Usa, Russia and India

Balancing ties between Russia and USA

India and the USSR had a strategic, military and economic partnership which was inherited by Russia after the break up of the Soviet Union.

India was always the junior partner of the Soviet Union during the cold war and depended heavily on it for weapons, aid, industrial set up and diplomatic support in various multi nation organization including the UN where it was under Soviet veto protection.

After the break up of the Soviet Union, Russia and India continued to share close relationship as in the soviet era. But Russia was beset by its own problems and a sharply declining economy. During the same period India starter economic reforms which put India on a fast track to growth. The period saw India opening up to the west as developing ties with the US which soon started taking shape of a strategic nature starting with the visit of US President Bill Clinton to India.

Under George Bush, Indo-US ties reached newer heights culminating in the nuclear deal. India started to buy some high tech weapons platform from the US breaking the strangle hold of Russia in the field and expanding India’s options.

India started developing problems with Russian supplies of weaponry with delays, sub standard spares and cost hikes. Russia lost out on the MRCA tender even though it was probably the cheapest fighter. Consequently Russia cancelled many of the joint exercises with India while India has in the last few years seen a huge increase in number of joint exercises with the US and having an understanding on patrolling seas lanes in IOR.

There is a feeling of Russia being neglected by India as it found new friends in the west. Unfortunately Russia and India don’t share any common values or interests in the next theatre of global power play which is Asia. The US has already made its move to contain China and is wooing India to come on board and open to supply the latest military ware it has.

Russia’s only relevance today in the world is based on its huge nuclear arsenal, it’s oil and gas and it’s seat in the UNSC. It’s economy is in a bad shape and it’s population has been on a decline.

Yet, it is imperative for India to maintain strategic relations with the Russians and it’s India which will have to do the running especially with Russia and Pakistan trying to find an opening in bilateral relations. Russia knows only one language these days and that is of hard cash. India will have to set aside a decent amount of money for weapons purchase from Russia. This will keep the Russians from supplying any weapons to Pakistan which has to be prevented at all costs.

India will have to look to develop joint projects that helps us utilize Russian scientific knowledge along with ours along with our increasing ability to invest money. This will help Russia in keeping its talent pool employed and help India learn from them and develop capabilities for the future. India has already done that with Brahmos and is doing so with the next gen fighter aircrafts. India could look to enhance this in the field of industries to develop machinery and other equipments which benefit in industrial machines, farm machineries and host of other areas that India lags in and can use Russian expertise and look to market it it across the world using manufacturing base in India using cheaper Indian labor.

Russian energy resources remain an attractive prospect and India should look to look for investment opportunities.

Space is area where India and Soviet Union and then Russia have cooperated in. This should continue and newer areas of cooperation should be sought an implemented. India already has one such in the area of satellite navigation.

India’s trade with Russia is minuscule despite years of being friends. Newer ways to enhance trade has to be found from the $10 billion odd annual figure.

India will have to work out a way to balance its strategic closeness to US with one with Russia which really matters at the end of it all.

India must find ways to cooperate with Russia in any emerging security scenario in Asia. Afghanistan is one such region. Central Asia is another were Russia has considerable influence and with its natural resources forms an attractive area of cooperation.

The other is Iran. Russia has been opposed to any kind of sanctions on Iran and this suits India as well. India and Russia can look to cooperate to find a resolution to the impasse so that Iran’s strategic location both as a gateway to middle east and into central Asia can be utilized not to mention its vast oil and gas reserves. India and Russia can look to create transportation corridors in these regions, Central Asia and Iran for trade and energy supplies and also be the security guarantor for the region.

As India grows economically and militarily and enhances its network of allies and especially strong ties with the US, it has to take Russia along for both historic and strategic reasons.

About Yusuf Unjhawala

Editor, India Defence Analysis. Admin,


  1. play scrabble 8 August, 2012 at 13:18

    Russia is not a good partner for anyone nowadays. Putin’s new reforms really smack of totalitarianism…again. Things can change though, but at the moment Russia is not the most reliable partner on the arena.

