Renewed energy to Indo-Russian ties

Ever since the disintegration of the Soviet bloc, It is widely perceived that India’s engagement with Russia is marked with intermittent engagements and on and off photo-ops. Russia, which is reeling under the sanctions on account of the annexation of Crimea, has been struggling to stand on its own feet. On the domestic front, Russia is mired with sluggish economic growth due to oil glut. In the post liberal world, India’s liaison with the US and other western powers has become more visible. Given the recent geo-political situation in South Asia and around the world, It is right time to India to adapt to the new challenges and transmute its foreign outlook accordingly.

Sino-pak-russian axis

Russia and Pakistan,which are as different as chalk and cheese, have seen convergence of their interests in recent times.It is well known that China is molly coddling Pakistan and other South Asian region countries to counter India. It is no brainer to deduce that the Sino-pak-russian axis has created a quake in India’s boots. Given the fact that China and India are at each other’s throats, It is necessary on the part of this South Asian giant, India, to shed its lassitude towards Moscow. In the light of geo-political shemozzle in the South Asian region, Russia, which is armed to the teeth, would play a pivotal role if the situation spin out of control.RIC has failed to cut the mustard ever since its formation. This platform provides Russia  to build bridges between China and India. Russia can bring new lease of life to the desultory RIC by bringing both players around the table. Russia has been engaging with Pakistan on various fronts. What concerning the New Delhi most is Moscow’s rapproachment with Islamabad has extended well beyond the  economic sphere. In 2014,shelving the cold war hostility, Russia had lifted arms embargo against Pakistan which subsequently had paved the way for defence partnership between them. Started in 2016,with Codename – Friendship(Druzbha) drills, the annual military exercises between Moscow and Islamabad have been raising eyebrows in New Delhi. In the energy sphere, Russia is building $2 billion North-South gas pipeline project in Pakistan, running from Karachi to lahore. Russia has been smelling a rat as the US grand strategy of Indo-pacific, in which India’s role is central and foremost, given its location and economic clout, would keep China and Russia on check. Pakistan’s economy is behind the eight ball and went belly up even before the onset of COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, it has been looking for reliable partners in economic and geo-political spheres. No matter what, the lovey-dovey relationship between China and Pakistan is going to strengthen further given the recent fracas over the geographical dispute between New Delhi and Beijing.

Increasing Russia’s role

Although, there is some sort of congeniality between Russia and China, Moscow is not as blind as bat to recognize the hegemonic aspirations of rambunctious Beijing. Especially, China is extending its hold over Central Asia, a region Russia views as its backyard, through its China-Central Asia-West Asia corridor(CCAWEC) project, a subset of OBOR(one Belt -one Road). Moscow is dead set against the Chinese ascendancy in Central Asia. Russia is aware of the fact that Kowtowing to China would prove detrimental to its own interests in the longer run and it has been trying to reassert its superpower position, as exercised during cold war era, shedding its namby-pamby outlook. Amidst the wave of neo-russophobia swirling across Europe, thanks to Donbass war and the other aggression campaigns, Russia is able to get a few partners on its side. Russia is engaging with the European bigwigs like Germany by using its energy diplomacy. Nord stream-2, a gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, has completed despite the US resentment.
As a result of the US president Donald Trump’s foreign policy blunders and sophomoric attitude, the trans-atlantic ties have damaged beyond repair. The pandemonium in Europe provides enough room to Russia to reinvigorate its engagement with member nations.In addition,Russia is also trying to bring ebullience in its ties with African nations. In 2019, It had hosted Africa-Russia summit,an attempt to reinforce and diversify its ties, which are largely confined to defence and security arrangements. Moscow has been exploring new areas of cooperation like energy and mining with African club,a major voting bloc in the UN. Russia has signed security pacts with over 30 African countries. In the past, given the dire state of affairs in Africa, Russia wrote off debts of these African nations estimated around $20 billion dollars as an act of solidarity and pragmatism.

Non-alignment 2.0

In the midst of the new cold war between the US and China, middle powers are finding it too hard to reorient themselves to this discombobulating geo-political reality.The US president Donald Trump’s untoward argle-bargle and insensitivity towards European allies has provided enough room to Russia to wipe the slate clean and engage more actively with its western neighbours.
All things considered, kremlinologists believe that in order to checkmate cantankerous US and hawkish China, it is necessary to walk arm in arm with  India. Russia views India as an indispensable and principal player in the forthcoming Non-alignment movement 2.0.

New Delhi is aware of the fact that growing amiability between one-time hostile neighbours, China and Russia on the one hand, and the convergence of interests between Moscow and Islamabad on the other, would pose serious challenge to the interests of New delhi. If New Delhi wants Pakistan’s head on a platter, India has to strike while iron is hot by bringing Russia to its side. Apart from defence tie-ups, which are well established, the duo has the potential to explore and collaborate in areas on which both sides have turned a blind eye. To fill the void in the economic domain, both sides have been eyeing to finalise the FTA( free Trade agreement) between India and the EAEU. The EAEU(Eurasian Economic Union) is a free trade zone arrangement amongst Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and Russia. Russia, a kingpin in the EAEU, has been looking for trusted partner like India to improve the prospects of this nascent arrangement. The time has come to recollect the heydays of indo-soviet partnership and expand the scope of friendship by exploring untapped avenues.

Samudrala VK
Samudrala VK
Director, Samudrala vk IAS academy Director, Centre for leadership and governance Columnist on International affairs and trade