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Seminar                         Summary Reports   


Geo-political Contest in Afghanistan and its impact on India ’s Interests

"Strategic Options" by Brig Rahul Bhonsle (Retd)

"The Regional Contest" by                 Dr Shanthie D’Souza

"The Afghan Riddle" by Shri Hormis Tharakan 

"The Way Forward" by 

 Ambassador S K Lambah, IFS (Retd)


CHina's Defense Modernisation: Implications for India 

"Upgradation of Chinese Forces- Implications by

Mr. D.S. Rajan

"Missile and Space Modernisations" by 

Prof R.  Nagappa,

"A Strategic Review" by Air Chief Marshal Fali Major (Retd)

"Economic Implications " by 

Prof Srikanth Kondapalli

"The Way Forward" by Amb. C.V. Ranganathan

Complexities of the situation of Iran: India's strategic interests and options

"A Historical Perceptive" by           Amb. Akbar Mirza Khaleeli                          "A Strategic perspective" by           Vice Admiral (Retd)         P J Jacob                            "A Media perspective" by Shri Kesava Menon. 

Indo-Myanmar security relations: Measures to improve trade and economic ties

Presentations by:

Col. R Hariharan (Retd),  

Dr Sayed Ali Mujtaba,  

Shri T P Sreenivasan,  

Developments in Nepal: impact on India

Presentations by:

  "A Security Assessment" by            B. Raman

  "The Current Scenario" by               Shri K V Rajan, IFS (Retd)

  "Implications for India" by Maj. Gen (Retd. Ashok K. Mehta  

  "Current Situation and its import" by     Shri Gururaj Rao

Recent developments in Nepal and their impact on India's security

Presentations by:

  "The Political Scenario" by Dr. Arvind Kumar

  "Analysis of Political events" by Dr. Smruti Pattanaik 

  "Implications for India" by Maj. Gen (Retd.) Dipankar Banerjee

  "Strategic Analysis and Opinions "by Maj. Gen (Retd.) Ashok K. Mehta


Whither Pakistan?

"The Crisis in Pakistan"  by

Captain Alok Bansal, IN

"A security assessment" by 

Shri S Gopal

"A Strategic Overview" by M K Bhadrakumar, IFS (Retd)

"Whither Pakistan?" by Lt Gen Satish Nambiar (Retd)


India-Russia strategic relations in the new world order 


" Vision and Realityby Ambassador Shri Rajiv Sikri  (Retd)

" Historical Perceptive and Current Realities"

by Amb. A Madhavan, IFS (Retd)

"Defence Cooperation Aspectsby

Air Marshal N Menon (Retd)

Changing contours of Indo-US relations: Challenges, Risks and Opportunities

Presentations by:

"A strategic review"  by Dr. Brahma Chellaney

" A historic perspective"

by Amb. Krishnan, IFS (Retd)

"India's options in the global senario" by

Lt Gen S. S Mehta

"Indo-US core interests" by

Shri Aravind Sitaraman


Look East Policy  

Impediments to India's Look-East policy’: suggested remedies

" India's Look-East Policy: Vision and Reality"  by Ambassador Shri C.V Ranganathan (Retd)


" Impediments to India’s Look-East Policy – China’s Reservations and Suggested Remedies Realities"

by Shri. D.S. Rajan  


"Maritime Aspects of our Look-East Policyby

Vice Admiral (Retd)   P J Jacob

Seminar Summary Report


  As compiled by Shri A Madhavan, former ambassador of India and a current member of Asia Centre;

  08 December 2007;  IAS officer’s Association, # 1, Infantry Road, Bangalore -1

            In continuation of its objective to promote political, economic and social exchanges with neighbouring countries, Asia Centre has been conducting a series of seminars to review India’s security environment and policies that relate to political, strategic and economic aspects of the region.

           In this connection, the centre organized a seminar on “India-Russia Strategic Relations in the New World Order” on 8th December  2007. The event was chaired by Shri C V  Ranganathan, former Ambassador to China and former convener of National Security Advisory Board. The main presentations:

a) " Vision and Reality" by

Shri Rajiv Sikri, IFS (Retd), Former Secretary (East) in Ministry of External Affairs, Former Ambassador to Kazakhstan

b) " Historical Perceptive and Current Realities" by

Shri A Madhavan, IFS (Retd), Former Deputy Chief of Mission, Moscow and Former Director India International Centre

c) "Defence Cooperation Aspects" by

Air Marshal N Menon (Retd), Former Director of Air Operations, Military Analyst and writer on Strategic Issues

  This report summarises the essence of the presentations and the discussions that followed.


The Director of Asia Centre, Lt. Gen. (Retd) Ravi Eipe welcomed           Amb. C.V. Ranganathan, who presided over the seminar, the three speakers and the audience.  Gen. Eipe outlined the topic. Can India carry forward the warm and beneficial relations with Russia, the successor state of the Soviet Union?  He referred to our PM’s visit to Moscow in November 2007, the Koodankulam nuclear reactor project, the Chief of Naval Staff’s remark on the frustrating delay and cost escalation in transferring the refitted aircraft carrier, ‘Admiral Gorshkov’ to the Indian Navy and the Raksha Mantri’s critical response on the need to articulate official policy in the right way.  Both Russia and India are presenting their many-faceted culture next year, so that citizens of both countries can get a better appreciation of the other.  India is a rising economy with new openings for investment and a regional power with increasing influence. Russia is resurgent under President Putin’s leadership.  Both countries could work to strengthen their political, defence, scientific and commercial ties.  But the basic question is whether they will make it a priority of their foreign policies.

