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What do India-Russia ties mean for the US?

India and Russia’s historically close relationship has been complicated by geopolitical realities but last week’s summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin demonstrated the extent to which both sides intend to stay close, even if it risks rankling the United States and China. Indian-US ventures to counter China are considered critical and Russian entry to make a triangle is really of great significance.

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India-Russia defense and trade ties for the next decade are seemingly going to shift power in south Asia in near future. It is notable that after the US decampment from Afghanistan, Russia has entered an Asian power ring. The Indian draconian thirst for absolute regional power is quite obvious from current strategic agreements. India-Russia has already set a target of $30 billion in bilateral trade by 2025. Russia has expressed its concerns over block formation by the U.S, India, Japan and Australia to intercede China in the Indo-Pacific region. It seems, Russia is not there to build a triangle but it has some other goals.

Now India has plunged between the devil and the deep sea. Though it tries its utmost to play on both sides, it seems irrational to invite the bull into a china shop. Indian cold war weapon dependency on Russia compelled reluctant India to shake hands with the US.  During the Donald Trump era, the U.S-India accomplished defense deals worth over $3 billion.

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Bilateral defense trade increased from near zero in 2008 to $15 billion in 2019

India’s acquisition of Russian S-400 missile systems, which it mulls over to be critical in offsetting China, could prove to be an annoyance in Indo-U.S. ties. Moscow has put India at risk of U.S. sanctions. Moscow-Delhi handshake it multi-fold either the India-US bond is weakling or India has realized that she has put herself in cynical hands as the US is notorious for its fair weather friendship. India seems to be realigning its defense strategy in the China-Russia-USA triangle. India aspires to be Eurasian muscle vacillating between East and West in accordance with its preferences.

India has become a rolling stone among the military ties of Moscow, the economic importance of Beijing and the strategic counterweight of the U.S. The contemporary global situation is the rise of China and the conversion of the Sino-Russian relationship from antagonism to détente and now entente.

Sino-Russian enmity or amity carries global consequences. Both developments have a burnt on India, the earlier historically, and the latter in vista. Russia had enjoyed long and durable ties with India than the U.S in boosting up her military profile and precious political support to India on an array of regional matters. Sino-Russian had been transferring military technologies in the past as well, now they are exchanging economic ties based on cross-border trade and Chinese investment in Russia. The Sino-Russia positive ties may melt the Sino-India hostility and the U.S will be pushed back to home like the Afghanistan strategy.

Read more: Nuclear submarine impacts Russo-India ties?

What will be the US strategy for the future?

There is a possibility of a new triangle like RIC groups Russia, India and China. Russian bending to India is the gleam of hope to balance China and push the U.S out of the region. India had defied the United States and created a non-aligned bloc of nations to maintain a middle posture between the two rivals in the Cold War. But the Russian cold-shouldering pushed reluctant India to join hands with the US. The US is left with no other option than India to counter China and the same is the case with India for materializing her dreams of Asian supremacy.

During Sino-India border tension in the late 1950s, India was equipped with supersonic Mig-21 jets, AN-12 transports and Mi-4 helicopters by Russia. During the Sino-Soviet rift, Russia further equipped India with submarines, corvettes, tanks and artillery and helped India to stave off US-Chinese pressure in 1971. The Soviet collapse at the end of 1991 hit New Delhi mainly hard. But the heft of their relationship is inadequate by the fact that by 2015-16, India only constituted 1.2 % of total Russian trade, while Russia was only 1 % of Indian trade. The NATO expansion in the west and the presence of the United States in Afghanistan brought Moscow-Beijing closer than before.

Russia pouncing may serve to alleviate the U.S and Chinese gravitational pull

The current ties are a result of the Russia-Europe and China-US estrangement. But things can take over in turn as in the past 60 years. Russia and China have been friends at one time enemies at another, likewise, the US/Europe and Russia.

India is the only one that has remained largely with the same perspective that it had in the 1950s. It is in the best interests of the U.S to keep Russia and China apart and Russian aligning with the U.S is almost impossible particularly in the Asian rink. India must refrain from putting all its eggs into American baskets. Chinese relationship to Central Asia is undermining the Russian influence in the region, the Indo-Russia ties may improve it via Indo-Iran influence in central Asia. Indo-Russian ties are also the result of India’s reluctance to US or Japanese notion of free and open Indo Pacific (FOIP).

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India must realize that joining the U.S camp will cause Indian worth as it not only loses Chinese collaboration but it will also get a severe jolt from Russia. That kind of divergence between New Delhi and Moscow used to be virtually unthinkable. India has long had a warm relationship with Russia, and the Soviet Union before it, rooted in a sense of enduring convergence of interests at both the global and regional levels. When the United States and Britain allied with India’s archrival Pakistan starting in the 1950s, New Delhi deeply appreciated Moscow’s support, including arms deliveries and its veto on Kashmir-related issues in the Security Council. Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia remained India’s main international political partner.

As that much-celebrated convergence breaks down, New Delhi is now learning to live with growing divergence with Moscow on key regional and global issues. Moscow has jumped to New Delhi with the intention of minimizing Beijing-Delhi tensions to avert Indian bending to the U.S as it is not favoring Russia.  Indo-Russia ties are also the expression of India’s disparate depression of the US decamping from Afghanistan. Now the Indian profile in Afghanistan has shattered to pieces. Russia is growing its ties with the Taliban, Pakistan and China and it seems wise for India to realign itself with Russia and China rather than the U.S.

 

 

The Writer is Prof. in English and Freelance Columnist, based in Lahore, Pakistan. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.