India-Maldives Relations

India-Maldives Relations

This article deals with ‘India-Maldives Relations.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here .

Brief History

  • The archipelago of Maldives consists of 1192 islands of which roughly 200 islands are inhabited with an estimated population of 430,000.
  • Maldives was a British colony since mid-1880s . Maldives was important for Britishers in order to secure the trade routes with India (the crown jewel of British Empire). 
  • India – Maldives formal relations began with the declaration of Maldivian independence in 1965. India was the first country to recognise Maldives
  • The first state level visit was in 1974 when President Ahmed Zaki of Maldives made an official visit to India.
  • Later, India  saved the regime of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom under Operation Cactus  from Coup attempted by Pro-Eelam group in 1998 .

Key Players in Maldivian Politics

Key Players in Maldivian Politics

Mohammad Nasheed

  • He was elected democratically in 2008 .
  • India and Maldives had cordial relationship  during President Nasheed’s tenure. He made his maiden international trip to India in 2008 and India promised a $100 million loan to improve the tourism industry in Maldives. 
  • But subsequent coup d’état in 2012 led to his fall. In 2013, he lost to Abdullah Yameen in rigged election.

Abdullah Yameen

  • He came to power in rigged elections in 2013 .
  • He started his autocratic rule and declared emergency in Nov 2015 .
  • Later, he went close to China posing threat to Indian interests.
  • During President Yameen’s time in office, Male-New Delhi relations turned rather sour because he was pro-China.

Ibrahim Mohammad Solih

  • He was elected in 2018 as the new President after defeating Abdullah Yameen .
  • India’s engagement has significantly grown since President Solih came to power, particularly in development partnerships.
  • Narendra Modi had attended the swearing-in ceremony of President Solih .
  • India  announced $1.4 billion financial assistance to bail out its debt-trapped economy.
  • Backed by India, Maldives  became Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Member .
  • Solih visited India on his first overseas trip since assuming the presidency (Dec 2018) .

India-Maldives Cooperation

India-Maldives Relations

Strategic Importance

  • The strategic importance was realized for the first time during British rule. Maldives is located just 700 km from the strategic Lakshadweep island chain , 1200 km from the Indian mainland and around major trade routes of India . Hence, Maldives is very important for securing the trade routes of India.
  • India has various Military assets in Maldives for surveillance purposes in the Indian Ocean which makes Maldives part of our security grid . India and Maldives also cooperate to contain piracy in the region.
  • India has the ambition to be ‘Net-security provider’ in Indian Ocean region and this calls for close military and naval ties with Maldives .
  • Maldives stretches out as a huge expanse in waters and has a tremendously large exclusive economic zone (EEZ) but lacks the defence capacity to ensure surveillance over the marine zone.  Maritime security leadership by India for Maldives is crucial for its size.
  • Uncertainty in Maldives could prove a fertile breeding ground for extremism and religious fundamentalism, smuggling and drug trafficking. Islamic State (IS) and Lashkar-e-Taiba are also reported to  have established bases in Maldives.

Economic Relations

  • India and Maldives signed Comprehensive Trade Agreement in 1981. After that trade flourished  .
  • Bilateral trade between India and Maldives stands at US$ 289 million (2018) .
  • While the exports from Maldives to India are not of much significance , the imports from India to Maldives are quite substantial .
  • State Bank of India (SBI) is one of the major banks operating in Maldives .
  • Taj Hotels of Tata Group are important component of tourism industry of Maldives.
  • Indian tourists also account for close to 6% of tourists Maldives receives each year .

Multilateral Cooperation

  • It has supported India’s permanent membership candidature at UNSC and has also voted in favour of India for non-permanent seat for the year 2020-21.
  • India and Maldives are part of
    • SAARC
    • Indian Ocean Rim Association
    • Commonwealth (During Yameen’s time, they left Commonwealth but Solih rejoined it)
  • India and Maldives have always supported each other in multilateral platforms such as the UN, the Commonwealth, the NAM, and the SAARC.
  • Maldives is part of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) where Pakistan frequently raise voice on Kashmir Issue . Hence, Maldives is important ally which play part in safeguarding Indian interests in OIC .

People to People Relations

  • Maldivian students attend educational institutions in India .
  • Maldivian patients fly here for super-speciality healthcare.
  • India Cultural Centre (ICC) in Male was inaugurated in 2011, which conducts courses in yoga, classical music and dance.
  • Hindi commercial films, TV serials and music are immensely popular in Maldives.

Indian Diaspora

  • 22,000 Indians live in Maldives making it second largest expatriate community of Maldives.
  • 25% of the doctors and teachers in Maldives are Indians .


  • Maldives support for India’s candidature for permanent membership of an expanded and reformed UN .
  • In 2015, India launched Operation Neer to help the Maldives by providing water aid after a major fire broke out at the Male Water and Sewerage Company.
  • 2019 : Passenger and Cargo services started between Kochi and Male (700 km) & Kulhudhuffushi (500 km) . It will increase tourism, health etc. and will be useful for Maldivians who travel to India for educational purpose but air travel is expensive.

Indian Initiatives for Maldives

  • India has announced $500 million assistance for the Greater Male Connectivity project (GMCP) to connect Male to three neighbouring islands – Villingili, Thilafushi and Gulhifahu islands. GMCP would be the largest civilian infrastructure project in Maldives.
  • India provides the largest number of training opportunities for Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF), meeting around 70% of their defence training requirements.
  • In 2020, India announced $400 million Line of Credit (LoC) comes in addition to a previous LoC of $800 million that was announced in 2018.
  • Major completed development assistance by India include Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, Maldives Institute of Technical Education, Construction of National Police Academy etc.
  • Grants for projects under High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDPs): These include projects such as ambulances, Convention Centre, drug rehabilitation centre, police station upgradation, development of Addu Tourism zone etc. in Maldives .
  • Water-Aid : India has provided large-scale assistance to Maldives in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and during the 2014 Male water crisis under Operation Neer .
  • Mission Sagar :  India launched Mission Sagar to provide assistance to Indian Ocean Region Nations during Corona period. Under this INS Kesari was dispatched for Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, Madagascar and Comoros, to provide food items and COVID related medicines.

Issues in India-Maldives Relations

Chinese Presence

  • Maldives is part of China’s Maritime Silk Road (MSR) .
  • Maldives provide base to Chinese Navy in Indian Ocean which disturbed Balance of Power .
  • China and Maldives has signed a controversial Free Trade Agreement with China in 2017 (update : Maldives’ new government has decided to pull out of FTA with China, realizing the onesided nature of the FTA).
  • Maldives has earlier cancelled Infrastructure contracts given to Indian companies in favour of Chinese Companies (eg : GMR’s contract for building Male’s Airport).
  • Chinese Debt Trap : Chinese loans are 1/4th of Maldivian GDP which Maldivian economy can’t service on it’s own.

GMR Issue

  • In 2012, Maldives annulled the $500 million contract with GMR Group to develop a modern International Airport near Male, which was given to a Chinese company.

Growing Radicalization

  • Maldives has provided maximum number of terrorists per capita to ISIS.
  • Radical Wahabi and Salafi ideology is on rise in Maldives.

Uneasiness over Indian Military installations in Maldives

  • Earlier, Maldives had asked India to withdraw 2 Indian ALHs operating in Maldives.
  • Maldivian  refused to extend visas of 26 Indian navy personnels. 

Increased bonhomie with Pakistan during Abdullah Yameen’s (previous President) reign

  • During Pakistan’s Army Chief’s visit in 2018 , Maldives announced joint patrolling with Pak Navy to guard Maldivian Exclusive Economic Zone challenging the Indian position in the region.

Way Forward

  • Investment cooperation with Maldives should be enhanced .
  • ‘Free-Purse’ policy of aid to Maldives is needed if India wants to offset Chinese big-ticket investments in Maldives.
  • India must enhance anti-terrorism cooperation and intensify cooperation in the areas of training and capacity building of the Maldives National Defense Force  and the Maldives Police Service.
  • While dealing with smaller neighbours like Maldives, India needs to become a lot more magnanimous, staying true to its own “Gujral Doctrine.”
  • SAARC and IORA should be used to work on lingering concerns .

India-Myanmar Relations

India-Myanmar Relations

This article deals with ‘India-Myanmar Relations.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

Historical Bonds

  • In the ancient times, two Indian monks named Tapusa and Bhallika were responsible to promote Buddhism in the Myanmar region. Ashoka, during his reign, also sent missionaries to Myanmar or Burma.
  • Rulers of Myanmar , since the ancient times, have been majorly Kshatriyas and their origins can be traced back to   India .
  • Britishers exiled Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal Emperor, to Yangon in Myanmar and the Konbaung King of Myanmar to Ratnagiri.
  • Yangon was once a centre for India’s independence struggle.
  • General Aung SanBurma’s independence hero, was a close friend of Netaji
  • In modern times, In 1951, India and Burma established diplomatic relations through a treaty of friendship.

Importance of Myanmar for India

Myanmar is very important for India because 

  • Myanmar is important part of India’s Act East Policy .
  • Myanmar can act as transit for North East .
  • It is the only Indian neighbour who is ASEAN Member (Hence, Myanmar can act as India’s Bridge to ASEAN) .

1 . Connectivity

Can be seen in following aspects

1. 1 . Bridge to ASEAN

Projects in which Myanmar is important include

  • IMT Highway : Highway connecting Moreh in India to Mae Sot in Thailand  and passing through  India, Myanmar & Thailand .
  • BCIM Project : Bangladesh , China, India and Myanmar are part of this project.

1.2 . Important for connecting North East

  • Project  which are important in this regard includes Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project .

Side Topic : Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project

  • Kaladan Multimodal Project can act as  an alternate outlet for North East and an alternate route to connect to mainland India .
  • It will connect Kolkata (port) => Sittwe (port in Myanmar)  => Paletwa (river port on Kaladan river) => Mizoram (via road).
India-Myanmar Relations
  • The project will boost employment and will lower the food prices in the region but the intrusion into the region will create a threat to local heritage.

Side Topic : BCIM Corridor

BCIM Corridor will start from Kunming and end at Kolkata passing through Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar .

BCIM Corridor

Why China wants BCIM ?

Southwest China is landlocked & poor .China hopes, BCIM corridor will

  • Provide outlet to Yunan Province
  • Boost trade & tourism

Thereby, reducing the poverty and extremism in its south-west region .

Advantages of BCIM

  • Act East Policy and North East
    • BCIM project is in line with India’s Act East Policy .
    • Indian states of North East will come into mainstream. 
    • It can help in containing insurgency in North East by providing economic prosperity .
  • Exploiting each other’s trade complementarities i.e. China’s manufacturing, India’s Service sector, Bangladesh’s low cost manufacturing and Myanmar’s cheap labour and raw material.
  • BCIM project will help in creating Energy Corridor as
    • South West China (Yunan Province) , Bangladesh, Myanmar and Assam in India has petroleum resources .
    • This region has huge potential of Hydro Electric Energy .
  • It will lead to revival of Kolkata port .  Earlier, Kolkata’s importance was lost due to  its unnatural isolation from its natural eastern neighbourhood.
  • Huge Market as the region hosts nearly 50 crore people  & growing middle class with increasing per capita income  .
  • Tourism too will get a boost.


  • Ethnic insurgency :
    • Fighting between Myanmar Army and ethnic Kokang rebels  based near Chinese border .
    • United Wa State Army runs parallel government in North Eastern Myanmar .
    • Indian North Eastern states are itself insurgency hit .
  • China insisting to make it part of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and India is not part of  BRI  .
  • Due to this project, India’s trade deficit with China will increase further .
  • Region is also hit by the communal violence involving Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims .

Side Topic : IMT Highway

  • Connect Moreh in Manipur to Mandalay in Myanmar to Mae Sot in Thailand .
  • India and Thailand have constructed their part . Only Myanmar is lagging behind because of the political instability . 
IMT Highway

2. LNG / Energy

  • Myanmar has large reserves of natural gas .
  • Myanmar’s gas is attractive for India  because
    • Proximity : Easy to transport via pipelines .
    • Untapped : Indian Companies likes ONGC Videsh can buy stake .
    • It can usher prosperity in North Eastern states (same done by China wrt Yunan Province) .
  • ONGC has already invested $1.6 billion in Myanmar gas with 30% stake in Shwe gas fields.
  • Jubilant Energy and Reliance are also working in shallow water blocks in Myanmar.
  • Note : China is far ahead as  Chinese investments in  energy sector in Myanmar has been $ 8 billion .

3. Trade & Investment Opportunities

  • Myanmar’s economy is opening up . Hence, there are immense investment opportunities for Indian Companies .
  • India imports beans, pulses and forest products from Myanmar while it exports steel and pharmaceutical products.
  • Myanmar is also helpful in Make Outside India because of Free Trade Access to ASEAN Market
  • There are large untapped Natural Resources (oil, gas, teak, copper & gemstone)  
  • Myanmar is the second largest supplier of beans and pulses to India . 
  • There has been a huge presence of Indian companies in Myanmar. Tata Motors has established a truck assembly plant in Magway. Apart from that, GMR, TVS motors, Birla Corporation, ITC hotels , Shree cement and Bharti Airtel are the notable Indian companies in Myanmar .
  • State Bank of India has also acquired commercial license for banking purposes in Myanmar.
  • India is also trying to built a Buddhist circuit in association with Myanmar where India intends to  promote tourism and create job.

4 . Security

  • Insurgents in North East  especially Naga groups find havens in Myanmar where border is not fenced and free movement of people is permitted (due to 16 Km Free Movement Regime).
  • In 2015 , Indian troops reportedly crossed into Myanmar territory to target a NSCN (Khaplang) military camp .  India & Myanmar are now helping each other in containing insurgency by not allowing insurgents to take shelter  in each other’s territories.
  • Myanmar is a part of the Golden Triangle (Myanmar, Thailand and Laos) and has become an important transit country for illegal drug trafficking. In 2010, India and Myanmar established Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty on criminal matters which has emerged as the core legal instrument to address issues related to drug smuggling .
  • India has been an important arms supplier to Myanmar. India has supplied T-55 tanks, transport planes and naval crafts to Myanmar .
  • In 2006, both concluded an MoU on intelligence sharing and training of Myanmar military personnel.

Side Topic : Rohingya Issue

  • A large number of Muslims were taken by the Britishers from Bengal to Burma from 1823 onwards when the British occupied the Rakhine state of Myanmar. After the independence of Burma in 1948, these Muslims stayed back in Burma.  These are known as Rohingyas in Myanmar.
  • According to the 1982 Citizenship law of Myanmar, the Rohingyas were not recognized as an official ethnic group and since then have become stateless in Myanmar.
  • In 2011, ethnic violence broke against the Rohingyas under the influence of radical and rightist Buddhist monk known as Ashin Wirathu.  This led to the mass exodus of Rohingyas to Bangladesh, India and Thailand . Those who remain are  ghettoized and persecuted .
Rohingya Issue
  • There are around 40,000 Rohingyas in India. The Indian government has decided to deport the Rohingya Muslims as
    • They have immigrated to India illegally.
    • These illegal immigrants, living majorly in Kashmir, are susceptible to recruitment by terrorist groups and thus constitute a security threat to India.
    • Influx of Rohingya Muslims to India also disturbs the demographic pattern and social, political and cultural stability of the society.

5. People to People Contacts

  • Buddhism reached Myanmar from India .
  • Both nations have great relations since centuries . Even during British colonialism, both Myanmar and India had almost free movement of people & goods .
  • Many Tribes in North East like Nagas have population on both sides of the border.

6. Multilateral Engagements

  • ASEAN: Myanmar is only ASEAN country which shares a land border with India.
  • BIMSTEC: Myanmar is a member of BIMSTEC .
  • India and Myanmar are part of Mekong Ganga Cooperation .
  • SAARC: Myanmar was given the status of observer in SAARC in August 2008.

Issue : China Factor

  • Myanmar is part of OBOR and China is building following in Myanmar
    • Kyaukpyu port
    • Pipelines and Rail connecting Kyaukpyu to Yunan
  • Myanmar is important to provide outlet to South Western Province (Yunan) .
  • Energy : China has invested $ 8 billion in Energy sector .
  • With Ethnic conflict going on in Myanmar & its porous borders with China, Myanmar requires Chinese assistance to cope with situation.

Advantages of India over China in Myanmar

  • India prefers to give ‘development & Human Capital Formation loans” while China indulges in ‘Debt Trap Diplomacy’ .
  • India can help Myanmar in building up strong democratic institutions.   
  • India is investing heavily in Myanmar  . Eg : Sittwe Port and Kaladan Multimodal Project .
  • Both are part of  Multilateral Forums like  BIMSTEC and Indian Ocean Rim Association  .
  • Cultural Ties : India is birthplace of Buddhism and most of Myanmar’s population follow this tradition . Eg:  ancient city of Bagan, has famous Hindu temples .


Rohingya Problem Large number of these refugees have also fled to India.
Sittwe port and Kaladan Multimodal Project also passes through Rakhine Province .  
Chinese Factor China is investing in large projects in China as part of it’s ‘Debt Trap Diplomacy’ . Ports like Kyaukpyu are alleged to  part of String of Pearls strategy of China to contain India.  
Project Delays There is widespread discontent against India over continuing delay in completion of flagship projects — Kaladan and the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway.  
Economic Development Myanmar is one of the poorest nations in Asia. Infrastructure in Myanmar is almost non-existent  . Hence, Private Indian capitalists hesitate to invest .  
Military Control One-quarter of seats in both Houses of Parliament are reserved for the military. Hence, Military yields too much control in Myanmar .

India-Japan Relations

India-Japan Relations

This article deals with ‘India-Japan Relations.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

Brief History

Till Independence

  • The relations between India and Japan can be traced back to the 6th century when Buddhism reached Japan .
  • The Japan- India Association was set up in 1903, post which the direct political exchanges began .
  • Rabindranath Tagore had close relationship with Okakura Kakuza .
  • SC Bose sought Japan’s help in his fight against Britishers . Azad Hind Fauz was the brainchild of Japanese Major Fujiwara.
  • The sole dissenting voice of Judge Radha Binod Pal at the War Crimes Tribunal struck a deep chord among the Japanese public that continues to reverberate to this day .

Post Independence relations

  • The diplomatic relations between the two countries began with the signing of Japan’s Peace Treaty with India in 1952, after the end of World War II.
  • India was one of the first countries to extend diplomatic ties, with the invitation to the Asian Games held in New Delhi in 1951. The relations were further strengthened by the mutual visits of Japanese Prime Minister Nobuke Kishi and Jawaharlal Nehru.

Cold War Period

  • The relations between the two countries suffered a setback during the cold war years, as Japan aligned with the  United States while India chose to adhere to Non-alignment policy.
  • Further, the relations were hampered when Japan took a neutral stand during the Sino-Indian border war of 1962.
  • Japan’s economic engagements with East and South-East Asian nations deepened during the 1970s and 1980s  .  Due to the domestic ferment and problems India had during the Cold War, Japan always perceived India as a chaotic and desperately poor nation, having no potential to be a partner in the near times.
  • During this period, nothing substantive came out till fall of USSR barring Suzuki’s investment  .

1990 – 1998

  • Two events had marked impact on Indo-Japanese relations & these  were 
    • Fall of USSR leading to end of cold war .
    • Process of liberalisation started in India .
    • India began to improve its relations with the USA. This also led India to improve its relations with other allies of the USA .
  • Japanese Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) started  to flow which helped to plug the gaps in economic development .
  • 1991 : Japan was among the few countries that bailed India out of the Balance of Payment crisis .
  • 1993 : Narsimha Rao’s Look East policy started &  played important role in shaping India’s ties with Japan .
  • Till 1998, bonhomie was seen in bilateral relations between India & Japan .

Pokharan II Nuclear Explosion & Japanese Reaction

  • Nuclear tests were conducted during  Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s regime  in 1998 . 
  • After the test, Japan became a vocal critique of India at the regional and international level. Japan even went on to cut its economic aid to India. It was natural for Japan to condemn such foreign policy behaviour as it had been the only nation in the world to have witnessed the horror of an atomic bomb attack first-hand. Along with that, as Japan enjoyed protection under the nuclear umbrella of the US, it perceived a new nuclear power as a threat to its own order.
  • This marked the lowest point in the Indo-Japanese bilateral relations . Japan pressurised India to roll back its nuclear program .

Beginning of New Era

  • PM Yoshiro Mori  visited India in 2000 & signed a landmark treaty called ‘ Global Partnership in 21st Century ‘.  Subsequently, Japanese sanctions were lifted in 2001 .
  • India is the only country with which Japan has  Annual Summit Meetings alternating between  Delhi & Tokyo  .
  • 2011: India and Japan signed CEPA (Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement) .
  • 2014 : Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the chief guest at India’s Republic Day parade.
  • 2017 : Shinzo Abe visited Ahmedabad and  Shinkansen (Bullet Train) project funded by Japan was inaugurated by him. The railway operation would commence in 2023.
  • 2020 :  Yoshihide Suga became the new Prime-Minister of Japan (after Shinzo Abe voluntarily retired due to his health condition) . Suga is expected to continue policies of Shinzo Abe and maintain good relations with India . 