  Vision and Reality

  by Shri Rajiv Sikri 

One cannot fail to notice some recent developments that seem to signal a cooling in bilateral relations.  When Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee visited Moscow a few weeks ago for the Joint Commission meeting, he could not meet either Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov or President Putin.  Similarly, when Raksha Mantri A.K. Anthony visited Moscow recently he was not given a call on President Putin. PM Manmohan Singh’s visit in November 2007 was beset by protocol controversies.  It was a surprisingly short, business-like visit lasting barely 28 hours, at the end of which no joint statement was issued, and the agreement on four additional Russian nuclear reactors for Koodankulam remained unsigned.  Another question mark hovers over the long delay in delivering the aircraft carrier, ‘Admiral Gorshkov’ to our navy and the sharply increased price that Russia is demanding, leading to a very unusual public statement on this by the Indian naval chief. 

Is there a crisis in India-Russia relations?  Do these signs denote a loss of trust between the two sides?  India and Russia have always had a top-down relationship, in which mutual trust is critical.  Is President Putin, who has been a friend of India, upset?  If so, why?  Is it just a misunderstanding arising out of mishandling?  Or is there a deliberate exaggeration by the pro-Western media to queer the pitch of India-Russia ties?

One should not, however, lose sight of the many positive trends in Indo-Russian relations.  President Putin was invited as Chief Guest at the Republic Day 2007 parade, a mark of honour we confer on heads of friendly states.  It was an important visit, well prepared by both sides.  The defence relations between the two countries are of long-standing and have produced major results: the joint development of Brahmos missile, the nuclear powered submarine from Russia, and the partnership in the project for a ‘fifth generation’ fighter aircraft.  Russia proved its reliability during the Indo-Pak conflicts.  It has not given any advanced defence equipment to Pakistan that would upset the military balance in South Asia.  ONGC has a valued stake worth $ 2.5 billion in the ambitious oil exploration and production project, Sakhalin 1, with possibly a further stake to be gained in Sakhalin 3 later.  In space cooperation, very recently an agreement was signed to get Russian technology in tracking satellites.  The ‘Chandrayaan’ project, involving space probes to the moon, is another space endeavour in which the two countries are set to collaborate.  In nuclear energy, the Koodankulam project is noteworthy because Russia is the only country building civilian nuclear reactors in India.

In trying to understand India-Russia relations, it must be realised that both Russia and India have the West as the reference point for their foreign policy.  Russians have a natural tendency to admire the West and a wish to be considered “European.”  Integration with Europe is an enduring Russian theme and aspiration.  Gorbachev had spoken of a “common European home”.  Historically Europe has been also the principal enemy and threat to Russia.  Today, Russia seeks access to Europe’s lucrative markets and advanced technology in many spheres.  At the same time, as a country with a vast Eurasian expanse, Russia has also had to look towards Asia where most of Russia’s natural riches are located.

The Indian elite’s thinking and lifestyle is also oriented towards the West.  Culture, languages and a democratic polity bring India and the West together.  India’s diaspora, business contacts, visitors and students going westward have strengthened our links with the West.  This is not the case with Russia. 

Because of different priorities, India and Russia drifted apart in the 1990’s.  Under Putin, however, Russia has recovered not only its economic strength but also its self-confidence.  A sense of triumphalism pervades Russia.  High oil prices have led to Russia’s economic recovery and growth.  Debts have been repaid and Russia has accumulated huge foreign exchange reserves. An aggressive Russian chauvinism is visible.  Russia today is in a combative mood.  It is driven, not by any ideology or idealism, but plain self-interest and the desire to make money.  There is a reassertion of State power.  Among other things, Moscow has taken over the power of appointing Governors of constituent units, and established firm control over Russia’s oil and gas sector.  Putin’s image among the Russian people is soaring because of many factors, viz., the prosperity and stability he has brought to Russia, the respect that he has regained for Russia, his own capabilities and personal image, and his ability to stand up to the US.

In foreign policy, Russia’s main challenge is to counter American efforts to permanently weaken it.  The US has abrogated the ABM Treaty (and is unlikely to extend START I when it expires in 2009), expanded NATO to Russia’s western periphery and is actively instigating Georgia and Azerbaijan against Russia. Russia sees the US plan to locate missile defences in Poland and the Czech Republic as a direct military threat.  In Central Asia, the US has set up permanent military bases.  Russia is trying to counter this pressure from the West by keeping the US and Europe divided and by keeping Europe dependent on Russian oil and gas.

Another foreign policy challenge for Russia is the rise of China as an economic giant that threatens to become a global competitor.  China’s demographic expansionism in Siberia and the Far East poses a threat to Russian control over these regions in the long run.  China’s growing influence in Central Asia is also a cause for concern.  While Moscow is working to re-integrate this region with Russia through organisations like the CSTO and EURASEC, China wants to pull this region towards itself through the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).  Russia gives priority to military integration, China to economic integration.  But China is also a partner in countering US hegemony, a valued customer for defence equipment, and an important trade partner (over $40 billion).

In its ‘near abroad,’ Russia wants to regain political and economic primacy and is concerned about the threat of Islamic fundamentalism and incipient instability in some of the new states.  The Middle East and the Persian Gulf are in Russia’s strategic neighbourhood.  Turkey, Iran and Iraq are countries that have an impact on the northern Caucasus.  Russia has common interests with Saudi Arabia as an oil producer and has been toying with the idea of forming a gas suppliers’ cartel with other major gas producers like Iran and Qatar. 

As it begins to flex its muscles once again, Russia needs to modernise its own defence. The ‘siloviki’ now have a powerful patron in Putin.  The Russian military has got pay increases.  A ‘grandiose’ programme of rearmament involving an investment of $ 200 billion over the next eight years has been initiated.  There are plans to set up new air defence and command-control systems.  Russia has given notice to end the agreement on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) and will probably also quit the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) agreement.  It has also adopted more aggressive postures by asserting its claim on the Arctic area adjoining its northern shelf, sending sorties of long-range bomber planes near Guam in the Pacific, probing the defences of the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap, and patrolling the Atlantic coastline. Arms sales to foreign customers are growing.

Energy is Russia’s main source of economic recovery and a principal strategic asset.  Russia has used it to reassert dominance over its ‘near abroad’, by controlling transit routes out of Central Asia and energy assets in the region, buying it natural gas cheap and selling it at much higher prices to Europe. In the Caspian, Russia has made a deal with Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan to build an additional gas pipeline to Russia. It has also so far managed to prevail on the Caspian rim countries not to go ahead with any under-sea pipeline project.  Its policy is to keep West Europe dependent on Russian energy supplies and thereby soften Europe’s position on issues that matter to Russia.  This would also keep Europe and US divided, since the latter tends to adopt a much harder line on Russia.  As regards China, Russia is keeping open its options by building the East Siberia Pacific Ocean oil pipeline to the Pacific coast instead of Daqing in China.

Against the backdrop of these foreign policy priorities, Russia looks upon India, not as a number one priority state, but as an important ‘swing state’.  India would best suit Russian interests as a friendly, independent-minded power.  The two countries do not have a serious clash of interests.  India is a large and important market for Russian defence equipment, and defence sales have helped to spur the revival of Russia’s own defence industry.  In the trilateral cooperation framework of India, China and Russia, there is a shared interest in fostering multipolarity; further Russia favours the prospect of a more cooperative relationship between India and China, which would obviate the need for it to make difficult choices between them.

Russia’s grouses against India mainly stem from the growing Indo-US strategic alignment, evident in many ways.  There is India’s reluctance to sign the agreement on Koodankulam extension, and India’s tailoring of its policy on Iran.  With the increasing influence of the US in South Asia, Russian support to India on political issues is perhaps less valued today.  Russia is particularly concerned that India has diversified its defence purchases to reduce reliance on Russia.  India has also initiated joint military exercises with the US.  Secondly, the new generation of Russia’s rulers views India differently.  They may understandably lack any nostalgia for Soviet times, but even their image of contemporary India is outdated.  Perhaps they feel that India has no alternative to Russia.  One also sees more of the typical Russian bullying attitude.  There also seems to be a feeling that India is not giving Russia the attention and importance it deserves.

India too has its grievances against Russia.  These largely relate to the field of defence, where Russia has been unable to provide adequate product support, spares and maintenance for several important acquisitions by India.  The Western (and Israeli) arms lobbies have scored successes with the Indian defence services in demonstrating the attractiveness of their products and services.  While some of our fascination for Western defence equipment is to have the latest ‘toys’, India’s desire to diversify its defence purchases is also a factor.

The basic handicap in the bilateral relationship is that neither Russia nor India has a wide constituency rooting for each other as partners.  Few businessmen, tourists and young visitors travel between the two countries. Mutual perceptions on both sides are outdated.  Differences of culture and language hamper a better understanding of each other.  Perceptions tend to be shaped by Western prejudices.  The image that most Indians have of Russia is at least a few years out of date – Russia is no longer the crushed, dispirited nation that it was in the first decade after the breakup of the Soviet Union, and most Indians have yet to register the image of Russia as a strong, modern and stable country.  India’s elite seems to perhaps under a Western spell, being wooed by new suitors that appear more attractive than a known and trusted old partner.

For India, Russia still matters a great deal.  It has given India valuable political and strategic support at critical times on Kashmir in the UN.  It has not created trouble for India in our neighbourhood.  Both nations have strategic convergences relating to Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia.  Russia has been a valuable partner and given India unique access to technology in the fields of defence, space technology and civilian nuclear industry.  It has not given arms to Pakistan because of India’s sensitivities. Thus we should, in our own interests, eschew steps that would weaken the bonds of a trusted, time-tested relationship.


 Historical Perceptive and Current Realities

 by Shri A. Madhavan

Two events since 1990 have radically altered international perspectives: the break-up of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991 and the Al Qaeda attack on the US, now known as 9/11, in 2001.   The consequences of the Soviet Union’s collapse were hard on its people and on India.  The Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union over-stretched the economic sinews of the latter by the diversion of resources to the nuclear arms race and the military, to the neglect of basic goods and food.  The Soviet economy was stagnant.  Its external security was undermined by cracks in the Warsaw Pact or the Soviet bloc (Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968).   

When Mikhail Gorbachev became Secretary General of the Communist Party in 1985, the Soviet Union was already an exhausted superpower, badly in need of radical reform in its economy, polity and military.  Its army was losing troops and morale in Afghanistan.  He tried to steer the ailing nation away from ideological Statism to something allowing a modicum of individual enterprise and civil rights.  His policy of glasnost or greater transparency in governance and perestroika or restructuring of the over-centralised planned economy inevitably met with opposition from entrenched Party apparatchiks and power-wielders of the CPSU, the military and the KGB.  The reforms petered out half way into an unmanageable mix of liberal and authoritarian elements

Boris Yeltsin went much further in unshackling the country from the dead hand of Communist orthodoxy, which had brought it to a disastrous pass.  Gorbachev wanted to give the Soviet republics greater autonomy and delegated power in a loose federation, releasing them from the Kremlin’s absolute control.  This was anathema to the hard-liners.  In August 1991 they conspired in Moscow to depose Gorbachev in a coup.  It was Yeltsin who thwarted it with personal daring.  He exhorted the public to defeat the putsch.  His call won the day, since the soldiers would not fire on their fellow citizens.

  By repudiating of the Brezhnev doctrine, Gorbachev freed the East European satellite countries to carve out their future, with West Europe and the US as their new mentors.  The fall of the Berlin Wall on September 11, 1989 signalled a historic change, with swarms of East Germans surging unhindered across the Wall into the hitherto forbidden West.  (I was lucky to witness these exhilarating events).  Germany was reunited after 45 years of ideological division.  Barely a year later, the Soviet Union dramatically fragmented.  The Baltic trio, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, apart from Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia and other Soviet republics, opted for independence.  Russia remained the largest remnant of the Soviet Union, intact with much of its abundant natural resources, especially oil, gas and minerals, as well as its nuclear and missile infrastructure.  Russia was the successor state by common consent.  By the end of 1991, the Soviet Union had gone into history along with the CPSU.  Gorbachev thus presided over the liquidation of the Soviet empire.

Gorbachev’s reforms proved inadequate to stem the accumulated rot in the system.  The country was bankrupt, even meat and milk and other essentials had to be rationed.  It was in foreign policy that Gorbachev’s “New Thinking” earned greater international respect.  More than anyone else, he was responsible for ending the Cold War confrontation with the US.  To cut his losses, he extricated the over-strained Soviet Union from the deadly quagmire of Afghanistan  He almost got an agreement with President Reagan to eliminate ICBMs and struck a deal to remove all the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) in Europe.  This won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.  But the US would not give up its ‘Star Wars’ fantasy of a missile shield (the Strategic Defence Initiative) to interdict Soviet missiles if war broke out. This persisting American mistrust of Gorbachev’s initiative to bury the Cold War and give up all nuclear weapons robbed the world of a chance to establish a truly peaceful new order.

The break-up of the Soviet Union was a turning point in contemporary history, apparently a historic shift from a world of two contending superpowers to a world dominated by the sole superpower.  But the semblance of dawning Pax Americana belied the reality.  What happened was not that the Cold War ended, but that nations were caught in a period of unsure and uneasy re-adjustment in their foreign policy. The former Soviet satellites and countries dependent on Soviet support had to scramble for new sources of aid and security.  India too was in a similar plight.

Meanwhile, the Americans went into triumphal euphoria, convinced that the US had defeated the Soviet Union hands down and won the Cold War.  But Russia was not like Germany and Japan at the end of the Second World War. As Dmitri Simes explains in his article, “Losing Russia” (Foreign Affairs quarterly, November-December 2007), “Washington’s crucial error lay in the propensity to treat Russia as a defeated enemy…Despite numerous opportunities for strategic cooperation over the past 16 years, Washington's diplomatic behavior has left the unmistakable impression that making Russia a strategic partner has never been a major priority… Russia was transformed, not defeated.’

Russia is a nation reborn in disintegration, struggling to come to terms with insecurity and instability, having lost strategic chunks of Soviet territory on the Baltic Sea, in East Europe and Central Asia with its assets of petroleum.  The liberal project of Yeltsin on the Western model of privatisation was botched by the depredations of business tycoons in league with Western corporate interests.  “Raging inflation, unpaid salaries and oligarchic larceny”, as the Economist put it, drove the Russians to despair.  Corruption, already pervasive, became entrenched.  Yeltsin chose well to name Putin as his successor on the eve of 2000.

 Russia is by far the largest country in the world, with 17 million sq. km, outstripping Canada with almost 10 million sq. km.  (India’s is a mere 3.28 million). Russia is about 1.8 times bigger than the US, and is about 5.2 times the size of India.  Russia covers 11 time zones across a distance of some 7000 km, from St. Petersburg to the Bering Sea, close to Alaska.  In population, Russia is well behind China, India, Pakistan and even Bangladesh, with only 142.4 million and declining numbers, its death rate exceeding the birth rate.  This is indeed a serious long-term disadvantage, since the median age is around 36, contrasting with India’s ‘demographic advantage’.  In GDP terms, Russia with $ 581 billion ranks below fourteen other countries, including the US, with $ 11.7 trillion, China with nearly $ 2 trillion and India with nearly $ 700 billion.

It was Putin who restored order in the country and ensured rising prosperity for the Russians.  He gave Russia the one thing it craved, namely, stability, along with patriotic pride and dignity.  This was made possible, even under an imperfect democratic constitution, only by reversing the blunder of depending upon unbridled private enterprise, which robbed the state of its most important sources of revenue, oil and gas.  The re-assertion of state control in strategic resources alienated Western capitalist sympathy.  But Russia wiped out a good part of its debt and leapt into prominence as a major power, if not as a superpower.  From the energy revenues Putin has started a substantial ‘Stabilisation Fund’ to safeguard the economy against sudden setbacks.

  Putin has transformed Russia from the abjectly destitute successor of a failed superpower to a country with sufficient economic strength and self-confidence to play a respectable world role.  Russia is basking in a new high.  The windfall has come from the rocketing price of oil and gas since 1998.  But the downside is the unequal distribution of the new wealth.  Evidence confirms that Putin’s eight years have skewed the distribution in favour of a privileged circle.  There is a reversion to single party dominance based on nationalism and authoritarian rule, mixed with resort to the dirty tricks of the old KGB, although Putin often pays lip service to democratic rights, or ‘sovereign democracy’ for Russia, in his enigmatic phrase.  Putin’s modernisation of the armed forces and flaunting of weapons like a super bomb and long range bombers will siphons off $ 150 billion a year. 

We live in a time of melting unipolarity, stumbling towards a multipolar world of regional powers and lesser powers.  China is ascendant, catching up with the US as a front-ranking economic power-house with an increasing diplomatic and political influence reaching beyond East Asia to other continents, notably Africa.  The middle powers, including India, are groping for associative security and cooperation in their common interests.  Some gravitate towards the US, some turn defiantly away from it, like Venezuela and Iran.   Some make temporary compromises, like North Korea and Libya.  But the struggle for security remains fundamental, even as the US under the two terms of the Bush administration, has been asserting its global reach and hegemony to the grave detriment of its economic supremacy.

The Cold War never ended.  History is a flux, with elements of continuity and change emerging in every era.  True, we study the long duration of history in segmented eras.  But the persistence of traditions and cultural predispositions should not be overlooked.  After the Soviet collapse, no new era dawned for the world to garner the advertised ‘peace dividend’.  The Cold War went dormant for a time, it lay like the permafrost under Russia’s treeless tundra, but it surfaced again when Putin set a different course from Yeltsin's, away from corporate-oligarchic model to a reprise reminiscent of the Soviet-Kremlin model.  The current tension between the West and Russia has renewed the mutual recriminations of the Cold War, and both sides are responsible for it, though it was the US neo-cons that instigated it.  The American long-term objective is to bring about the break-up of Russia, like the break-up of the Soviet Union.  Prof. Samuel Huntington had said at a gathering in Harvard in 1981 that the US should not rest until the Soviet Union had been reduced to the Duchy of Moscovy.

