Is India’s position on Russia affecting its relationship with the U.S?

GS Paper 2, International Relations.

The United States, India’s key partner, has warned of dire consequences for any nation, including India, that conducts local currency transactions through Russia’s central bank or builds a payment mechanism that subverts or circumvents US sanctions against Russia. Many nations, including the United States, have been irritated by India’s constant neutral stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has been shaped by its decisions. It is necessary to determine India’s non-aligned stance on the conflict.

Neutralising Geo Political Equations:

  • India has solid connections with both Russia and the United States, and siding with one might jeopardise India’s relationship with the other.
  • However, this has not been the case thus far, since India appears to have adopted a neutral stance. India has frequently stated that it considers its relations with Russia and the United States as distinct and would not allow either to dictate its foreign policy.
  • Russia has undoubtedly been India’s most trustworthy partner for more than five decades, but due to deteriorating ties with the US, Moscow has increased its connection with China in recent years.
  • India, which has been strengthening ties with the US since the turn of the century, is now speeding up its multifaceted collaboration with the US, mostly to counterbalance a confrontational China.
  • These shifting geopolitical dynamics have also raised concerns about an Indo-Russian drift and India’s capacity to manage its relations with other major powers.
  • Despite the prospect of American penalties under CAATSA, India not only opted to go with the 2018 sale for S-400 missile defence systems, but also completed a new agreement for INR 5,000 crores for the manufacturing of 7.5 lakh AK 203 Russian assault rifles.
  • Similarly, India has been collaborating closely with the US in the Indo-Pacific, which Russia has slammed as a US-led plot to undermine India’s long-standing alliance with Russia.
  • Despite Russia’s vehement opposition, India has continued to pursue its Indo-Pacific Strategy through frequent contacts inside and beyond the QUAD, demonstrating that it will act exclusively in its own interests.
  • India’s defence and energy partnerships with Russia are critical.
  • Russia is India’s most seasoned strategic partner, with the two having worked together on political, security, and other strategic issues for a long time and continuing to do so.
  • Finally, as two of the main members of the QUAD, India and the United States both perceive China as the greatest threat and are committed to working together in the Indo-Pacific to control China’s ascent.

In terms of politics:

  • Both the United States and Russia, as veto-wielding countries in the UN, support India’s ambition for a permanent membership on the UN Security Council, as well as India’s admission to the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
  • Since a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and NSG membership were considered as critical to India’s ambitions to represent itself as a significant global power, the strategic relationship with the United States and Russia became even more important.

An Overview of Indo-US Ties:

  • Bilateral ties between India and the United States have evolved into a “global strategic partnership” based on shared democratic ideals and increasing convergence of interests on bilateral, regional, and global concerns.
  • The emphasis placed by the Indian government on development and good governance has created an opportunity to reinvigorate bilateral ties and enhance cooperation under the mottos —- “Chalein Saath Saath: Forward Together We Go” and “Sanjha Prayas, Sab ka Vikas” (Shared Effort, Progress for All) adopted during Prime Minister Modi and President Obama’s first two summits in September 2014 and January 2015, respectively.
  • In a summit-level joint declaration made in June 2016, India and the United States were referred to as “Enduring Global Partners in the Twenty-First Century.”
  • The regular exchange of high-level political visits has kept bilateral cooperation on track, while the broad and ever-expanding dialogue architecture has set a long-term foundation for India-US engagement.
  • Today, India-US bilateral cooperation spans commerce and investment, defence and security, education, science and technology, cyber security, high-technology, civil nuclear energy, space technology and applications, clean energy, environment, agriculture, and health.
  • Our bilateral relationship is nourished by vibrant people-to-people connection and support throughout the political spectrum in both nations.

How may US sanctions affect India?

  • Sanctions may jeopardise India’s exports of S-400 missiles, leasing of Akula class submarines, production of A-203 rifles, and exports of the BrahMos missile.
  • Sanctions will have an impact on current connections. In penalising India under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), the United States would have to evaluate geostrategic factors, particularly with regard to China.
  • Given that US defence shipments to India are expanding, restrictions may be lifted. It increased from little to nothing in 2008 to US$ 15 billion in 2019. Between 2017 and 2021, the United States will be India’s third largest defence supplier, accounting for 12% of the market.
  • Furthermore, harsh sanctions enforcement will enhance Russia’s reliance on China, eroding the US’s ties with Russia and India. The Russians are a member of our counter-balance coalition against China.

India’s View on Relations with Russia:

  • India and Russia have a “special and privileged strategic alliance” that includes political collaboration, robust defence cooperation, a space partnership, and energy links.
  • The two countries’ tight ties trace back to the Cold War era, particularly in the 1970s, when India signed a 20-year Treaty of Friendship with the Soviet Union (despite India being a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement).
  • Russia has provided India with submarines, tanks, fighter planes, and even aid in developing its nuclear programme over the years.
  • Furthermore, the rising coordination between China and Russia in recent years has brought the “Eurasian Order” architecture to the forefront.
  • Putin’s “pivot to the East” strategy advocated for a “Greater Eurasian Partnership” with China, not only as a counter-balance to the West, but also to match China’s expanding influence in the Eurasian area through the Belt and Road Initiative.
  • Russia’s expanding engagement with Pakistan, such as the $2.5 billion natural gas pipeline project agreed in 2021 and scheduled to begin next year, together with China-Russia ties and India’s developing alliance with the US to oppose China in the Indo-Pacific, are key points of departure.
  • Against this tumultuous backdrop, India’s hesitation to condemn Russia or support Western sanctions is not unusual.

Obstacles to retaining a position with Russia:

  • Despite India’s strong historical and defence relations with Russia, the two countries disagree on many matters, particularly the Indo-Pacific structure and the Quad, which Russia perceives as US constructs for conducting “anti-China games.” Nonetheless, India has urged Russia to “enter the discussion” on the Indo-Pacific as a “Pacific power with interests in the Indian Ocean.”
  • India’s connections with Russia in multilateral fora such as the United Nations (where Russia supported India’s bid for the UN Security Council and used its veto to support Indian interests), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa), and the Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral are critical foreign policy tools, but they discourage India from being overtly anti-Russia.
  • Certainly, New Delhi does not support the Russian invasion in and of itself, primarily because it would provide indirect legitimacy to authoritarian tactics and call into question the viability of security mechanisms such as NATO, thereby indirectly legitimising support for Chinese military adventurism in India’s own backyard.
  • As a result, showing sympathy with Ukraine, on whose behalf the rest of the world is morally offended, is consistent with India’s wider value-based beliefs, as well as its objective of forging closer relationship with Europe (particularly Central and Eastern Europe).
  • India has reached out to the world community and the war-torn area through diplomatic channels and humanitarian help, respectively.
  • Finally, while speculation abounds that India’s defensive posture may lead to a “fraying” of the Quad, no such development has occurred on the ground.
  • The Quad statement reiterates that, while the escalating war in Eurasia may have diverted attention away from the Indo-Pacific, the latter remains hazardous.
  • The statement emphasises that Russian tactics may be used in the Indo-Pacific as well, and that stakeholders must be prepared in advance. It reaffirms the Quad’s commitment to “sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states,” as well as countering “military, economic, and political coercion,” as well as through the establishment of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mechanisms for the region.


No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *