How does Russia perceive India in the post-Cold War period? Is Russia-India relations are of the the same cordiality and friendship as it was during the Soviet period?

The Soviet-Indian relationship from the Khrushchev period to 1991 was. The visit by Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru to the Soviet Union in June 1955 and Khrushchev's return trip to India in the fall of 1955. Economic and military assistance.

Рубрика Международные отношения и мировая экономика
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Государственное образовательное учреждение высшего профессионального образования




Мошеев Тимур Артурович


«How does Russia perceive India in the post-Cold War period? Is Russia-India relations are of the the same cordiality and friendship as it was during the Soviet period?»

India and the International System


4-го курса очной формы обучения


«Международные отношения»

Москва 2013


The Soviet-Indian relationship from the Khrushchev period to 1991 was a very friendly one. A cordial relationship with India that began in the 1950s represented the most successful of the Soviet attempts to foster closer relations with Third World countries. The relationship began with a visit by Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru to the Soviet Union in June 1955 and Khrushchev's return trip to India in the fall of 1955. While in India, Khrushchev announced that the Soviet Union supported Indian sovereignty over the Kashmir and Portuguese enclaves. The Soviet Union declared its neutrality during the 1959 border dispute and the Sino-Indian war of 1962, although the Chinese strongly objected. Nehru's socialistic inclinations and his Anglicized distaste for Americans drew him closer then to USSR and China, Nehru's self-righteousness in foreign affairs was equally matched by US secretary of State, Dulles who as early as 1947 remarked that "Soviet Communism exercises a strong influence through the interim Hindu Government". S. Kapila. India-Russia Strategic cooperation: Time to move away // South Asia Analysis Group, 2000.

The USSR gave India substantial economic and military assistance during the Khrushchev period, and by 1960 India had received more Soviet assistance than China had. This disparity became another point of contention in Sino-Soviet relations. In 1962 the Soviet Union agreed to transfer technology to co-produce the MiG-21 jet fighter in India, which the Soviet Union had earlier denied to China. In 1971 the former East Pakistan region initiated an effort to secede from its political union with West Pakistan. India supported the secession and, as a guarantee against possible Chinese entrance into the conflict on the side of West Pakistan, signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation with the Soviet Union in August 1971. The Soviet-Indian relationship rests on two pillars of mutual interest: the containment of China and the reduction of Western influence in the region".

Additionally, the USSR uses India's status as a leader of the non-aligned movement to bolster Soviet policy in the Third World. India uses Soviet economic and military aid to pursue its own regional goals, the most important of which are containment of Pakistan and Bangladesh. In other words, the Soviet Union and India have the basis for an ideal relationship: India's needs are a match for Soviet capabilities, and Soviet needs are a match for India's strengths. New Delhi and Moscow had built friendly relations on the basis of realpolitik.

India's nonalignment enabled it to accept Soviet support in areas of strategic congruence, as in disputes with Pakistan and China, without subscribing to Soviet global policies or proposals for Asian collective security. India was not part of the Soviet bloc, but could in some respects be seen as a quasi-ally of the Soviet Union. Soviet support was also a useful counter to China, which India saw as its main threat after the 1962 Sino-Indian war. Close and cooperative ties were forged in particular in the sectors of Indian industrial development and defense production and purchases.

These new arrangements contributed to India's emergence as a significant industrial power through the construction of plants to produce steel, heavy machinery and equipment, machine tools, and precision instruments, and to generate power and extract and refine petroleum. Soviet investment was in India's public-sector industry. Soviet aid was extended on the basis of long-term, government-to-government programs, which covered successive phases of technical training for Indians, supply of raw materials, progressive use of Indian inputs, and markets for finished products. Bilateral arrangements were made in nonconvertible national currencies, helping to conserve India's scarce foreign exchange.

Also, the Soviet Union became a significant arms supplier to India, and a significant economic relationship also developed. In 1990, the Soviet-Indian trade turnover was $5.5 billion (of which the Russian republic had a 60% share).