The US took a patronising attitude to Russia under Yeltsin and tried to convert it into a capitalistic playground.  The US proffered no substantial aid or credits to the nascent Russian republic, as it did to post-war Germany.  Instead, the US handed grants to opponents of the regime and instigated dissidents.  Though it promised not to capitalise on the disbandment of the Warsaw Pact, the US prevailed on NATO to do exactly that, when Russia was feeling the geopolitical angst of ‘encirclement’.  Russia was granted an ineffective consultative role in NATO, while former Soviet republics were made full members. Poland was a key anti-Russian convert to Western democracy.   While Russia’s help was gladly accepted in the American campaign against the Al Qaeda, there was no sympathy for its problem of defeating Chechnyan separatism.  The West seized its advantage by actively supporting the ‘colour revolutions’ in Ukraine and Georgia on the pretext of solidarity with democrats in order to undermine Russian regeneration.   Though Russia was notably helpful during the US drive to oust the Taliban regime from Afghanistan, the Americans sought to establish permanent bases in Central Asia, obviously with the aim of weakening Russia’s influence.  The US strove to curtail and thwart Russia’s advantage as a supplier of oil and gas to Europe.  This dependence was a strategic weakness for the EU and former Soviet republics in East Europe.  The West succeeded in promoting the costly but strategic oil pipeline from Azerbaijan to Turkey’s Mediterranean coast and the Black Sea, called the BTC.  A gas pipeline on the same route has been added separately.  The geopolitical maneoeuvres to control the flow of Central Asian oil and gas are reminiscent of the Cold War rivalry at its worst. 

In the Balkans, Serbia has again become a locus of European tension, as it was before the First World War.  It is future of Kosovo that is in dispute.  The West is dead set on recognizing this Serbian enclave of Albanian Muslims as an independent country.  The Serbians and Russians adamantly oppose this.  If the US and the EU go ahead with the recognition, worse tension will follow, and the West knows it.

In 2007, the tensions came to the fore, negating the promise of Russian partnership with the West for world peace.  Vestiges of common concerns remain, like Russia’s diplomatic engagement in the Middle East Quartet and the Six Power group which recently bribed North Korea to give up the nuclear weapon option.  Russia is still a strong supporter of the NPT and a member of the Nuclear Supplier’s Group.  The US provoked Russia to counter-punch by insisting on setting up a sophisticated radar monitoring system in Poland, along with an anti-missile station in the Czech Republic, purportedly to deter future inter-continental missiles from Iran directed at the US.  Putin reacted to this implausible contingency by announcing his intention to cancel the outdated Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty and the agreement on Intermediate Nuclear Forces.  This will revive the insecurity of the Cold War, especially for the EU and the East European countries in the “near abroad” of Russia.

Putin’s later speeches have deeply troubled the West.  In his annual address to the parliament on April 25, 2005, he had startled the West, saying, “Above all, we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century”.  In Munich at a conference on October 2, 2007, Putin combatively railed at the US, declaring: “One state and, of course, first and foremost the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way. This is visible in the economic, political, cultural and educational policies it imposes on other nations.”

Subsequently, Putin went to Teheran and cautioned Caspian countries against outside powers poaching on their energy wealth.  His meeting with President Ahmedinejad of Iran was disliked in Washington.  The West and its media have of late been heaping anti-Putin diatribes, particularly targeting his grip on power even as his two term presidency comes to an end.  His boost for the United Russia party and his  dictatorial management of an overwhelming victory for it in the Duma election have been trashed as fraudulent, as expected, although it is conceded that Putin is highly esteemed as the leader by a large majority of his people. The West is dreading the prospect of Putin continuing to wield power from spring 2006 as prime minister or as a Kremlin eminence.  They perhaps hope for instability in Russia when political factions in the Kremlin challenge Putin’s continued influence.

Russia’s political proximity with China is also worrying the West.  Gorbachev had begun a détente policy with China.  The new Russia resolved the boundary dispute with China and promoted significant arms transfers to China, agreeing to the licensed production of some strategic items in China.  The two countries concluded a Treaty of Friendship in 2001 and reshaped the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) into a potential collective security hedge against NATO in Eurasia.  India has been reluctant to join the SCO lest it should sour its evolving entente and partnership with the US.  For the same reason, India has been lukewarm to the Trilateral Consultations of Russia, China and India at the Foreign Minister level

Indo-Russian relations may be considered against this global background of latent contention and flare-ups.  If we picture a quadrangle with Russia, China, India and the US at the four points, each point can be connected to the other three to represent their bilateral relations, but the connecting lines will be show differing intensity.  The India-Russia line denotes friendship all right, and is potentially rich in content, but it is a shadow of the Indo-Soviet relationship of the 1970’s.

The Soviet Union was a strategic, diplomatic and military ally of India.  It started from 1955, when Khrushchev, on visiting Kashmir, quipped that we had only to call out from the Himalaya for them to come rushing to help us.  In the UN Security Council, this help was invaluable when the US and the UK were backing Pakistan on the future of Jammu and Kashmir.  The Indo-Soviet Treaty of 1971 acted as a deterrent to both the US and China during the Bangladesh crisis and our war with Pakistan.  By 1990 the Indo-Soviet partnership was turning stale, since the Soviet Union was in a terminal stage. India was leaning on a broken reed, but the government was reluctant to acknowledge it.

After the Soviet implosion in 1991, India was anxious for support from the EU and the US.   India committed itself to the US in the expectation that the latter would respond to our needs more freely, now that our strong Soviet link was gone.  India was more willing to receive than to give.  The Americans wanted us to play the junior partner.  Under the present UPA government, India has moved away from dependence on Russian partnership, opting instead for closer bonds with the US, in the hope of somehow retaining or salvaging the mutually beneficial bonds with Russia.