Different Aspects in Indo-Japan Relations

1 . Export -Import

  • Japanese brands such as  Sony, Yamaha, Honda and Toyota have become household names in India .
  • Suzuki’s partnership with the Indian automobile company – Maruti  is the largest Indian car manufacturer .
  • India and Japan signed CEPA  in 2011 .  India feels the CEPA is an alliance between Japanese technology and Indian labour force. Under the provisions of CEPA,  94% tariffs were eliminated between India and Japan. As a result of CEPA, bilateral trade between two countries increased  to  $17.6 billion (2018-19).
  • India exports petroleum products, iron ore , chemicals, fish, clothing and machinery to Japan while it imports, electrical machinery, transport equipment, plastic materials and precision instruments.

2. Japanese FDI

  • Japan is the 4th largest investor in India . $28.16 billion in Japanese FDI has come to India between April 2000 and June 2018.
  • 1800 Japanese companies are operating in India .
  • India established the “Japan Plus” office in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in 2014 as a “one-stop” location for resolving problems faced by Japanese companies.

3. Largest Donor

  • Japan is the largest development assistance donor & 30% of the total ODA from Japan comes to India .
  • Some projects funded by Japan
    • Delhi Metro  
    • Mumbai -Ahmadabad High Speed Rail 
    • Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) .
    • Bangalore-Chennai expressway.
  • These loans are given at very favourable terms . Eg : Financial assistance for Mumbai-Ahmadabad Freight Corridor consists of a soft loan of ₹90,000 crore  at an interest rate of 0.1% over 50 years. The re-payment of the loan is to begin after 15 years of receiving the loan.

4. Currency Swap Agreement

  • In 2019, India and Japan signed $75 billion currency swap agreement. Hence, in the time of emergency, India can get $ 75 billion in dollars or yen at pre-determined exchange rate and later return it at the same exchange rate .

5. Security Issues

  • Japan signed the Declaration on Security Cooperation with India in 2008, only the third country with which to have such a security relationship after the USA and Australia.
  • The rise of China serves as a significant reason for the realignment of partnerships in the region. Both India and Japan have unsettled territorial claims with China. Eg : conflict over Senkaku island (Japan vs. China) and conflict over Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh (India vs. China).
  • The National Security Strategy of Japan announced in 2013 has  included India as a primary driver in maintaining the balance of power in Asia disturbed by a rising China.
  • Malabar Exercise :  India, US & Japan conducts annual naval exercise to ensure freedom of navigation . It is mainly aimed at China which is emerging as the revisionist power in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • Quad : It is an informal strategic forum between India, Japan, USA and Australia. Also labelled as “Asian NATO” , it is the brainchild of Shinzo Abe and mainly aimed at containing the rise of China in Indo-Pacific.
  • Japan is helping India to build strategic infrastructure in North East and Andaman and Nicobar.
  • US-2 Amphibious Aircraft : India is planning to buy US-2 Amphibious Aircraft from Japan which can land both on land as well as water. This deal has strategic importance as this will be the first arm deal since World War 2 in which Japan will make an overseas military sale .
India-Japan Relations

Important note :  The reinterpretation of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution allows Japan to boost strategic cooperation with India. The amended Article 9 (since September 2015) allows Japan to send military aid to friendly states that includes India) if they come under attack from another state. This amendment has opened up new avenues of strategic diplomacy between India and Japan.

Side Topic : Senkaku Island Issue

  • Senkaku Island dispute involves issue of sovereignty over eight uninhabited islands and rocks in East China Sea
  • Japan and China have conflicting claims on these islands
    • These islands are under Japan since 1895. After World War 2, US took over these islands but returned it back to Japan in 1972.
    • China started to assert historical claims over Senkaku island in 1970s.
  • Although uninhabited , these islands are important because
    • Close to important shipping lanes
    • EEZ offers rich fishing grounds
    • They lie near potential oil and gas reserves.
    • Control over these islands help in maintaining military primacy in  Asia-Pacific region.
Senkaku Island Issue

6. Nuclear Agreement Signed

  • Japan and India has reached broad agreement in 2015 on Civil Nuclear Cooperation . It will provide India access to the Japanese nuclear market as well as their technology.
  • Along with that, as a majority of the nuclear parts are made by Japan, in the absence of a deal with Japan, India found it lough to order nuclear technology from the US, France and Russia.

7. Indian diaspora

  • Indian merchants have been settling in Japan since 1870 . But their number increased exponentially during World War I when Japanese goods were sought to fill the void of European goods.
  • In recent years, there has been a change in the composition of the Indian community with the arrival of a large number of professionals. These include
    • IT professionals & engineers working for Indian & Japanese firms
    • professionals in management, finance, education, and S&T research
  • Nishikasai area in Tokyo is emerging as “mini-India”.

8. Multilateral Cooperation

India and Japan are members of following multilateral organisations

  1. G-4 : Both India and Japan are demanding permanent seat in UNSC.
  2. G-20
  3. Quad etc.

9. Other Cooperations

  • India and Japan are jointly working on Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) announced in 2017  to counter Belt and Road Initiative of China.
  • India will supply rare earth metals to  Japan  for making defence and high tech electronics. At present, China is the biggest producer of rare earth  .
  • Varanasi has been declared as Kyoto’s sister city .
  • India and Japan have started to conduct Annual Bilateral Space Dialogue, for enhancing bilateral cooperation in outer-space .
  • Japan in the next 10 years will train 30,000 Indian youth by setting up a Japan-India Institute for manufacturing.
  • India & Japan complement each other
    1. Japan has ageing population while India has young population .
    2. They have surplus capital & we need capital .
    3. India has resources , they have technology .
    4. India’s has prowess in services and Japan has  excellence in manufacturing .


  • Japanese firms do not find it easy to do business in India due to project delays and bureaucratic hurdles.
  • India has refused to join recently concluded RCEP .
  • Both had diverging interest with respect to economic issues like on E-commerce rules (Osaka track) .
  • At WTO and it’s Doha Round of Talk , both India and Japan are in the opposite camps .
  • In spite of CEPA India Japan trade it has not produced the anticipated results .
  • Japan is concerned about its intellectual property in defence technology transfers.
  • India is part of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation as well as BRICS .

Commonwealth and India

Commonwealth and India

This article deals with ‘Commonwealth and India Relations – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here


Members – Association of nations which were colonies of England previously .
Total Members : 54 nations 
Newest Entry : Rwanda
Secretariat London
Head Queen Elizabeth
It was announced at CHOGM (2018) that Prince Charles would ‘succeed’ Queen Elizabeth as the head of the Commonwealth. 
Secretary General Present : Patricia Scotland (2018-)
Commonwealth and India


  • Almost all the members are former colonies of England.
  • Member nation has to be a democracy and follow the rule of law .
  • Those member nations where democracy is side-lined on account of military coup etc. are suspended from Commonwealth .

Why did India join ?

  • Membership of Commonwealth helped India to improve her economic ties with other nations and seek aid from England .
  • Membership also provided India with additional channel to conduct her foreign relations .
  • As a Commonwealth member, India can promote the interests of people of Indian origin living in various Commonwealth Nations.

Indian role in Commonwealth 

  • India has fought against racism in South Africa and Zimbabwe etc.
  • India has influenced other members of Commonwealth to protect interests of people of Indian origin .
  • During Chinese aggression of 1962, Commonwealth  countries extended moral support and assistance to India .


  • CHOGM : Commonwealth Head of Governments Meet  .
  • It is the meeting of Heads of Governments of Commonwealth nations happening since 1971 .
  • First CHOGM was held in Singapore .
  • Latest : 25th CHOGM was held in London (April 2018)
  • Theme: “Towards a Common Future

Relevance of Commonwealth  in today’s world

  • Commonwealth has gradually moved away from political issues to social and economic issues to make itself relevant again . In Cold War period , it played important role in ending  apartheid and colonialism  .
  • Because of its composition (54 nations) , if the Commonwealth can agree on something important, it is already a prototype of a global idea
  • Commonwealth makes it incumbent on member states to hold free, fair and credible elections .
  • Commonwealth gets a lot of credit for helping end military rule in Pakistan in 2007 and it played a pivotal role in championing the boycott of Apartheid in South Africa.
  • It would be wrong to caricature the Commonwealth as a relic, given the countries with no historic connection with the “British Empire” (Mozambique and Rwanda) have decided to join. These countries can see the value of a global voluntary association of equal member states cooperating with each other in pursuit of commonly held goals.
  • The Commonwealth provides an international platform for small states in particular. Of  54 member states, 32 are classified as small states . In many other global arenas these voices are often not heard.
  • Commonwealth games held once every four years is a popular event and is looked forward by all the world.
  • After BREXIT, it is expected that its role will increase . The leaders of Great Britain are making statements to leverage Commonwealth to act as alternate platform after their exit from EU.
  • In CHOGM 2018,  there were substantive statements on the Blue Charter on Ocean Governance and on the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda for Trade and Investment, which could together counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative. 

Problems faced by Commonwealth

  • Relic of old times and tool of UK to maintain her fast losing position as super-power .
  • Grouping has no political or economic power .  Considering its declining importance, former PM Manmohan Singh skipped two CHOGM meets and Narendra Modi didn’t attend the last one . ,
  • Amidst the calls for the position of Commonwealth Head to be more democratically shared or rotated the announcement of Prince Charles (at CHOGM (2018)) as the successor has also put a dent on its democratic credentials.

SAARC and India

SAARC and India

This article deals with ‘SAARC and India Relations- UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here .

About South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)

Members 1. Afghanistan
2. Bangladesh
3. Bhutan
4. India
5. Maldives
6. Nepal
7. Pakistan
8. Sri Lanka
Headquarter Kathmandu ,Nepal
Last Summit Held in Kathmandu (Nepal)  in 2014
Secretary General Arun Bahadur Thapa of Nepal
Objectives Promote welfare economics .
– Collective self-reliance among the countries of South Asia .
– Accelerate socio-cultural development in the region.  
Type Decision are taken by Consensus.
Organisation that reflects the South Asian identity of the countries based on shared history, language, religion, cuisines, etc.  
Important Statistics SAARC comprises 3% of the world’s area, 21% of the world’s population and 4% of the global economy.
35% of the global youth resides in the SAARC region.
South Asian nations together also make an integrated “condominium” of common rivers, a mountain system, an ocean and a conjoint ecological system .
SAARC and India


1980 The idea of regional political and economical cooperation in South Asia was first raised in 1980
8 Dec 1985 First summit was held in Dhaka
Last Summit Kathmandu (Nepal) – 18th Summit in 2014

Critical Evaluation

It was formed to promote regional development and improve ties among nations . But SAARC has not been able to generate the benefits of cooperation . Reasons for this are as follows :-

1 . Political reasons

  • Boundary dispute between India and Pakistan has overshadowed the functioning of SAARC .