  2. jatin 30 August, 2012 at 13:22

    it is veery compleacated to guess that which country will chosen by india for complete our defence utilities..& needs..we have very old & trustable partner is russia…bt india want to grow as very big millitary power @ that give strict competition with china & pakistan..we must to chose supirior weapons in very less amt…& we getting it…su30mki is the best example of USA gets technological advantage over russia.. so inida hv nly 2 option USA & ISRAEAL..WE CHOSE USA FOR AIRFORCE & NAVY & ISRAEAL FOR ARMY…

  3. George Chakko 30 October, 2012 at 17:45

    Gc Comm On U.S. – India – Russia Triangular Relationship
    Your analysis on the U.S. – India – Russia Triangular Relationship is both timely and well-placed. It’s time Indian analysts and think-tanks address this issue and draw enlightened intellectual debate. The Government of India (GoI) is shrewdly silent for obvious reasons, although it wouldn’t be a misplaced guess, it’s burning hot in MEA heads. While GoI is fatalised to continue a delicate, silent, balancing act, a knowledgeable public debate could dispel claustrophobic attachments or consternation, no matter on which side, and bring fresh wind.
    A conceptual clean-up
    One thing to accept at the outset is a simple real truth that we are not living in the past, but in a 21 st century with one decade already behind us. The world is uniquely dynamic with sweeping technological changes going, more global as each day passes, movements unprecedented in Human history. Lesson -things cannot be remain the same. Stable, predictable change is the new word. Is that good?. Yes. For the following reasons:
    1. The United States has already prioritised its focus on Asia, naming the 21 st century the Asian century. The U.S. industries need that big vibrant, Asian market and a good chunk of Russia is a part of it.
    2. The U.S. will definitely de-couple from Europe, with exception to NATO, for little more while only, and leave Europeans to their own fate. American help in two World Wars is good enough. No more. Many EU nations may find Americans highly selfish. Well, they are. Americans don’t know that word. They are just being “pragmatic”, a pet word most dear to them.
    The above two running realities have grave implications for India, Russia and the U.S., definitely also for China. So what are the implications strategic or otherwise for the first three and the fourth.

    I. A quadrilateral global power structure is emerging and the game is played on the Asian turf.
    II. Lots of “pulls” and “pushes” will surface on the economic front periodically during this phase of changing adjustments and re-adjustments.
    III. Europe, not having raw materials will be forced to concentrate on the African continent that lies at their doorstep, while simultaneously wanting to bite into the Asian pie.
    IV. The Silk Road is already being laid. May be in 30 yrs. time it will connect Russia, Central and West Asia, India, S.E. Asia, China and Japan.
    V. In the long run, the military conflicts will have to disappear, because of the gigantic challenges, meaning heavy investments that are needed for energy, clean water, non-viral environment, the greening of the globe etc.
    VI. In this most interesting interplay of “economic-powering”, all the four mentioned stands to gain in one form or the other. A new inter-dependence will get established between the four.
    VII. Interestingly, all the four are ideally placed to play a key role of their own, specifically unique to each one of them.
    VIII. Neither India, nor Russia needs to worry, because the power-house of the world is Asia and both will play an integral part in it.
    IX. Russians are not fools to put their precious eggs in Pakistan’s basket. China has long realised that and the Indo-China trade is blooming in an unprecedented phase. It could also be that Russia may gain indent into Pak confidence and be able to mellow Pak aggression tactics vis-à-vis India. Eventually, one might see a gas or oil pipeline from Southern cutting across Central Asia to India via Pakistan.
    X. China has learnt to play a smart game. While the NATO and the U.S. are seemingly foolish to fighting in Afghanistan, China is happily and quietly grabbing all possible Afghan raw materials for their, never getting involved in Afghan politics, earning a safe friendly image among the Afghans, a game they pay throughout Central and part of West Asia.

    While the general power-game picture will remain awesome and long drawn-out there are few areas where cooperation is mutually beneficial for India and Russia:

    a) Due to its “ostrazisation” from the rest of the progressive, modern world due mainly to Communism, Russian management talent in Industrial units is miserable. Here India can offer its vast pool of managers to hold courses in Russia in English
    b) Apart from Space, nuclear and military Russia is very much advanced in material technologies and a joint venture with Russia will bring great benefits to Indian products.
    c) Another area of interest would be Russian special optics and medical eye operation techniques, where Russian help could be substantial.
    d) President Putin has a penchant for self-isolation. Here India could build a confidence creation role, a go-between between Russia and the U.S. Russia actually should be happy that India has access to U. S. technologies to solve India’s infrastructural problem that are immense and Russia does not have the required financial investment potential.