In 1993 India and Russia concluded a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation to replace the 1971 Treaty.  But it did not have the consultative article covering cases of national danger from outside, the article which distinguished the earlier Treaty.  In 2000, Putin visited India.  The two sides issued a Declaration of Strategic Partnership, which has not been put to the test of an external threat to India.  Both sides have affirmed that their relationship has “stood the test of time”.  Anodyne diplomatic jargon is no proof of a working relationship in which both sides are satisfied with the results.  Joint working groups have been talking away, occasionally to some purpose.  Our defence cooperation has been of concrete benefit, (half of our defence equipment derives from the Soviet era), though it is uneven in quality, subject to delays and payable in foreign currency, without the old privilege of ‘friendship prices’. India’s Chief of Naval Staff recently deplored the delay in the delivery of the aircraft carrier, ‘Admiral Gorshkov’ and the cost escalation.  India has considerably diversified its defence purchases, though it still values Russian military ware highly, the more so since alternative supplies are not always easily available on similar terms. Summit meetings have occurred regularly.  Sheaves of bilateral agreements on manifold aspects of cooperation have been exchanged, with some significant results. Russia is building a nuclear facility in the southern tip of India, at Koodankulam, twin reactors of 1000 MWe capacity; but has stalled the addition of two more reactors to the project.  In the energy sector, where Russia has the upper hand, India’s ONGC Videsh acquired a stake in the Sakhalin 1 project.  Bilateral trade has languished, due to consumer preferences in both countries in favour of more advanced countries.

Altogether, neither Russia nor India has given high priority to each other in their global relationships. The Russians have no special concessions to offer India, unlike the predecessor Soviet Union.  The most recent contact at the top level was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visiting Moscow in November 2007, when an understanding was reached between the two countries on the vexed issue of Rupee Debt Funds accumulated over the years for India’s defence purchases.  The funds, amounting to Rs. 8000 crores, are to be used for Russian investment in India.  Another agreement is for the joint production of Multi-Role Transport Aircraft.  A notable success is the joint work on the Brahmos missile.   There is also a framework agreement on the exploration and use of outer space. Is this mere rehashing of documents for the summit or will we really soar into space together?  There is talk of collaborating on a fighter aircraft too, but it is hard to say when the plane will fly.

The fizz that was evident when Putin came to India in January 2007 has gone flatter, with both sides no longer intimate partners.  When the US and Russia are growling at each other, India cannot cosy up to both of them at once, any more than a stunt man can ride two motorbikes which are going different ways.  India has to re-assess the emerging trends in international affairs to determine whether it is worth giving up the prospect of a close relationship with the new Russia for the sake of closer bonding with the US.  So long as the US remains adamant on perpetuating its hegemonic unipolarity against the will of other regional and major powers, India will be consigned to the lesser role of a less-than-crucial American ally, obliged to mute its voice in world councils and trim its policies in order to avoid clashing with US interests.  This has already happened at the IAEA on sanctions against Iran.  India should clearly favour a multipolar world order.  This requires India to cultivate regional powers to balance the dominance of the sole superpower.  China and Russia are countries which India should not alienate by being over-solicitous to align itself with the US, when the American vision of a desirable world order runs contrary to our national interests.  India is better suited to a role where it can use its growing influence to moderate tendencies towards discord among the major powers of the world.


Defense Cooperation Aspects

 by Air Marshal (Retd.) Narayan Menon

Indo-Russian strategic and military relations have been buffeted by the turbulence of international upheavals and domestic events since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. Their dynamics have been dramatically altered.  Both countries were obliged to review their ‘special relationship’ and their geopolitical calculations with the emergence of the USA as the sole superpower.

India, which had a leading role in the Nonaligned Movement, had to find a new identity and place in international affairs after the demise of the Soviet Union.  It lacked the economic clout and political weight to be a major power.  Insurgency and secessionist trends in India and the neighbourhood shifted the focus to internal stability.  India reached out to advanced countries for economic rejuvenation.  India’s condition contrasted with that of the ‘Asian tigers’.  India had to assess the world through its own interests.

Meanwhile there were convulsions within Russia.  The costs of the Soviet Union were evident in the disarray and starvation in the streets.  A foreign policy based on ideology and a special relationship with India was abandoned.  The Russian leaders, dominated by fascination for the West, became more neutral towards India.  Two schools of thought emerged:  one comprising academics and defence industry professionals, who wanted to continue the special ties with India, partly in order to stem the Islamist wave sweeping across Central Asia, and further because Indian defence imports would be crucial to Russia’s transition to a free market economy;  the other, comprising officials in the foreign ministry considered that Pakistan had a vital role in realizing Russia’s immediate diplomatic and security concerns and that Islamic fundamentalism could be tackled best by working closely with Pakistan, Iran and Turkey.  The latter prevailed.  It was evident from Russian support for the Pakistani resolution in the UN for a Nuclear Free Zone in South Asia.  Russia severed all support to Najibullah in Afghanistan, much to India’s consternation.  Indo-Russian relations were also strained by Russia reneging on the accord to supply the cryogenic engine and technology transfer under US pressure.  Another issue of contention between the two countries was India’s huge debt amounting to over % 16 billion from the purchase of Soviet arms.  The rupee0ruble exchange rate and the rescheduling of repayment instalments became another irritant.  The issue was eventually settled much later.

The demise of the Soviet Union resulted in many defence plants closing down in Russia and CIS countries, with severe adverse effects for the Indian armed forces.  Even the limited product support of the Soviet era suffered drastic curtailment.  Spare parts, tyres and split-pins were in short supply.  Indian forces had to cut down sharply on their operational training so as to save their stocks for unforeseen contingencies.  The capability of our forces, whose hardware was 80 % of Soviet origin, was badly compromised for too long.  India sent several delegations to Russia and the CIS, funded with dollars, to seek spares and equipment which were urgently needed for tanks, ships and planes.  These stocks had dwindled to around 30 %, though the minimum prescribed was 50 %.   Chaos prevailed in Russia.  It resorted to arbitrary hiking of cost for spares by 500-1000 %.  