India's military dependence on Russia can be said to be virtually total since 1965 in terms of military hardware for all three arms of its armed forces. After 30 years of reliance on Soviet produced hardware, India finds itself in a position where its armed forces are critically dependent on Russian equipment and spares to the tune of: Army - 75%; Air Force - 80%; Navy - 85% S. Kapila. India-Russia Strategic cooperation: Time to move away, 2000..

But when Gorbachev came into power and disintegration of USSR took place, he had given notice of change of priorities in Russia's foreign policies in favour of China at his famous Vladivostok speech. Somehow India missed noticing Russia's switch in priorities i.e. a China predominant policy as early as 1986. It was Gorbachev who called for a new China Policy and it was he who called for an end to a China encirclement policy and it was Gorbachev who conceded China's basic demands for normalization of relations: Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, Soviet pressure to get Vietnamese withdrawal from Cambodia and the reduction of Soviet military presence along its borders with China.

But, I must say that in 1985 and 1986, 1988, both India and USSR signed pacts to boost bilateral trade and provide Soviet investment and technical assistance for Indian industrial, telecommunications, and transportation projects. In 1985 and 1988, the Soviet Union also extended to India credits of 1 billion rubles and 3 billion rubles, respectively (a total of about US$2.4 billion) J.Heitzman and R.L. Worden. India: A Country Study // Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1995, for the purchase of Soviet machinery and goods.

soviet indian khrushchev assistance


When the Soviet Union disintegrated, India was faced with the difficult task of reorienting its external affairs and forging relations with the fifteen Soviet successor states, of which Russia was the most important. In 1993 New Delhi and Moscow worked to redefine their relationship according to post-Cold War realities. During the January 1993 visit of Russian president Boris Yeltsin to India, the two countries signed agreements that signaled a new emphasis on economic cooperation in bilateral relations.

The 1971 treaty was replaced with the new Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, which dropped security clauses that in the Cold War were directed against the United States and China. Yeltsin stated that Russia would deliver cryogenic engines and space technology for India's space program under a $350 million deal between the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and the Russian space agency, Glavkosmos, despite the imposition of sanctions on both organizations by the United States.

In addition, Yeltsin expressed strong support for India's stand on Kashmir. Russia urged India to support the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and decided in March 1992 to apply "full-scope safeguards" to future nuclear supply agreements. Russia also shares interests with the United States in cooling antagonisms between India and Pakistan, particularly with regard to Kashmir, thus making it unlikely that India could count on Russia in a future dispute with Pakistan.

Bilateral relations between India and Russia improved as a result of eight agreements signed in December 1994. The agreements cover military and technical cooperation from 1995 to 2000, merchant shipping, and promotion and mutual protection of investments, trade, and outer space cooperation. Political observers saw the visit of Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin that occasioned the signing of the eight agreements as a sign of a return to the earlier course of warm relations between New Delhi and Moscow. In March 1995, India and Russia signed agreements aimed at suppressing illegal weapons smuggling and drug trafficking.

On the other hand, the informal suggestion made by the then Prime Minister Eugeny Primakov during his visit to New Delhi in 1998, regarding a "strategic triangle" between Russia, China and India did not at that time evoke enthusiastic response either in India or in China. Our country realized that all the three angles of the proposed triangle are not equal, as mutual apprehension and difficulties between India and China do persist. Moreover, individually each of these three countries has economic and trade transactions with the Western countries on a much larger scale than with one another.

That made Russia took the lead in proposing close coordination in Brazil, Russia, India, China (BRIC) framework. Russia has also supported India full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and UN Security Council. Putin's emphasis on developing close ties with Europe and the USA did not preclude the policy of cultivating India as an important partner. This was seen in his visit to India in October 2000, where a declaration on strategic partnership was signed, along with several economic and military-technical cooperation agreements. The agreement on strategic partnership was an attempt to place the bilateral relationship on a higher level, and also attempted to institutionalize the relationship, by having annual summits and increased cooperation between the foreign ministries of the two states. It was also agreed to enhance the role of the Indo-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation. Political cooperation between the two states has been very good. Combating international terrorism is becoming a more important aspect of the Russo-Indian relationship.