2. Economic reasons

  • Low inter region trade : While organizations like ASEAN record a trade of 20%, SAARC’s trade figures are a dismal low at about 3%.
  • GDP of SAARC nations except India is small , hampering the effective economic relations among them.
  • Other nations fear that competition would lead to injury to the industry of other members .

3. Historical reasons

  • In past , different nations have fought wars and past differences which  hamper cooperation in present times

4. Geographical reasons

  • This region has poor infrastructure . Hence , Economic Connectivity is low due to poor road transport .

5. Fear about India’s Big Brother attitude

  • India constitutes 70% or more of SAARC’s area and population, and has political conflicts with all her neighbours. 5 members have common borders with India but not each other .  They perceive India as “Big Brother” and fear that it might use the SAARC to pursue hegemony in the region.

6. Others

  • SAARC is an organisation of countries not of equal stature-economically, geographically & politically .
  • There is increase in Chinese influence on SAARC nations like Sri Lanka , Nepal , Pakistan and Maldives .

China  factor in SAARC

  • China holds an observer status in the group .
  • All SAARC Nations except India and Bhutan are part of OBOR  .
  • Pakistan, China’s all weather friend, also  demands a more participatory role for China in the SAARC grouping.
  • China is building large scale infrastructure in SAARC nations . E.g. : China has started CPEC with Pakistan, Hambantota project with Sri Lanka, FTA with Maldives and railroad pact with Nepal.


  • China is constructing dam on the Brahmaputra without taking Indian and Bangladeshi concerns onboard.
  • Behaviour of China in other engagements is not so pleasant.  For instance it almost shook ASEAN by bringing in Cambodia  which did not even make a final statement now a days.

Indian Initiatives for SAARC

1 . SAARC Satellite

  • South Asia Satellite is  communication-cum-meteorology satellite by ISRO for the  South Asia region.
  • It was announced in June 2014 & launched in May 2017 .
  • It has 12 Ku Transponders with each nation getting atleast One Transponder .
  • Cost of whole launch and satellite is borne by India .

2. Initiatives during Corona Period

India has taken following measures to help SAARC countries in these challenging times

  1. PM Modi convened SAARC Leaders video conference.
  2. COVID-19 Information Exchange Platform (COINEX) developed by India will facilitate various online learning modules.
  3. SAARC Food Bank mechanism.
  4. Creation of SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund and contribution of $10 million in it.

3. Others

  • SAARC Disaster Management Centre in New Delhi
  • Immediate medical visa for entire region. Both for patient and one attendant.
  • E-connectivity – online courses and E-libraries.

South Asian Economic Union (SAEU)

All SAARC countries are committed to make South Asia an Economic Union in phased manner

  1. Free Trade Area (Presently we are in this stage – SAARC FTA)
  2. Customs Union
  3. Common Market
  4. Common Economic and Monetary Union.

Bangladesh, Bhutan, India & Nepal Motor Vehicle Agreement (BBIN MVA )


  • Easing cross border movement of people and goods


November 2014 SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement was proposed at 2014 summit , Kathmandu , which was suspended after objection from Pakistan. 
June 2015 BBIN MVA Agreement signed at Thimpu between Bangladesh, Bhutan , India and Nepal .
April 2017 Bhutan decides to withdraw from the agreement.

Reasons included
1. Environment  Pollution:  Diesel  Run  heavy  vehicles  traffic  
2. Noise  Pollution:  Heavy  traffic  will  destroy  calm  of  valley.
3. Meagre Economic  Benefits:  Manufacturing  Industry  is  not  strong  in  Bhutan  so  it  will not  benefit  from  this  agreement
4. Tourism  may  be  affected.
5. Opposition  from  rival  parties.
6. Fear  of  smuggling  activities.
April 2019 Bhutan Government announced that it will place bill to ratify BBIN initiative in Senate soon.


  • Agreement removes all obstacles for movement of vehicles within the member countries. A  vehicle from one country can easily go to other without much hindrance.
  • But vehicles will be allowed to ply only on the stipulated routes and will have to attain specific permits.
  • Also, drivers of these vehicles will have to carry valid passport.


  • For Nepal and Bhutan,  two landlocked countries, this would improve their access to the open seas .
  • It will promote tourism.
  • Economic interdependence had existed among these countries for centuries as most of the region was one country before partition of British India in 1947. later, partition disrupted the lines of communication .
  • South Asia today is home to one of the poorest people in the world with significant population living below $1 a day. Also, it is one of the least integrated regions globally. This can help change the scenario  .

Future challenges

  • Cost  for implementation of the agreement will be borne by the respective countries. Since most of the countries are poor there is apprehension whether they will be ready to spend that amount.
  • Giving transit to India is sensitive issue in Bangladesh .

Alternatives of SAARC

  • SAARC is not going anywhere. All decisions in SAARC is taken by consensus and Pakistan blocks all the initiatives taken by India. Hence, Indian Policymakers have started to look for alternatives that excludes Pakistan .
  • Alternatives that are suggested includes  BIMSTEC .

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and India

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and India

This article deals with ‘Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and India- UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here


Members 1. China,
2. Kazakhstan,
3. Kyrgyzstan,
4. Russia,
5. Tajikistan,
6. Uzbekistan
7. India (joined in 2017)
8. Pakistan (joined 2017)
Headquarters Beijing
Type It evolved from border dispute solving mechanism to regional security organisation in 2004 to deliberation forum on all subjects .
It works on the norms of consensus voluntarism and non interference .  
SCO Membership


1996 Shanghai 5 formed for security and border peace between Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan , Russia and China .
2001 SCO was formed in Shanghai with 6 members (5 + Uzbekistan) . India offered membership which it declined .
2017 India and Pakistan became member .
2019 Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit was held in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) .
2020 SCO Summit held in virtual format amid COVID-19 pandemic and increased tension between India and China over Galwan standoff. It was chaired by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
2021 SCO Summit will be held in Tajikistan

Significance of SCO

It is important organisation with

  • 3 significant world powers, Russia, China and India, under its umbrella.
  • 50%  of the world’s population .
  • 25%  of the world’s  GDP .

Uniting factors in SCO

  • Countering US hegemony (US is trying to influence regimes through Colour revolutions). 
  • Economy : To enhance economic cooperation .
  • Security  : Issue of Islamic Fundamentalism , Terrorism , Secessionism /Separatism , Countering Drug Trafficking .

Conflict of Interest in SCO

  • Rising China in Central Asia is concern for Russia .
  • Russia created CSTO which is mutual defence alliance & also formed EEU which is Economic Union of Eurasian region .
  • China is more focused on stability of Xinjiang rather than these Central Asian nations or containing NATO .

Importance of SCO for India

  • Energy security : Some of the member countries of the grouping are rich in energy resources – both hydrocarbons and uranium. India being energy deficit , need these resources  . Russia has also mooted the idea of ‘Energy Club‘  .
  • Security : The Eurasian block can play a key role  in stabilizing Afghanistan . India has invested heavily in Afghanistan (2Billion $) and India needs to protect her assets there .
  • Apart from this , SCO can  help in forming a joint platform against terrorism & controlling the menace of drug trafficking in following way
    • Members share a high volume of information on counter-terrorism through the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (SCO RATS) based in Tashkent. Till now, 500 terrorist attacks have been stopped by RATS.
    • SCO conducts annual Military exercises, involving ground troops , aerospace & cyber threat. 
  • Economic integration
    • An important factor is the promotion of India’s economic integration with the Central Asian republics, which is in line with India’s Connect Central Asia Policy . India is also  investing heavily in INSTC and Chabahar Port development .
    • Central Asian Republics provide huge possibility for Indian Automobile, Banking , IT & related sectors .
  • SCO provides an alternate platform for Indo-Pak & Sino-India dialogue to resolve their disputes .
  • With Russia and China taking the lead, the SCO could even prove a guarantor for projects such as the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) and IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India) pipelines that India has held off due to security concerns.


  • SCO is already dominated by two UNSC Permanent Members i.e. China and Russia . Hence, it will not be easy for India to have a major say in such institution .
  • SCO will be the second regional grouping after SAARC to have both India and Pakistan. This in itself can limit the effectiveness of SCO as has been the case with SAARC . 
  • On the issue of terrorism , China and India have different attitude vis a vis Pakistan based Terrorist Organisations. Also definition of Terrorism is different for different states – Eg: Chinese consider Tibetan Freedom Movement as terrorists while India doesn’t .
  • In terms of connectivity, India has not joined China’s ambitious One Belt, One Road project and has concerns over China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) . 
  • Vision of SCO shared by Russia and China involves a ‘new order’, clearly aimed at the West. As a result, the SCO has been often called the “Anti-NATO”, meant to counterbalance U.S. and Europe power structures. It would seem incongruous to reconcile this with India’s close military ties with the U.S.

Indian Ocean Region

Indian Ocean Region

This article deals with ‘Indian Ocean Region.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here .

What is Indian Ocean Region (IOR)?

  • Region containing and surrounding the Indian Ocean is known as Indian Ocean Region .
  • Indian Ocean Region    has  51  coastal and landlocked states  . Hence , it is a vast region.

Reasons behind increased importance of Indian Ocean

  • Indian Ocean has become life line of world trade (& has been so since time immemorial) . Indian Ocean is important for commerce as
    • 2/3rd of world oil shipments passes through Indian Ocean  .
    • 1/3rd of bulk cargo  passes through Indian Ocean .
    • It hosts  nearly 40% of world’s population .
  • Indian  Ocean  has  world’s  most  important  choke  points,  notably  Straits  of  Hormuz, Malacca  and  Bab  el  Mandeb. As these  choke points are   important for global  trade, number of extra-regional states  maintain  a naval  presence in Indian  Ocean. Eg
    • US : 5th  Fleet   in Bahrain & uses island of Diego Garcia as air-naval base  . 
    • France  : Naval  bases  in  Djibouti,  Reunion Island  and Abu Dhabi.
  • Growing Economies: The economies of many Indian Ocean countries are growing rapidly and are attracting huge investments such as India, Malaysia, and Tanzania.
  • IOR is rich in natural resources containing
    • world’s 40% oil exploration
    • Nearly 15% in total fishing of the world.
    • Mineral and natural resources like iron, copper, Zinc, manganese, gold and silver .
  • Presently, China’s  aggressive  soft  power  diplomacy and Maritime Silk Road (MSR) Policy  has  been the  most  important  element in  shaping  the  Indian  Ocean  strategic  environment. To counter China, US and other nation are trying to counterbalance china and that is why they are taking so many initiative in this region .
  • Security issues: This region is home to many threats like  piracy, illegal and unregulated migration, and presence of extremist and groups for example in Somalia, Bangladesh, and Indonesia .