In this uncertainty, India did not procure any new weapon system from Russia, since the process itself was liable to be prolonged to around four years.  When India tried to produce the needed equipment domestically, Russia objected to it as infringement of the IPR convention.  There were, however, some positives.  Russia endorsed the UN Security Council’s condemnation of the Indian nuclear tests in 1998, but refrained from imposing sanctions against India.  Russia also moved to implement the deal to build two light water reactors of 1000 megawatts capacity at Koodankulam despite US pressure to scuttle the deal.  Further, during the Kargil operations in 1999, Russia flew in the spares and equipment which India urgently required.

Under Vladimir Putin’s leadership, the splintered military-industrial complex of Russia has been revamped.  Russia has resumed major arms exports.  Putin has reinvigorated bilateral relations.  During his visit to India in October 2000, major arms deals worth $ 3 billion were finalised.  The Intergovernmental Commission was upgraded to Minister level.  Since 2002, the two countries have contracted for the transfer of SU 30 MKI multi-role fighters, IL-78 aircraft, , Mi 171V helicopters, Kilo class submarines, frigates,   Ka 31 AEW helicopters, the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, MiG 29K carrier compatible fighters, T 90 tanks, AAMs, anti-tank and anti-ship missiles and various types of radars.  The value of the defence projects envisaged until 2010 is more than $ 10 billion.  Indian contracts will keep almost 800 Russian defence production units in operation.  It is another matter that problems will arise for us from deficiencies in the Russia such as ageing manpower, obsolescent machinery and dependence on exports. 

 The background to the Indo-Soviet cooperation in defence matters was Pakistan being treated by the US with special favour from the time of Eisenhower and Dulles and the formation of regional alliances lime SEATO and CENTO.  Little heed was paid to Pakistan’s objective of wresting control over Jammu & Kashmir or to Indian protests against substantial arms transfers to Pakistan.  The US was reluctant to sell such weapons to India lest Pakistan should be alienated.  Britain and France set unacceptable conditions for arms transfers to India.  India was obliged to turn to the Soviet Union for its requirements of weapons, although it attracted criticism that it was deviating from its nonaligned pretensions.  The Soviet Union supplied several systems like helicopters and transport aircraft and later agreed to set up MiG 21 production facilities in India.  After the border war with China in 1962, India understood the need to be better prepared militarily.  The US established a chain of radars along the northern belt, but its offer of a ‘defence umbrella’ was unacceptable.  The US would not supply F 104 jet aircraft to India.   

Soviet arms transfers to India became diverse and abundant.  The IAF acquired aircraft such as Su 7, MiG 23, MiG 25, MiG 27 and MiG 27 progressively. Besides helicopters comprising Mi 4, Mi 8, Mi 17, there were Mi 24/35 gunships and the heavy lift Mi 26 IL 14, AN 32 and IL 76. The Indian Army acquired T 54, T 55 tanks, the amphibious PT 22 and PT 76, and later on T 72 tanks.  Artillery 130 mm guns, multi-barrel rocket systems and other infantry weapons were put into operation.  Pechora and OSA SAMs, Kvadrat missiles, Schilka tracked AA guns and the twin barrel Zu guns were procured for air defence.  The Indian Navy inducted Soviet submarines, OSA missile boats, Petya patrol crafts, Nanuchka corvettes, Kashin class destroyers, landing crafts and motor torpedo boats.  A significant feature was that the Soviet Union effected transfer of technology also, helping India to create a defence industry base with Indian engineers, scientists and technical personnel.  One drawback was India’s over-dependence on imported design which cramped our own research and development and creativity.

The Soviet indulgence to India was grounded in realpolitik and logic.  A friendly India made the Soviet Union a more attractive partner for other developing countries.  A strong India could be a counterweight to China, which had fallen foul of the Soviet Union...  A dependable India could be a bulwark against the strategic alliances between the US and Pakistan, China and Pakistan and US and China.   A dependent India with the Soviet Union in the vantage position could be a profitable long-term investment.  There was a complementary match between the strengths and deficits of the Soviet Union and India. 

It suited the international geopolitical context.

The Treaty of Friendship in August 1971 was the acme of the relationship.  It provided for the two countries to enter into immediate consultations if either was subjected to external attack.  On occasion during a conflict planeloads of military materiel were conveyed to Indian airbases.  The propaganda value of Soviet weaponry in war boosted the Soviet Union’s military industrial complex.

When an Indian cosmonaut trained in the Soviet Union was launched in a Soviet spacecraft in 1984, it caught the imagination of the Indian public and enhanced the image of the Soviet Union.

In that period, the Soviet Union sold its materiel at ‘friendship prices’ which were much lower than comparable products in the Western market.  But product and spares support was not efficient.  India had to keep surplus stocks of essential spares.  Delays in replacement meant that planes had to be kept grounded, and some naval craft kept idle.

While Soviet aircraft were very robust in their aerodynamics and the engines were powerful, their fuel efficiency was lower than the Western norms.  The Sukhoi 7 attack plane guzzled fuel.  Soviet avionics lagged behind the performance of Western models.   Cockpit designing was poor.  This told on the healthcare of the pilots.  Modifications were made for Indian conditions.  In the Bangladesh operation of 1971, the Soviet Union rushed to deliver a consignment of S 24 rockets, but the snag was that the IAF could not utilise them when they would have been useful in the war.  The cooperation was laudable, but India was ever the beneficiary.  Things are different now.

Changes in the world balance of forces bear on India-Russia relations.  Both are re-establishing their equation as emerging major players, though in the context of the sole superpower which can effectively counter challenges to its dominance. 

 Russia’s current growth rate is 6-7%, with its GDP close to $ 1.5 trillion and the world’s largest energy reserves, including 13% of proven oil finds, 34% of natural gas and 25% of coal. But because of the perma-frost conditions, it costs $ 14 to extract a barrel of oil in Russia as compared to $ 4 in Kuwait. Russia is over-reliant on extracting energy and other natural resources. With a landmass five times the size of India, Russia has a population of only 142 million and that too is shrinking at the rate of 350,000 every year. Russia is headed for a demographic catastrophe. Russia fears that Siberia and the Far East would soon be over-run by migrant Chinese labour.  No immediate solutions are in sight.

