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 India Russia Relations

India Russia Relations
  • Russia is key pillar of India’s foreign policy
  • 1971 : India and Russia signed Treaty of Peace, Friendship & Cooperation  => It has clause of collective security  (ie if India is attacked , Soviet Union will come to help & vice versa)
  • USSR helped to setup many industries in India
  • USSR sided India on Kashmir issue and vetoed all attempts in UN
  • Clear position with India in 1971 Bangladesh war

Initial hiccups in the relation (early 90s)

  • Both India and Russia were attracted towards the west
  • Rupees – Rouble Trade suffered as  value of Rouble fell (Russia asked India to pay in Dollars )
  • Cryogenic engine  denied by Russia (under USA pressure due to MTCR)
  • Militancy in Chechnya and Kashmir presented problem to both nations

=> Overall in this period , India and Russia both leaned towards west in parallel , without any convergence

End of 1990s

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

Putin Visit in 2010

  • India and Russia signed “Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership” (SPSP)

Crimea Issue

  • Russia annexed Crimea ( Russian Black Sea Fleet placed there and outlet to Mediterranean Sea ) =>  India supported Russia 

Present Collaborations

  • International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC)
  • BRICS  : Both are part of BRICS
  • Shanghai Cooperation Organisation 
  • S-400 Triumf  Air Defense Systems 
  • Far East Development

Convergence of Interests

Russia needs India as

  • To bypass Western sanctions 
  • Hedge against  forthcoming Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)  driven by the US & EU
  • India is market for Defence Industry (India largest buyer)
  • India is major market of Oil (Russia = Major producer)

India needs Russia  as

  • Energy supply at a cost-effective price. 
  • Get  cutting edge defence technology   (No country provide it’s new technology. Russia selling S-400)
  • Russia = Market for Indian pharmaceuticals, manufactured goods, dairy products etc. 
  • Russian Veto at UN matters for India

India-Russia Economic cooperation

  • Trade of $11 billion (2012) . India exports $3 billion and imports $8 billion (Target is to increase it to $30 Billion in a decade)
  • Total investment of $8 billion in 2012
  • ONGC Videsh $5 billion investment in Sakhalin I project in Siberia and Imperial Energy ltd (Tomsk)
  • Russia developed Kudankulam nuclear energy project (1000 MW)

Problems in trade with Russia

  • 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
  • SPS on Indian meat , egg, agro & exports
  • Banking & finance issues due to  strict norms in Current Account & Capital Account convertibility

Ways Ahead

  • ALROSA : Russia’s Largest Diamond supplying company to sell rough diamonds to Indian Companies directly worth ~ 700 million per year  (presently done through Belgium)
  • Make Outside India  : set up industries there to use cheap raw material & trade with countries which have signed agreement with these countries
  • Connectivity problems need to be improved by operationalising International North South Transport Corridor

Defence relation


India – Russia Defence Cooperation
  • India is going for massive weaponisation and Russia is most important ally in this because  2/3 of Indian military hardware comes from Russia
Navy INS  Vikramaditya (Gorshkov) Aircraft Carrier 
Nuclear Submarine – Akula II class (INS Chakra)    Deal
Joint Development of 5 Stealth Frigates  
IAF 32 out of 41 fighter Indian Air Force squadrons are Russian
– MIG 21,23,27,29
– Sukhoi 30- MKI
– New Deals => Joint Production of Kamov -226 Helicopter
– New Deal => Buy 5 S-400 Air Defence Systems  
Army T-72 & T-90 constitute 60% of 4168 battle tanks
  • 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
  • Joint Armed exercises – 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 .

Problems of joint development

  • CAATSA :Countering American Adversaries through Sanctions Act of US which has provisions 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 payment although US has granted waiver to India to buy S-400 System
  • Russian security laws prohibit Indians from working in high security projects

Space Cooperation

  • Goes back 4 decades
  • 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of launch of India’s first satellite “Aryabhatt” on a Russian ( USSR) launch vehicle ‘Soyuz.’
  • Various MOUs between ROSCOSMOS and ISRO
  • Earlier (before NAVIC became operationalised), India was using GLONASS  as an alternate to US controlled GPS

Energy Cooperation

  • India = energy deficient ||  Russia = energy surplus => mutual interest lies in this sector. 
  • Former Soviet Union played a major role in building India’s energy sector by building
    • Tens of hydropower stations
    • Developing India’s coal industry
    • Finding oil in Indian soil
    • 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.

These are India’s largest investments abroad.

  • India has been eying energy projects at Timon Pechora basin and Vankor in the East Siberia.

People to People

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

Downturn in relations

  • India’s growing proximity to United States like joining Quad  ||  Russia also realigning it’s relation with China
  • India has signed logistic agreements like LEMOA, COMCASA etc with US.
  • India diversifying it’s defence relations with Israel, USA etc . Russian share has decreased from 79% (2008) to 62% (2017)
  • One dimensional trade ie Defence . Both countries were unable to diversify the trade basket
  • Russia in 2014 lifted arms embargo on Pakistan. Russia and Pakistan conducted a military exercise in September 2016.
  • 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
  • S-400 Defence System bought even defying US diktats and CAATSA
  • Ka-226 helicopter deal => to be made in India under MII Initiative
  • INDRA upgraded to Tri Services Joint Exercises
  • To address connectivity => Development of International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC).
  • Indian investment in Russian oil sector like investment in Pechora Basin + Essar bought shares of Rosneft oil

Is Russia still important post US – India Ties?

  • 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 they 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 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 

This concludes article on India-Iran Relations. For reading our whole series on International Relations, Click on following link

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