A declaration on this subject had been made when Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Moscow in November 2001. It was agreed during Putin's visit in December 2002 to set up a Joint Working Group (JWG) on the subject. This held its first meeting in September 2003, and its second in April 2004. At the second meeting, both sides agreed on a five-point plan of action which included joint efforts to tackle terrorist financing and curb trafficking in narcotics. It was agreed to improve the exchange of intelligence information between the two states. Deputy foreign minister Anatoly Safonov, who co-chairs the Russo-Indian JWG on terrorism, said that Russia was prepared to offer India satellite pictures of training camps across the Line of Control in Pakistan if India sought it M.A.Smith. Russia's relations with India and Pakistan, 2004. Safonov also noted that Russia and India have close views on regional conflicts.

The next major stage in the development of the political relationship was the visit of Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee to Moscow in November 2003. The most significant outcome of this visit was the signing of a Joint Declaration on the Global Challenges and Threats to World Security and Stability. This declaration affirmed both sides' commitment to fighting terrorism, and also affirmed the leading role of the United Nations as the main security organisation, along with the desirability of a multipolar international order. It also expressed support for the expansion of the UN Security Council, in effect calling for India to become a permanent member of this body. However, I think that Russian hopes of using India as a component in an anti-US foreign policy strategy (should Russian policy change) are unlikely to be realised.

Although the politico-military relationship between India and the Russian Federation is a good one, the economic relationship is at a low level. Trade turnover was $3.3 billion in the period January-December 2003, compared with $2.1 billion for the period January-December 2002 M.A.Smith. Russia's relations with India and Pakistan, 2004. In comparison with India's trade with the European Union, the USA, Japan and Switzerland, Russo-Indian trade levels are very modest. However it should be noted that trade levels are now not that much lower than during the Soviet period.

Indian firms show little interest in the Russian market, arguing that conditions there are insufficient to attract them. Russian firms do show a greater interest in the Indian market, but the major western powers are much more significant to India as economic partners, and Russian commercial interests will not be able to pose a significant challenge to western ones. India's principal exports to the Russian Federation and other CIS members are: tea, coffee, tobacco, cashew, leather, footwear, drugs, pharmaceuticals, fine chemicals, spices, rice, processed minerals, cosmetics and toiletries, and cotton yarn fabric. India imports from Russia the following: pulp and waste paper, cotton raw and waste, ferrous metal ores and metal scrap, organic chemicals, fertilizers, newsprint, iron and steel, non-ferrous metals, machinery except electrical and electronics, and transport equipment. There are some major projects developing.

The Indian State Oil and Gas Corporation invested around $1.7 billion in the Sakhalin-1 oil project in the Russian Far East in 2001, and Russian organisations are participating in the construction of the nuclear power station at Kudankulam. Gazprom and Zarubezhneftegaz are cooperating with Indian partners in exploiting coal in the Bay of Bengal. Cooperation also takes place in the fields of electronics, information technology and biotechnology M.A.Smith. Russia's relations with India and Pakistan, 2004. In November 2003, Rosaviakosmos and the Indian Space Research Organisation signed a cooperation agreement. Both sides will jointly use the Russian GLONASS satellite navigation system and cooperate in the development of the Indian lunar programme M.A.Smith. Russia's relations with India and Pakistan, 2004. The partnership in the GLONASS system also includes the creation of a new generation of navigation satellites and navigation equipment for users. The two agencies also discussed the development of equipment for remote sensing and joint work on electric motors India has been an important purchaser of Soviet/Russian military equipment for several decades.

