which needs to be taken into consideration in order to understand the dynamics between India and Russia. There are many evidences and proofs that both India and Russia are able to reach some new forms and variants of cooperation. 1More recently in the month of April 2021, both of the countries had agreed to work towards the establishment of a 2+2 dialogue (It is a diplomatic engagement between the defense minister and the foreign affairs minister respectively). India had earlier established these 2+2 dialogues with other countries such as the USA and Australia and now by establishing this dialogue with Russia as well is a step ahead for furthering the relations between India and Russia. India and Russia relations have originally been known for its defense ties only and not much emphasis have been given to other sectors and dimensions for both of the countries. Before the pandemic ,both of the countries were on track to widen their areas of cooperation. This is evident when in the year 2019, both of the sides had reiterated their faith on the FTA (Free Trade agreement) that is essentially between India and Eurasian Economic Union. This had become a priority project for both of them. 2Further both the countries had estimated that they were aiming to achieve US $30billion in annual bilateral trade by 2025.
However, these hopes were soon diluted when the world faced the Coronavirus pandemic and these visions and ideals for better relations for both of the countries were put in the back burner. In these hard times Russia came to India’s aid as well, by importing its indigenous vaccine Sputnik V to India. The areas of cooperation between the two countries have also increased economically on two of the most important projects between the two nations.3 These projects include-
Thus, we see both the countries do have a space of cooperation and both the countries are involved in expanding the areas of cooperation. However, we must take into consideration the fact that no foreign policy is formulated in a vacuum, as these two countries are indeed the testament of the pandemic times and with newer international challenges.
THE ANTI THESIS: THE AREAS OF CONTENTION BETWEEN THE TWO COUNTRIES
The relations between India and Russia are ever changing especially in the ever-changing international system. Both the countries are formalizing new friendships with the otherwise main counterparts of the respective nations. Russia sees with great critique the formalizing and increasing ties between India and the USA as well as India’s involvement in the Quad group. While on the other hand India is looking at Russia’s relations with China with great skepticism and a very difficult balancing act is being introduced in this international theatre.
INDIAN SIDE OF THE STORY– Even though it’s a fact that India- Russia relations have always been strong in matters of defense cooperation, especially with the recent defense deal between Russia and India for the sale of S- 400. However, it must be noted that even China has followed suit and has also purchased S -400 from Russia, which is a key area of contention. 4Further about 68 % of China’s arm imports actually comes from Russia. Both of the countries are collaborating in arms production as well. Further while India has started its investment in Far East Russia, on the other side of the coin we can actually see that since the year 2015, Chinese investment has actually accounted for 85 % of foreign investment. To put cherry on this already humongous cake, we see that Russia has joined China’s Belt and Road initiative much to the ire of India as India has heavily criticized this expansionist policy of china. India is also critical of China’s role in aiding Pakistan as well in building the China -Pakistan Economic Corridor, which passes through POK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir). This move by the Chinese counterpart is heavily criticized by India. Further Russia recently while visiting India, had also visited Pakistan and has also started to build its relations with Pakistan as well, which India doesn’t like.
RUSSIAN SIDE OF THE STORY – On the other hand there is breeding of possible antagonism between India and Russia when we also see the Russian side of the story as well. Russia is unhappy with India’s growing relations with the US especially with US showing its discontent between India and Russia defense deal. This is because of the American law called the CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act), This act imposes sanctions on countries including Iran, North Korea and Russia and whichever country is involved with the above-mentioned countries, they would also have to face similar sanctions. Further Russia doesn’t like the overall involvement of India with the USA in any other sector as well. To add the cherry to the topping Russia is unhappy with India’s growing relations with the QUAD grouping which includes the following member countries- India, Australia, USA and Japan and their role in the Indo- Pacific region as well.
THE SYNTHESIS AND WAY AHEAD
The synthesis between the two countries and the way ahead for the two countries can be achieved when both countries not only flourish their ties through individual cooperation but also through collective cooperation.
Individual cooperation, A way ahead– Both the countries can enhance their ties when they start expanding the different areas of cooperation on a more cohesive and concrete level. Some of these otherwise little explored or 5unexplored areas include –
On the collective cooperation there are various international and regional organizations where both India and Russia are part of. These organizations can help both India and Russia to overcome their differences and have deeper international relations.
Thus, as we can see there are various international organizations wherein both of these countries can resolve their differences including other organizations such as RIC and even East Asia Forum. These collective ties and individual ties can be the synthesis for both of the countries
India and Russia have come a long way in developing its relations. The dialectics of Thesis , Anti thesis and Synthesis between the two nations has been developing since cold war period as well. During the Cold war there was debate whether a NAM aligned India could actually establish such close relations with the erstwhile USSR on the one hand and on the other hand the close relations of USSR with India especially in the 1971 War, did strain its relations with its communist ally and counterpart to India, that is China. Both of the nations at that time nonetheless found a synthesis and protected their respective interest in the international arena. Even in the contemporary times both the countries are facing the heat of the international theatre and this has again set in swing the dialectics, and a possible synthesis as seen above can be seen if both the countries are so determined to do so and find each other significant as part of their respective foreign as well as international polices.
1 World Politics Review India and Russia still has a lot to offer to each other Available at https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/29758/russia-india-relations-endure-amid-external-pressures (last visited July 2, 2021)
2 The Free Press Journal Russia Day 2021: And quiet flows the Volga… A review of India- Russia Relations available at https://www.freepressjournal.in/india/russia-day-2021-and-quiet-flows-the-volga-a-review-of-india-russia-relations (Last visited July 2,2021)
3 The Free Press Journal Russia Day 2021: And quiet flows the Volga… A review of India- Russia Relations available at https://www.freepressjournal.in/india/russia-day-2021-and-quiet-flows-the-volga-a-review-of-india-russia-relations (Last visited July 2,2021)
4 The Print India Russia less useful to each other now. Disagreements will only Grow available at https://theprint.in/opinion/india-russia-less-useful-to-each-other-now-disagreements-will-only-grow/621264/ (Last visited July, 3 2021)
5 Manohar Parikkar Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis: The Way Ahead in Indo- Russia Ties, available at https://idsa.in/idsacomments/ThewayaheadinIndoRussianties_ppal_201210