Changed attitude of India towards  Indian Ocean

  • IOR is centre stage of 21st century politics  & India stands geographically right in the middle . South Africa , Iran , Indonesia & Australia are also the part of Indian ocean RIM family but none has centrality & attraction like that of India .
  • India is  positioning itself as the “net security provider” in the broader Indian Ocean region  .
  • Due to its strategic location and capabilities, India can play a pivotal role in this region specially during disasters and crises. Till now, it has played positive role and at the time of need has readily helped smaller countries of the region such as Maldives (Operation NEER), Srilanka, and Bangladesh etc.

Importance of IOR for India

Geostrategic Importance

  • India is situated right in the middle of Indian Ocean .
  • It is important to secure Indian Ocean Region in order to protect Indian ships from piracy, stop human trafficking and drug smuggling .
  • 90% of Indian trade passes through it . Hence, it is important to protect our Sea Lines of Commerce .
  • Energy Security : Most of our oil supplies come from Indian Ocean Rim countries .

Protection of assets and islands

  • It’s security is important to protect Indian assets and islands situated in Indian Ocean
    1. Islands : Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep
    2. Assets : Like Bombay High

Economic Importance

It is source of resources like

  • fishing and aquaculture
  • Deep sea mineral exploration
  • Petroleum reserves like Bombay High

Cultural Importance

  • India has cultural relations with IOR countries dating back centuries .
  • India has been the centre stage of Indian Ocean trade corroborated by texts like Periplus Maris Erythraei, Jataka Stories, Sangam Poetry etc.


  • Large Indian diaspora is living in Indian Ocean Rim Countries and Small Island Nations like Mauritius, Maldives, South Africa etc.

Other points

  • Monsoon Mechanism : The Indian Ocean plays an important role in keeping Monsoon mechanism in favour of India.

Chinese threat & String of Pearls

China’s Malacca Dilemma

  • 360 ships /day pass through Strait of Malacca .
  • If there is any blockade by human or  natural disaster , it will cause problems to China because China’s 80 % of oil & gas imports & almost 60% exports pass through this region .
  • Singapore is located right on the Malacca Strait   . Singapore hosts huge US naval base   .
  • Andaman & Nicobar Islands are situated very near to Malacca and they can be used to choke the Straits .
  • To counter Malacca Dilemma, China has opted to go for ambitious String of Pearls strategy .
Indian Ocean Region

String of Pearls

  • It is the theory that China is trying to increase its naval presence in Indian Ocean and counter India by surrounding it .
  • It is developing string of ports around India for this purpose .
Kyaukpyu  Myanmar
Chittagong Bangladesh
Hambantota Srilanka
Marao Atoll Maldives
Gwadar Pakistan
Djibouti First Chinese Overseas Military Base (overlooks Bab el Mandeb)
String of Pearls

Side Topic : Kra Canal 

  • Aim : To address Malacca Dilemma .
  • It is a 100-km canal cutting Thailand into two parts.  Kra Canal will link the South China Sea to the Andaman Sea bypassing the Malacca Strait .
  • It has the added advantage of saving time .
  • Experts believe that Kra Canal could benefit India and other economies  by taking pressure off the overcrowded Malacca Straits.
Kra Canal

Indian steps  wrt IOR

To counter String of Pearls , India is also making ports 

Andaman & Nicobar Islands It can act as Iron choke to Malacca
1. Malacca strait  is overlooked by A&N islands .
2. India has established an air naval station here called Baaz .
Chabahar Port India is developing Chabahar port in Iran .
Duqm port India has signed agreement with Oman to get military and logistics support  to Duqm Port .
Seychelles India has given proposal to lease Assumption Islands from Seychelles   .
Myanmar India is investing in Sittwe port as part of it’s Kaladan Multimodal project.
Mauritius India has developed infrastructure on Agalega Island in Mauritius.
Srilanka India is developing Kakesuthai & Trincomalee  port .
France India and France,  signed the “reciprocal logistics support” agreement as part of which warships of both the nations would have access to each other’s naval bases. 

Making Alliances

Apart from that , India is trying to contain China  through following ways

  • Making alliance with Vietnam ( Vietnam too had issues with China in South China sea) .
  • Malabar practice with US & Japan .
  • Joined the Quad of USA, Japan, Australia and India .

Military Modernisation  

  • Agni, Sukhoi, Nuclear submarines , Aircraft Carrier-Vikramaditya  are not meant for Pakistan but to fight against powerful nation like China .

Iron Curtain Policy  to counter Chinese String of pearls

  • It is the term Given by naval analyst Zang Ming according to which Andaman & Nicobar islands can be used as metal chain to block Chinese access to Strait of Malacca .
  • Japan is also helping India to develop Andaman and Nicobar .

Project Mausam

  • It was launched in June 2014 .
  • It is a Ministry of Culture project .
  • Aim :
    1. Project tries to see how the monsoon winds helped maritime trade  historically between  Indian Ocean-connected countries.
    2. How winds influenced local economies, scientific quests, modern statecraft, religion, politics and cultural identity.

Cotton Route

  • Cotton Routehas been started to strengthen economic ties between countries in the Indian Ocean rim.

Spice Route

  • Spice Route has been started for  revival of old links between 31 countries in Asia and Europe with India, particularly spice-rich Kerala .

SAGAR Initiative

  • Announced by PM of India, Sagar initiative aims at Security and Growth for All in the Region .

Challenges to India’s role as net security provider in IOR

  • Capacity of Indian defence industry to supply naval and military equipment to India and allies .
  • More focus on territorial boundaries: Due to its pending territorial disputes with China and Pakistan.
  • China challenges India’s status in the Indian Ocean through its BRI and String of pearls.
  • Opposition from other countries . Eg :  Seychelles parliament in Assumption Island project .

India Bhutan Relations

India Bhutan Relations

This article deals with ‘India Bhutan Relations.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

Brief History

India and Bhutan have long-standing diplomatic, economic and cultural relations.

  • India’s relations with Bhutan go back to 747 AD when a Buddhist monk Padmasambhava went from India to Bhutan and founded the Nyingmapa sect of Buddhism. Thus, India contributed to the cultural growth of Buddhism in Bhutan.
  • Bhutan came under the control of British Empire when it lost in the Anglo-Bhutan Wars and was forced to sign a humiliating treaty.
  • When India became independent in 1947, Nehru went to Bhutan to build relations . Bhutan also preferred India over China as, in 1949, when China took over Tibet, it did create tensions and fears of annexation in Bhutan. In 1949, India and Bhutan concluded a Treaty of Friendship.
  • Diplomatic relations between India and Bhutan was established in 1968 with the appointment of a resident representative of India in Thimpu. Before this India’s relations with Bhutan were looked after by the Political Officer in Sikkim.
  • Regular visits between highest level Government functionaries of both the countries have become a tradition. Dr. Lotay Tshering, PM of Bhutan visited India in 2018. It is the first overseas visit of PM Tshering after assuming the office in 2018 . Bhutan was also the first country visited by PM Narendra Modi after assuming office in 2019. The visit reflects the high priority that the Government of India (GoI) attaches to its relations with Bhutan .

Bhutan-India relations are governed by a friendship treaty that was renegotiated in 2007, freeing Thimphu’s external relations from New Delhi, but still subjecting the Himalayan nation’s security needs to supervision .

India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty

  • Treaty of Friendship was signed in 1949 . Terms of Treaty included
    • As per Article-2 of the treaty , India accepted the sovereign and independent status of Bhutan but advised that Bhutan, in matters of defence and external affairs, seek assistance from India .
    • Apart from that, Indian citizens have same right for employment in Bhutan as Bhutani nationals do in India.
    • There is open border system under which citizens of India and Bhutan have a right to move into each other’s territory without a visa
  • Treaty was revised in 2007 because Bhutan raised voice against the Article 2 of the treaty. Under the renegotiated Treaty of Friendship, only Defence is guided by India and Bhutan can have independent Foreign Policy .

  • India-Bhutan Trade And Transit Agreement (1972): It provides for duty free transit of Bhutanese exports to third countries.
  • Treaty of Cooperation in Hydropower and Protocol (2006) : Under this, India has agreed to assist Royal government of Bhutan in developing a minimum of 10,000 MW of hydropower and import the surplus electricity from this to India.

Importance of Bhutan for India

Strategic importance

  • Bhutan acts as buffer between India and China .
  • Chumbi Valley is situated at the trijunction of Bhutan, India and China and is 500 km away from the “Chicken’s neck” in North Bengal, which connects the northeast with rest of the country. China is demanding Chumbi valley from the Bhutan which can jeopardise Indian security .
  • After Doklam standoff, securing Bhutan’s present borders especially its western border is important for India in order to secure Siliguri Corridor. 

To contain insurgency in North-East

  • Bhutan has in the past cooperated with India and helped to flush out militant groups like United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) from the Himalayan nation . In 2003–04, the Royal Bhutan Army launched a mega operation known as Operation All Clear to eliminate militarily ULFA and NDFB cadres in South Bhutan and successfully neutralised 650 insurgents and destroyed 30 insurgent camps.

Political Importance

  • An unstable and restive Bhutan would not only jeopardize India’s investments in that country but also provide a safe haven for anti-India activities and anti-India militant groups.
  • Bhutan is also the only country in the region that joined India in its boycott of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s marquee project, the Belt and Road Initiative. 

Multilateral Cooperation

  • Bhutan is a founding member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). It is also a member of BIMSTEC, World Bank, the IMF, Group of 77 and others.

Commercial Relations

  • The trade between the two countries is governed by the India-Bhutan Trade and Transit Agreement 1972 which was last renewed in 2016. The Agreement established a free-trade regime between the two countries.  The Agreement also provides for duty-free transit of Bhutanese exports to third countries.
  • India has been the major financier of Bhutan’s 5-year plan (for latest five year plan of 2018-2023, India has committed ₹4500 crores.)
  • Both countries have committed to jointly develop 10,000 MW of hydropower generating capacity in Bhutan.
  • India is Bhutan’s largest trading partner.   Around 80% of Bhutan’s total imports are from India and India provides a market for 90% of its exports.
  • One-third of Bhutan’s exports to India is electricity
  • Government is planning to build a mini dry port in the border town of Phuentsholing to promote export .
  • Indian banks, such as the SBI and Bank of Baroda, have presence in Bhutan.
  • Bhutanese currency  Ngultrum  is officially pegged to the Indian Rupee.

Hydropower Cooperation

  • Hydro-electric power generated by Bhutan is the country’s main export to India .
  • India has helped to finance the dams through a combination of aid and loans and buys excess electricity . Bhutan exports around 45% of its hydropower to India .
  • Both countries have committed to jointly develop 10,000 MW of hydropower generating capacity in Bhutan.
  • Three hydro-electric projects (HEPs)  are already operational . India provided monetary assistance in the form of 60% grant and 40% loan for these projects. These projects include
    1. Tala HEP (capacity = 1 GW || Most important project of Bhutan)
    2. Chukha HEP
    3. Kurichu HEP
  • Problems:
    1. India’s power-surplus status and advent of other renewable energies like wind and solar power will make it more difficult for Bhutan to ensure that its hydropower sector becomes profitable.
    2. Bhutan alleges that due to hydro cooperation with India, there is a dominance of Indian firms in Bhutan. It feels that an overwhelming presence of Indian firms in Bhutan has restricted the space of growth for the Bhutanese corporate sector.
    3. Bhutan feels that the Indian firms end up recruiting cheap Bangladeshi labor, as a result of which Bhutanese don’t stand to benefit from the diplomacy.
  • Way forward : In previous SAARC Summit , India has also pitched for SAARC Electricity Grid which will benefit Bhutan and Bhutanese Electricity can be sold to Bangladesh (which has huge electricity deficit) .

Security Ties

  • The Indian military “is virtually responsible for protecting Bhutan from external and internal threats”.
  • The Eastern Command of the Indian Army and Air Force have integrated Bhutan’s defence into their role and responsibilities.
  • The Indian Military Training Team (IMTRAT) trains Bhutanese security personnel as well.

People to People Cooperation

  • Approximately 4000 Bhutanese are studying  in Indian Universities.
  • India-Bhutan Foundation was established (in 2003) with the aim of enhancing people to people exchanges in focus areas like education, culture, scientific and technical research and environment protection .
  • About 60,000 Indian nationals are living in Bhutan, employed mostly in the hydroelectric power and construction industry.

Other aspects of cooperation

  • Project Dantak : Since 1961, Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has run Project Dantak. Under this, the BRO provides for roads construction, telecom works, colleges, schools and other infrastructure.
  • India is also assisting Bhutan for establishment of an E-Project covering all the 20 districts of Bhutan.
  • PM Narendra Modi has coined the idea of B2B as ‘Bharat to Bhutan’ for building effective and renewed bilateral relationship .

Issues / Irritants

Although the older Bhutanese generation looked to India with gratitude, the newer generation tends to look more deeply – and with more dissatisfaction – at the situation.

  • Doklam Crisis (73-day India-China stand-off In 2017 ) : Doklam, or Donglang in China, is an area comprising a plateau and a valley at the trijunction between India, Bhutan and China. It is surrounded by the Chumbi Valley of Tibet, Bhutan’s Ha Valley and Sikkim. Despite several rounds of engagement between China and Bhutan, the dispute between the two over Doklam has not been resolved. It flared up in 2017 when the Chinese were trying to construct a road in the area, and Indian troops, in aid of their Bhutanese counterparts, objected to it resulting in the stand-off. Doklam is strategically located close to the Siliguri corridor, which connects mainland India with its north-eastern region. The corridor, also called Chicken’s Neck, is a vulnerable point for India . But many Bhutanese feel that why they should suffer for protecting Indian interests . 
  • India imposing itself : Bhutan cant solve their boundary dispute with China. Bhutan has three disputed regions with China ie Doklam Plateau, Jakarlung and Pasamlung. In 2013, India stopped all loans , subsidies and aid  in retaliation for starting discussions with China for settling their boundary dispute without taking Indian consent.
India Bhutan Relations
  • Bhutan had decided to withdraw from the BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement for the reason that it would adversely affect its environment and its sovereignty. 
  • Bhutan has also stopped free tourist access to Indians in 2020.
  • Imposing behaviour of India : Bhutanese people are raising voices against increasing Indianisation . Eg : Under Project Dantak, Border Roads Organisation built road in Bhutan and placed boards with tricolour shade which wasn’t appreciated by Bhutanese people leading to backlash . Ultimately, signboards were changed. 
  • Delays in Hydropower projects  by Indian companies leading to the country’s burgeoning national debt.
  • Bhutan wants to increase its export power tariff to India as it is lesser than the cost of production.
  • Goods and services tax hurts Bhutanese traders & Demonetisation left lasting scars on the banking system.
  • Indian aid is being criticized for creating ‘jobless growth’ in Bhutan. 
  • The terms on which India is financing the hydropower projects and getting electricity from Bhutan at cheap rates seems unfavourable to Bhutan.  Hydro power plants are also attached with certain environmental concerns

Way Forward

  • Continue Foreign Aid: Although Bhutan remains the largest recipient of Indian aid, the amount of aid in the form of grants and loans to the country has dropped over the last two years.  This is not the right time for India to decrease aid to Bhutan as Chinese presence there is growing.
  • India must draw Bhutanese public attention to China’s role in debt trap. Therefore, it will have to ensure that its finance model for projects in Bhutan is different from the Chinese model in other South Asian countries.
  • Respect Bhutanese Values: India should demonstrate respect for Bhutanese values. The Bhutanese are an environment-conscious people. Therefore, India should go for economically and environmentally more viable projects.
  • Maintain Ties with the Bhutanese Monarchy : Unlike their Nepali counterparts, Bhutan’s monarchs have been strong proponents of close relations with India. India should back Bhutan’s constitutional monarchy and strengthen it by channelling its aid through this institution.
  • Emphasize Doklam’s Value to Bhutan: There is a perception among the Bhutanese that Doklam has little significance for their country and hence can be given away to China. However, Haa district is rich in pasture land and forests. Its value to a country that is largely mountainous is immeasurable. India must spread awareness on this fact.
  • The fourth King of Bhutan King Jigme Singye Wangchuck coined the phrase “Gross National Happiness” in 1972 and declared that is more important than GDP. India needs to combine the Gross National Happiness of Bhutan with its own economic development to maintain a shared prosperity and relationship between the two countries.

India Afghanistan Relations

India- Afghanistan Relations

This article deals with ‘India Afghanistan Relations.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

Brief history of India-Afghanistan Relations

1950 Afghanistan and India signed a “Friendship Treaty.”
1950 to 1978 India had robust ties with Afghanistan during King Zahir Shah’s regime. 
1978 People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) (Marxist Party) took power in military coup , an event which is known as SAUR Revolution  . They started series of radical reforms in Afghanistan and as a results conservatives  started war against them.  
1979 Soviet Union entered Afghanistan after threat of removal of Socialist government in neighbourhood of USSR was eminent and war started between  Soviet Union led Afghan forces and Mujahedeen allegedly supported by USA and Pakistan .  
1989 Soviet forces left Afghanistan after eminent defeat .  
1990s  Taliban rose to power in Afghanistan . India started to support the ‘Northern Alliance’ which was fighting Taliban in Afghanistan .  
2000s till 2012 Subsequent to 9/11 attacks in USA , NATO interfered in Afghanistan under OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM (2001)  with the purpose to defeat Al-Qaeda ,remove Taliban from powercreate a viable democratic state .
Taliban gave tough fight and as a result , NATO stayed in Afghanistan for  more than decade  .
USA also worked for the capacity building of the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) and it was thought that even after the US troops finally withdraw, the ANSF would be strong enough to prevent the Taliban from recapturing Afghanistan .
Post  2012 Barack Obama shifted the focus on ending the Afghan war.
Obama increased the US troops in Afghanistan during first term (called ‘Surge Policy’).
But his policy saw major turn in second term when he decided to  withdrew all but approximately 8,400 soldiers from Afghanistan
2016 In 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was conferred with Afghanistan’s highest civilian honour, the Amir Amanullah Khan Award.
Trump policy Trump regime wanted to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan .
Feb 2020 US president struck a peace deal with the Taliban on the issues of counterterrorism and the withdrawal of U.S. and international troops. It’s terms were as follows
1. United States to reduce its troops in Afghanistan from 12,000 to 8,600.
2. Release of prisoners and prisoner swap.
3. Recognition to Taliban and US will move to the United Nations Security Council to remove Taliban members from the sanctions list.
4. Taliban would prevent any terror group from using Afghanistan to threaten the security of US and its allies.
5. Intra-Afghan Negotiations  will be start  among all the stakeholders of the Afghan society and the Taliban would commit towards it.  
2020 Intra-Afghan peace talks held for the first time between Afghan government and Taliban in Qatar.

India – Afghanistan

  • In 1999, India became one of the key supporters of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance.
  • In 2005, India proposed Afghanistan’s membership in the SAARC.  Both nations also developed strategic and military cooperation against Islamic militants.
  • Afghanistan signed it’s first Strategic Partnership Agreement with India in 2011.
  • In 2016, PM Narendra Modi was conferred with Afghanistan’s highest civilian honour, the Amir Amanullah Khan Award.

Importance of Afghanistan for India

India has a vision about stable Afghanistan which would be cross road of trade , the role which Afghanistan has played from centuries .

Economic importance

  • Natural Resources: Afghanistan has a mineral wealth of about $1-3 trillion which includes Iron ore, Lithium, Chromium, Natural Gas, Petroleum etc.
  • Massive reconstruction plans for the country offer a lot of opportunities for Indian companies.


  • Stable government in Kabul will not give safe haven to terrorists  that might reduce insurgency in Kashmir. In fact, at present, the extremists fighting in Kashmir have drawn inspiration from the resistance offered by Afghan Mujahedeen against the Soviets during the Cold War.
  • Afghanistan can help in prevention of Pakistan from regaining its central role in Afghan affairs.

Gateway to energy rich central Asia

  • Afghanistan is situated at crossroads between South Asia and Central Asia and South Asia and the Middle East. 

Indian works in Afghanistan

  • India has contributed 2 billion $ for Afghanistan’s reconstruction (6th largest donor by amount) .  Indian assistance has been largely focused on infrastructure, irrigation and defence.
  • India has helped in deepening of democracy in Afghanistan by building it’s Parliament building (cost = $90 million)  . 
  • Other Indian projects in Afghanistan include
    • Salma Dam on Harihud river (cost = $290 million) that will generate 42 megawatt and irrigate 75,000 hectare land. It was later renamed to India-Afghanistan Friendship Dam .
    • Construction of a 218 km road from Zaranj to Delaram for facilitating movement of goods to Chabahar Port .
    • Committed to contribute substantially in improving transportation system in Kabul & to donate 1000 buses .
    • India has built 220 kV DC transmission line from Pul-e-Khumri to Kabul.
    • Constructing the Chimtala power substation in Kabul.
    • Rebuilding of the Habibia High School in Kabul.
    • Financing the establishment of the Afghan National Agriculture Sciences and Technology University (ANASTU) in Kandahar .
    • Building the cricket stadium in Kandahar .
    • Building a cold storage warehouse in Kandahar .
  • India and Afghanistan signed a Preferential Trade Agreement in  2003 . In  2011, India removed basic customs duties for all products of Afghanistan (except alcohol and tobacco) giving them duty free access to the Indian market.
  • Afghanistan is rich in mineral resources .   India has acquired rights to iron mining (from Hajigak iron ore reserves).
  • Accessing Afghanistan is the biggest problem for India because Pakistan doesn’t allow India trucks to pass from her territory & reach Afghanistan. To overcome this India has invested in route through Iran (Zaranj-Delaram Highway) . Chabahar port will also help in this pursuit .
  • India has also invested in TAPI . If project takes off, it will help Afghanistan to earn transit fee .
  • India has donated four Mi-25 attack helicopters to Afghanistan .
  • India train cadets of Afghani Army at NDA and IMA .
  • Large number of Afghani students come to India for study through scholarships
  • Afghanistani Cricket Team has base in Dehradun.
  • Indian Soft Power : Indian Bollywood movies and dramas are among favourite of Afghani people .  In Afghanistan, the reason that Bollywood is popular is because it has deep echoes with the psyche of Afghan society. Bollywood cinemas are based on the theme of a larger-than-life Bollywood hero fighting injustice. This synchronizes well with the Afghan society, which has also faced and continues to face immense injustice.