    Hopefully, after U.S. election the U.S. will want to play a constructive role and wipe away Russia’s predilections concerning Missile Defence and its encirclement phobia vis-à-vis NATO in a new way. The U.S. definitely needs Russian cooperation to operate successfully in global matters. In fact such an “Entente” by the U.S. would also ease India and make it freer to play a complimentary role in its
    triangular relationship. The U. S. must understand that Russia stood by India in India’s most difficult times when U.S. looked the other way. India will and should never forget that. The U.S. , if ever it is to play a respectful and influential role in global politics, should learn to terminate its constant, wobbling, foreign policy inconsistencies. Whoever be the next U.S. president that credibility-gap needs be closed.

    George Chakko , (Former UN-correspondent at the Vienna International Center , now retiree in Vienna, Austria. ), Vienna, 30/10/2012

  4. Jiang 16 April, 2013 at 01:10

    I would NOT say that Russia is abandoning India totally yet. Remember, Vietnam, another Chinese enemy, is also a key ally of Russia.

    Chinese mass immigration and the population boom is also making many Russians quietly uneasy; remember, China’s growth and Russia’s decline will not make Russia view the PRC favorably.

    What is more, in an online Russian poll, 45.95% of Russians voted for India, while 0% voted for Pakistan (the others were neutral). Some ARE viewing India-West ties with greater apprehension, though, you should try to limit them for now.

    Best wishes to India!

  5. le tweeter 14 June, 2013 at 20:31

    if u look @ the map, u’ll find, u need russia on ur side if u really wish to effectively contain china! without russian help it’d be impossible to so!

  6. Mayank Harshvardhan 18 July, 2013 at 16:24

    Russia stood by India in India’s most difficult times when U.S. looked the other way. India will and should never forget if there is need to choose one b/w Russia & u.s thn i m sure we choose RUSSIA.
    Jai Hind

    • George Chakko 19 July, 2013 at 06:47

      To Mayank Harshvardhan,

      Thanks.Sorry! Russia has still not understood India in depth. It’s time they did, if they want to have long-term success. Tolstoy, Madam Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, plus plus and the Russian Orthodox Church in recent times. Germany understood India in ceratin depth, better than the British.
      The dialectical materialism has given way to nouveau-riche capatilalism in ex-communist Russia. Good experiment. Where does it stand now? Learn from sociology. A society cannot change overnight. That was the mistake of Gorbachev, who thought it would change in ten yrs time after he intoduced his perestroika and glasnost. A society with 70 yrs of communism cannot be changed in 10 yrs. It takes time to evolve itself , but under no intrinsic or extrinsic compulsions. Thed evolutiton unfolds tself in a queit manner.
      Having no patience, Americans have a serious problem here.(I suugest Obama go back to Harvard and read Talcott Parsons and learn few things in all coolness.) U. S. Govt seems not to want to understand, not even the Europeans, leave alone Russia, that the gold-brandished American way doesn’t simply work. U.S. capitalists thought they would have a free-way in dumping printed dollars to Russia. Once the world decouples from the dollar, I recommend Tchaikovsky Waltz.
      George Chakko, 19 July 2013, Vienna, Austria
      Hello Jiang!

      Pl. read through my comment attentively, and then you’ll understand what I mean.

      If no help, then Confucius can.

      Best gc

      & Jian

  7. George Chakko 20 July, 2013 at 07:11

    To Mayank Harshvardhan,
    Kindly accept this corrected version of my comment

    Sorry! Russia has still not understood India in depth. It’s time they did, if they want to have long-term success. Tolstoy, Madam Helena Petrovna Blavatsky plus and the Russian Orthodox Church in recent times. Germany understood India in certain depth, better than the British.

    Russian dialectical materialism has given way to nouveau-riche capitalism in ex-communist Russia. Good experiment. Where does it stand now? Learn from sociology. A society cannot change overnight. That was the mistake of Gorbachev, who thought it would change in ten yrs. time after he introduced his perestroika and glasnost. A society with 70 yrs. of communism cannot be changed in 10 yrs. It takes time to evolve itself, but under more intrinsic than less extrinsic compulsions.

    The evolution would unfold itself in a quiet manner under natural dialectical changes of history. Average Russian citizens, esp. the young, have already accepted a more open, modern way of life. Having no patience, Americans have and will have a serious problem here (I suggest Obama take a flight back to Harvard and read Talcot Parsons and learn few things in all coolness.). U. S. govt. seems not to want to understand, European psychic-cultural, mental fundamentals, much less the Russian, The gold-brandished American way does not simply work in Eurasia. U.S. capitalists thought they would have a free-wheeling go, once extra-printed dollars are dumped in Russia. Once the world decouples from the dollar, I recommend Tchaikovsky Waltz!

    George Chakko, 20 July 2013, Vienna, Austria

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