Russo-Indian military-technical cooperation has steadily increased since Putin came to power. In June 2001, the first meeting of the Russian-Indian commission for military-technical cooperation took place in Moscow. The two sides signed a military cooperation protocol to 2010. The 10 year Indo-Russian Agreement up to 2010 on military - technological cooperation which includes advanced weapon systems is worth $15 billion S. Kapila. India-Russia Strategic cooperation, 2000.. In February 2002 India and Russia signed four defence protocols in New Delhi. One of the protocols included an agreement on cooperation between the armed forces of the two states.

Both countries also decided to develop a satellite global surveillance system and a fifth generation strike aircraft. Estimate show that over 800 Russian defence production facilities are kept in operation by Indian Defence Contracts S. Kapila. India-Russia Strategic cooperation, 2000..


Russia currently is only one of two countries in the world (the other being Japan) that has a mechanism for annual ministerial-level defence reviews with India. The Indo-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission (IRIGC), which is one of the largest and comprehensive governmental mechanisms that India has had with any country internationally. Almost every department from the Government of India attends it. India and Russia can surely continue to have good friendly relations based on their proximity of the past. India and Russia can surely look for convergence of interests in the international field. However, seeking convergence with Russia cannot be at the expense of India's quest for newer strategic cooperative link with countries like USA, France, Israel, Vietnam, Japan and South Africa.

Yet, in my opinion, partnership between Russia and India is a crucial. The future of East Asia and Central Asia regions is the future of the world, because by providing infrastructure projects, security guarantees in region and humanitarian development, it's became possible to re-create some kind of Silk Route. Connections with Central Asia could allow to gain an access to new resources and territories, by upgrading infrastructure in small countries of region we can improve trading with them and this will help to raise the standard of living and include this territories in global community. Here is key for Russian future progress and Indian though. And I think that SCO could be a leading organization in future development of practical relations and cooperation between countries. Especially, about Afghanistan problem, because Afghanistan is a key for stability in region and making infrastructural projects.

Of course, Russia "China First" policy was vigorously pursued by President Yeltsin, and received active pursuance by President Putin. And this is not bad, because PRC has a huge geopolitical and economic power in region, and for our security and economy China is a vital friend. Prosperity of China could lead neighbors to success though, cause it's geopolitical position and economy growing speed makes PRC a soft friend, because Chinese government is afraid of any crises. India has a crucial role in security stability and by economy growing soon country will be more interesting for Russia and China not only in political sphere, but historical friendship is very useful for Russians to start new business relations here.

So, for me, Russia's desire to improve relations with India is a key point in Central/East Asia policy. Possibility of making a “triangle” between Russia-China-India could provide a great potential not only in regional relations, yet could form the future of the whole world and mankind thanks to huge natural resources and human potential.

«Relations with India have always been and I am sure will be one of the most important foreign policy priorities of our country. Our mutual ties of friendship are filled with sympathy, and trust, and openness. And we must say frankly that they were never overshadowed by disagreements or conflict. This understanding - this is indeed the common heritage of our peoples. It is valued and cherished in our country, in Russia, and in India. And we are rightfully proud of so close, so close relations between our countries.»

-- Dmitry Medvedev, about relations with India


1. M. A. Smith. Russia's relations with India and Pakistan // Conflict Studies Research Centre, 2004.-- URL:

2. S. Kapila. India-Russia Strategic cooperation: Time to move away // South Asia Analysis Group, 2000. - URL:

3. J.Heitzman and R.L. Worden, editors. India: A Country Study // Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1995.--URL:

4. J. Bakshi . Post-Cold War Sino-Russian Relations: An Indian Perspective// IDSA-India, 2002. - URL:

5. P.Stobdan. India-Russia Strategic Partnership // IDSA-India, 2010. - URL:

6. R.Sen. The Evolution of India-Russia Relations // MEA Distingushed Lecture Series, 2010. - URL:

7. N.Joshi. India-Russia Relations and the Strategic Environment in Eurasia // Slavic Research Center, 2007. - URL:

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