APTTA (Af-Pak Transit Trade Agreement)

  • Treaty was originally signed in 1950 to provide access to Karachi port & Lahore dry Port to Afghanistan . Under the modified agreement in 2011  , along with Karachi port and Lahore dry port, 
    • Afghan trucks loaded with Cargo  meant for India can travel up to its last checkpoint at Wagah in Pakistan  .
    • But no Indian goods can be imported  and Afghan trucks would have to drive back empty to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border where they could load up with Pakistani goods .
Af-Pak Transit Trade Agreement
  • Afghanistan demands  Pakistan to open transit route for India.  But Pakistan doesn’t allow this. Bitter India-Pakistan relations mean Afghan trucks carrying perishable fruit face long delays on both sides of the border .
  • In 2016, Ashraf Ghani asserted that if Pakistan does not allow its trucks to come back with goods from India, Afghanistan would block Pakistani access to Central Asia. But, despite assertion by Ghani, Pakistan refused to budge.
  • Due to this, India is adopting alternate routes
    • India has built Zaranj-Delaram Highway and Chabahar Port for trade with Afghanistan in  future .
Zaranj Delaram
  • India-Afghanistan Air Freight Corridor was started in 2017 (Bring Dry fruits to India & take medicine, garments etc.  from India). The air corridor will be a big enabler to the bilateral trade and will send a strong message to Pakistan that despite its obstructionist behaviour, India will continue to engage with Afghanistan.

Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process

  • ‘Heart of Asia- Istanbul Process’ was established to encourage security, political and economic cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbour .  There are 14 participating countries in this.
India Afghanistan Relations
  • 6th & latest  conference was held in Amritsar  in Dec 2016 . Amritsar Declaration was adopted which called for
    • Immediate elimination of terrorism from Afghanistan 
    • State-sponsored terrorism was identified as a key challenge
  • Amritsar was chosen as venue by India because
    • Amritsar lies at the heart of the Grant Trunk Road connecting Bangladesh to Peshawar.
    • India showcased that Pakistan remains an irritant in facilitating regional connectivity. India used the conference in Amritsar to press Pakistan to allow entry of trucks and transit to Afghanistan via the Attari- Wagah border.

Issue : US withdrawal from Afghanistan


2000s till 2012 Subsequent to 9/11 attacks in USA , NATO interfered in Afghanistan under OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM (2001)  with the purpose to defeat Al-Qaeda ,remove Taliban from powercreate a viable democratic state .
Taliban gave tough fight and as a result , NATO stayed in Afghanistan for  more than decade  .
USA also worked for the capacity building of the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) and it was thought that even after the US troops finally withdraw, the ANSF would be strong enough to prevent the Taliban from recapturing Afghanistan .
Obama Policy Obama increased the US troops in Afghanistan during first term (called ‘Surge Policy’).
But his policy saw major turn in second term when he decided to  withdrew all but approximately 8,400 soldiers from Afghanistan  .
Trump policy Trump regime wanted to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan .
Feb 2020 US president struck a peace deal with the Taliban on the issues of counterterrorism and the withdrawal of U.S. and international troops. It’s terms were as follows
1. United States to reduce its troops in Afghanistan from 12,000 to 8,600.
2. Release of prisoners and prisoner swap.
3. Recognition to Taliban and US will move to the United Nations Security Council to remove Taliban members from the sanctions list.
4. Taliban would prevent any terror group from using Afghanistan to threaten the security of US and its allies.
5. Intra-Afghan Negotiations  will be start  among all the stakeholders of the Afghan society and the Taliban would commit towards it.  
2020 Intra-Afghan peace talks held for the first time between Afghan government and Taliban in Qatar.

Reasons for US withdrawal

  • Trump’s America First Policy : Trump is not in favour of wasting US ‘blood and treasure’ on distant lands (19th year and no solution in sight) .
  • Realisation that Afghanistan war cant be won owing to Afghan geography and society. Even after 19 years of war, Taliban is controlling a large part of Afghan territory.
Area under Taliban Control

Reasons for US failure

  • Polity factor : US failed to integrate Taliban into Afghan government & National Unity Government was corrupt & inefficient .
  • Geographical Factors :  hostile terrain as well as guerrilla tactics used by Talibs .
  • Great Game:  
    • Intervention by global powers . E.g. U.S.-Russia tensions are creating space for proxies .
    • Intervention by regional powers . Eg : India vs Pakistan .
  • Role of Pakistan : ISI allowed senior Taliban Leaders to run war in relative security. 
  • Socio Cultural Factors :  nomadic and tribal society in Afghanistan comprises of multiple tribes like Pashtuns, Turks and Persians, each dominant in different regions, asserting their own traditions and culture. The tribal factionalism didn’t allow the democratically elected government to settle in Afghanistan .

Consequences of US withdrawal

  • Resurgence of Taliban : Post US withdrawal , Taliban with help of Pakistan can takeover whole of Afghanistan .
  • Breeding ground of Terrorism threatening security of Central Asia and India .
  • Refugee Crisis as instability will result in mass exodus of Afghans.
  • Threat to human rights: The Taliban wants to reimpose its version of Islamic law as the country’s system of governance .

Consequences for India

  • Upsurge of terrorism and act as launchpad for attacks on India as happened during 1990s post Soviet withdrawal . Eg : In 1999,Pakistani terrorists hijacked Indian Airlines flight IC-814 and landed it in Kandahar .
  • On Kashmir :  Separatists in Kashmir are using Taliban’s “victory” over US  to inspire that they too could “defeat India”.
  • India has already invested 2 billion $ in Afghanistan‘s infrastructure along with large investment in Chabahar port with eye on Afghanistan .
  • The ‘Golden Crescent’ comprising of Iran, Afghan, and Pakistan is a worry for India, especially with respect to the issue of drug abuse in Punjab
  • TAPI project may get jeopardised impacting energy security of India .
  • It will lead to increased Pakistani involvement in Afghan policy which will disturb Balance of Power in Middle East & Central Asia in Pakistan’s favour .
  • Refugee Crisis will impact India. Due to resurgence of Taliban regime, large number of Afghani Sikhs and Hindus will seek refuge in India .

India-Russia Relations

India-Russia Relations

This article deals with ‘India-Russia Relations.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

History of Relations

Pre-Independence Relations

  • In early 19th century, Russian Tsar expanded to Central Asia. This was perceived by Britishers as threat to British Indian Empire . To stop Russian advancement , they started  Anglo-Afghan wars, primary aim of which was to make  Afghanistan as buffer between Russian and British Empire. This whole episode culminated with the  Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 under which Russians accepted the British as the paramount power in Afghanistan.

Initial years after Indian Independence

  • India adopted the policy of  non-alignment.
  • Till 1953, when Stalin was alive, he wasn’t very keen about India. Stalin did not appreciate the non-aligned posturing of India .
  • After the death of Stalin, Indians and Soviet interests started to converge on following issues
    • Indian protest at the UN about its decision to extend the Korean War north of the 38th parallel.
    • Indian support for the People’s Republic of China to enter the UN.
  • Finally, formation of Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) in 1954 and  Baghdad Pact in 1955 under the leadership of USA was perceived by India as an attempt by the US to encircle India. India also condemned American support to Pakistan with arms . These events brought India closer to USSR.

Relations during 1962 War

  • Nikita Khrushchev favoured the improvement of ties with the US while Mao tried to criticize it and tried to promote his own image as a sole representative of revolutionary movements. This difference between the Soviets and China led to Soviets favoring India during the 1962 Chinese aggression.

Relations during Indo-Pakistan War of 1965

  • After 1962, India adopted the path of defence modernization. The Soviets decided to use it as an opportunity to build ties with India before any western country could fill this strategic space and emerged as the topmost defence supplier for India by the late 1960s.
  • In the 1965 Indo-Pak war, India appreciated the role of the Soviets during mediation through the Tashkent Declaration.

Relations post 1965 and leading upto War of 1971

  • In the 1970s, the US explored options of undertaking rapprochements with China and India began to fear a Beijing-Washington-Islamabad axis.
  • India acted hastily. Since 1969, India and the USSR were negotiating a diplomatic and strategic engagement. India speeded up the negotiations and in 1971, concluded a twenty- year ‘India-Soviet Treaty of Peace and Friendship‘ with the clause of Collective Security  (i.e. if India is attacked , Soviet Union will come to help & vice versa) . Shipments of arms began to arrive from Russia to India.
  • USSR has  sided with India on Kashmir issue and vetoed all resolutions against India in UNSC .

Initial hiccups in the relation post fall of USSR

After the Cold War ended, the initial years of Boris Yeltsin’s rule were not smooth. Due to fall of USSR , both India and Russia were attracted towards the west without any convergence . During this period

  • Rupees – Rouble Trade suffered as  value of Rouble declined steeply . In response, Russia asked India to pay in Dollars .
  • Cryogenic engine was  denied by Russia under USA pressure due to MTCR .
  • Militancy in Chechnya and Kashmir presented problem to both nations .

End of 1990s

  • Nuclear Tests of 1998 brought India Russia closer.
  • AT that time, world was divided into two groups
    • USA , Japan and EU  : placed sanctions on India .
    • Russia  : Supported India arguing  that India is surrounded by China & Pakistan & had right to protect using Nuclear Deterrence .

Putin’s Visit in 2010

  • During this visit , India and Russia signed “Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership” (SPSP) .
  • One of the key drivers for this move was India’s assertion for a multipolar world. The resurgence of Russia in the world to project itself as an independent pole in the international system suits India as it will prevent any form of unipolar assertion by either the US or China.
India-Russia Relations

Crimea Issue

  • Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine where Russian Black Sea Fleet is placed permanently and has been outlet of Russia to the Mediterranean Sea . Although, western countries placed sanctions on Russia due to Russian expansionist policy but  India supported Russian decision.  

Present Collaborations

India and Russia are presently collaborating on following projects

  • International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) .
  • BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation : Both are part of BRICS and SCO .
  • S-400 Triumf  Air Defense Systems  .
  • Joint development of Kamov-226 helicopters.
  • Development of Far East Russia .

Convergence of Interests

Russia needs India

  • To bypass Western sanctions . 
  • Act as hedge against  forthcoming Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)  driven by the US & EU .
  • India is market for Defence Industry of Russia.
  • India is a major market of Oil .

India needs Russia 

  • To secure energy supply at a cost-effective price. 
  • To get  cutting edge defence technology   (No country provide it’s new technology).
  • Russia is a good market for Indian pharmaceuticals, manufactured goods, dairy products etc. 
  • Russian Veto at UN matters for India .

India-Russia Economic Cooperation

  • Indo-Russian trade flourished during the Cold War as it was based on the Rupee-Rouble agreement. However, the foundation of this agreement was dismantled in 1992, which led to a decline in trade.
  • Annual Indo-Russian trade is of $11 billion (2012) . India exports $3 billion and imports $8 billion . Target is to increase it to $30 Billion in a decade .
  • ONGC Videsh has invested $5 billion  in Sakhalin I project in Siberia and Imperial Energy ltd .
  • Russia has developed Kudankulam nuclear energy project (1000 MW) .
  • India and Russia are also in the advance stages of talks of the signing of an Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Indian and Russia led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).

Problems in trade with Russia

  • There are no direct overland trade routes possible today, though the International North-South Transit Corridor (INSTC) will try to establish that connectivity.
  • Supreme Court in 2012, declared 2G licenses as null and void after Russian AFK Sistema had teamed up with Shyam Telecom. This sent negative sentiments in Russian business houses,
  • Custom clearances  and inspections are complex & time consuming .
  • Russian importer needs to get license to import . Russian businessmen demand Indian exporter to pay for these charges .
  • Product specific approvals are required. 
  • Banking & finance issues due to  strict norms in Current Account & Capital Account convertibility .

Defence Relation

  • DEFENCE COOPERATION IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ECONOMIC COOPERATION WITH RUSSIA  . India is going for massive weaponization and Russia is most important ally in this regard as  2/3rd of Indian military hardware comes from Russia .
  • Following weapons of India are of Russian origin
India-Russia Relations
IAF 32 out of 41 fighter Indian Air Force squadrons are Russian . These include
1. MIG 21,23,27,29
2. Sukhoi 30- MKI

New Deals have been signed for following systems
1. Joint Production of Kamov -226 Helicopter  
2. India to buy S-400 Air Defence Systems
Army T-72 & T-90 constitute 60% of 4168 battle tanks .
Navy – INS  Vikramaditya (Gorshkov) Aircraft Carrier 
– Nuclear Submarine : Akula II class (INS Chakra)  

  • BrahMos supersonic missile ( 2.8 Mach speed)  is jointly developed by India & Russia . This marks  SHIFT IN DEFENCE RELATION FROM BUYER SELLER TO JOINT INVOLVEMENT IN R&D AND DEVELOPMENT .
  • India and Russia conducts Joint Armed exercises known as  INDRA .
  • Even after increased bonhomie with US, Modi has already declared that Russia is the primary defence supplier of India .

Defence relations are changing

  • India is trying to diversify her arsenal because too much dependence on one nation in defence is a strategic liability . MMRCA Deal with France vouches for that. 
  • Russia is also trying to diversify its relations in response to Indian position & is engaging with Pakistan for sale of weapons .

Issues in Indo-Russian Defence Relations

  • CAATSA i.e, Countering American Adversaries through Sanctions Act of US  has provision of Sanctions against American adversaries in case they are doing trade with them. These adversaries include Russia, Iran and North Korea. This is presenting difficulty in payments . 

Space Cooperation

  • Space cooperation between two countries goes back 4 decades . 2015 marked the 40th anniversary of launch of India’s first satellite “Aryabhatt” on a Russian ( USSR) launch vehicle ‘Soyuz.’
  • In 1984, Indian astronaut Rakesh Sharma visited space in the Soyuz T-10, which was an issue of great political prestige for India.
  • After the fall of USSR, relation deteriorated for sometime. In 1992, Russia agreed to provide India cryogenic rocket engines but due to India being a non-signatory to MTCR at that time, the deal was later suspended. The sudden suspension of the deal came as a serious setback to Indian space program.
  • But relations have been stabilised again. Various MOUs have been signed between ROSCOSMOS and ISRO since then .
  • Earlier , India was using GLONASS  as an alternate to US controlled GPS.

Energy Cooperation

  • Russia is an energy supplier while India has a huge demand of energy. As India is a net importer of energy, Russia  is in a strategic position to cooperate in this regard.
  • Former Soviet Union played a major role in building India’s energy sector in following way
    1. Developing tens of hydropower stations
    1. Developing India’s coal industry
    2. Finding oil in Indian soil
    3. Helping in setting up India’s energy major ONGC. 
  • India has invested
    • $5 billion in the Sakhalin-1 project, controlling 20 percent stakes in the venture .
    • Purchased Imperial Energy, London-listed oil major in the Tomsk region.
    • India is also interested in Timon Pechora basin and Vankor in the East Siberia.
  • Both India and Russia are extending civil nuclear cooperation to 3rd countries as well , e.g. Bangladesh.

Indo-Russian Cooperation to develop Russia’s Far East

  • India participated in the 5th Eastern Economic Forum (2020) which aims to support the economic development of Russia’s resource rich Far East.
  • India has unveiled the “Act Far East” policy to boost India’s engagement with Russia’s Far East region .
  • India has extended a $1 billion line of credit for the development of this region.
  • Also, proposal for maritime route between Chennai and Vladivostok has been made bypassing Europe, which would enable to transfer cargo between India and Russia  in 24 days in comparison to over 40 days currently.
  • Several Indian companies have been successfully set up in the Russian Far East region, such as KGK in Vladivostok in the field of diamond cutting and Tata Power in Kamchatka in coal mining .
Russia Far East Development

Multilateral Engagements

  • Russia has supported India’s bid for permanent seat in UNSC.
  • Russia has been favouring Indian entry to Nuclear Supplier Group.
  • Both countries are  on the same page regarding the reform of multilateral institutions like IMF and the World Bank. 
  • Both countries are member of important international organizations like
    1. BRICS
    2. Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)
    3. G-20 

People to People Cooperation

  • Programs like ‘Namaste Russia’ .
  • Institutes like Jawaharlal Nehru Cultural Centre, both the countries have had good cultural links. 

Downturn in Relations

  • During the Cold War, defense ties were the most important elements of our relation. In the post-Cold War era, the US, France and Israel have emerged as direct competitors to Russia in providing defense supplies to India. Russian share in India’s defence imports has decreased from 79% (2008) to 62% (2017).
  • India’s growing proximity to the United States: Rapidly expanding ties and growing defence relationship between India and US corroborated by the fact like joining Quad led by USA,  signing of logistic agreements like BECA , LEMOA, COMCASA etc. with US has led to a strategic shift in Russia’s foreign policy. For Russia it has been a period of great hostility with West, thus pushing it to align with China.
  • One dimensional trade  : Trade has been one-dimensional i.e. defence based. The trade in 2017-18 was $11 billion, which is far below potential in comparison to India’s trade with China ($89.7 billion), the United States ($74.5 billion). 
  • Russian leaning towards China :  Russia has sold advanced military technology to Beijing and endorsed China’s One Belt One Road. There has also been concern about Moscow leaning toward Beijing in forums like the BRICS. Also, China and Russia inaugurated the first cross-border pipeline between their countries, called the “Power of Siberia” to pump natural gas to China from Russia’s far-east regions
  • Increasing bonhomie between Russia and Pakistan : Russia in 2014 lifted arms embargo on Pakistan. Russia and Pakistan conducted a military exercise in September 2016.
  • Issues wrt Taliban: Russia  showing inclination towards Taliban in Afghanistan while India continues to have concerns about the group.

Steps taken to address this

  • Sochi informal summit : At Sochi Summit, Strategic partnership between the two has been elevated into a “special privileged strategic partnership”.
  • Despite the threat of US sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), India has remained firm on buying the S-400 Triumf air defence missiles system. All
  • Reinforcement of Defence Ties : India has finalised following defence deals with Russia in recent times
    1. Joint production of Kamov-226 helicopters.
    2. S-400 Air Defence System
    3. Nuclear-powered submarine (Chakra III)
  • INDRA upgraded to Tri Services Joint Exercises .
  • Improving trade relations: In 2017 trade between both countries increased by 20%. Two countries decided to reach  $30 billion investment goal by 2025.
  • India participated in Eastern Economic Forum (2020) which aims to support the economic development of Russia’s resource rich Far East. Also, India has extended a $1 billion line of credit .
  • Indian Defence Minister undertook a trip to Russia for its ‘Victory Day’ parade even during COVID-19 pandemic.
  • To address connectivity , India and  Russia are development of International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC).

Is Russia still important ?

  • Russia is time tested friend who has helped India on number of occasions earlier. Increasing Russo-Pak Ties are just symbolic gesture by Russia to tell India that they too can find friends.
  • Russian Defence partnership is important because they give Transfer of Technology in cutting edge technology which other countries including US willn’t offer. In US , all the defence system manufacturing is under private companies while in Russia they are state controlled . Hence, way in which Russia can help by supplying arms in order to set diplomatic relations on right track cant be done by US (INS Vikramaditya , Nuclear Subs , Sukhoi etc. )
  • Along with that, joint production deals in high end products like Kamov Helicopters , Brahmos Missiles etc. matters to India if it want to develop domestic defence industry. US and western powers never agree to such agreements .
  • In Civil Nuclear Aspects too, only Russia has given best deals eg  in Kundankulam. Other nations care too much about financial aspects and just want to increase their profits .
  • If India wants to book her seat in UNSC , Russian support is very important . 
  • On various multilateral forums, Russia and India share space . BRICS & SCO are the most important . 
  • Russia has large energy resources and India need Russia to satisfy her hunger for energy.
  • Overall, as mentioned by PM Modi, Russia still remains our principle Defence Partner . About 70 per cent of our weapons and equipment are of Russian or Soviet origin. 
  • Military Exercise with Pakistan should not be seen from narrow perspective. In age of Realpolitik, every nation wants to have maximum manoeuvre  space. India conduct military exercises with China too  .

=> Overall it can be concluded that, as Modi said in his joint statement (2016 meet) स्तारीय द्रुग लुछे नोविख़ द्वुख  ie Old friend is better than two new friends , India shouldn’t abandon Russia because what Russia can provide , no other nation in world can do that. India should diversify its defence partnership but Russia should remain India’s topmost priority who was always there when India needed.