India has a vibrant economy, but poor implementation of policy has distorted its development pattern, since large numbers still do not have basic health, education and infrastructure. But a new India is emerging, harder and more self-assertive, a young India more  open to new ideas, having divested itself of the baggage of anti-colonialism, a confident India able to take a more pragmatic view of the world.

India and Russia search for a renewal of the old relationship in a new paradigm. The warmth of 1971 has waned; a chill in the relationship is felt.  Russia, apprehensive of the advance of NATO in its former republics, is forging a strategic coalition with China, unmindful of Indian interests. The Su 30 MKI technology, funded by India, has been transferred to China, now a major importer of advanced Russian weapons.  Russian personnel are working in Chinese defence facilities to produce fighter aircraft, which could be exported to Pakistan, in violation of an earlier Indo-Russian understanding. 

 The Su-30 MKI technology, funded by India, has been transferred to China, which has become a major importer of Russia hi-tech weaponry. China, with ex-Soviet Union scientists and engineers working in its defence facilities is producing fighter aircraft, now being fitted with Russian engines, and exporting them to Pakistan in a clear violation of an earlier understanding with India. All major weapon deals between India and Russia have run into cost and time over-runs. The INS Vikramaditya still languishes in Russian waters and a firm delivery date is yet to materialise with Russia citing earlier underassessment of refurbishment costs as the cause of delay. The Akula-II nuclear submarine will take considerably longer to join the Indian Navy on lease for 10 years. The upgrading of two IL-38 aircraft was delayed by nearly 2 years and the final product arrived in India minus the avionics and the weapon systems. India has had to agree to raise the annual cost escalation for all major deals including the Su-30 project, from 2.8% to 5 %. The Ayni airbase near Dushanbe, Tajikistan, developed by India, probably will be denied to India at Russia's behest. An element of coercion is evident.

Joint production of defence equipment is a recent trend.  Brahmos is a success story.  However, for the fifth generation fighter deal, which was intended to be of joint design and production, India has come in only after the design was frozen.  Other joint efforts planned are for a transport aircraft and additional reactors for Koodankulam.  An agreement has been signed on India’s access to the navigational signals of the Russian Global Navigation Satellite System (GLASNOST) and to a part of its radio frequency spectrum.  The two countries are to work on a satellite project.  Russia will also assist India in its moon mission, ‘Chandrayaan’.

Despite compulsion, both sides continue the strategic relationship in a changed environment.  India wishes it to conform to our national interest.  India has often expressed gratitude for Russia’s considerable material and diplomatic support.  Russia for its part demurs at India upgrading its relations with the US, but as a sovereign country India cannot accept interference from other powers.  Russia has been the predominant supplier of arms to India, but such a high level of dependency is not in our national interest.  India is rightly taking steps to diversify its sourcing of armament, which is needed to correct the strategic defect of six decades.  Diversification will also oblige the Indian DRDO to give a better account of its performance for the budget of Rs. 15,000 crores per annum over the decade 2010-20 and put India on track for self reliance in defence production. Joint ventures with Russia should help the process.  Future defence deals India makes should include a provision for technology transfer.

The IAF is obliged to approach other global suppliers for 126 fighter aircraft worth $ 7 billion because the LCA programme with Russia has been delayed so long and our own e combat aircraft fleet is depleted.  Russia is peeved at this, realizing that it is not among the likely contenders for the deal.  It has indicated its grievance by downgrading the status of visits by our senior ministers.  The Russian aircraft on offer is an upgraded version of an outdated design.  If the Russian aircraft is short-listed, India must carefully analyse Russia’s capacity to provide product support throughout its life-cycle.  Unfortunately, the Russian design is not the latest, and has not involved Indian cooperation as a joint developer..

If the deal for the new fighter aircraft is finalised by India with another supplier, it will affect Indo-Russian strategic relations.  Both countries will then need to manage the diplomatic fallout skillfully.  Both sides must learn to manage their strategic relationship in consonance with their national interests.

For our military purposes, it is necessary for India to diversify sourcing of weapon systems and to reduce dependency on Russia, without affecting the operational preparedness of our armed forces.  It is though joint participation in defence production, space, nuclear and scientific cooperation and energy research that the strategic relationship of the two countries can be revitalised.




The Chairman, invited questions and comments from the audience.  A brief review is given below. 


The bilateral relationship is largely based on defence cooperation and should be expanded to other fields.  Amb. Sikri agreed that economic exchanges present the weakest link in the relationship.  The private sector is attracted by profits available elsewhere.  Ignorance of Russian technological capacities in India and restrictions on business visas also restrict business exchanges.  Through expos and special displays, the two countries can improve the knowledge deficit to some extent.  We need to make and sustain a greater effort to this end. 


Russia has been fixated on cultivating China as a priority.  Russia must also reach out to India if the relationship is to become more mutually rewarding.  The Indian Naval Chief’s grievance (about delay in the transfer of the refitted Russian aircraft carrier) shows that Russia must heed the customer-partner’s requirement more carefully.  Air Marshal Menon agreed that in defence matters, lines of communication need to be reliable as regards indenting of spare parts and that delay in delivery make our plans go awry.  Amb. Sikri stressed that the press should convey accurate information in these matters.  Some reporting tends to be motivated and exaggerates the cost escalation of equipment due to changes in currency exchange rate.  Our negotiators visit Moscow to sort out such differences with the Russian officials.  There is no need for alarmist reporting.  There are different lobbies operating in both countries, which we need to be noted vigilantly, since they may represent particular interests not consistent with India’s best interest.


A view was expressed that the US had blocked India in dealings with Pakistan. “Russia is back”.  The nuclear deal with the US had been complicated by the Hyde Act.  Russia was better disposed to India in this regard.  Amb. Sikri narrated the sequence of the nuclear deal with the US since Dr. A.R. Kakodkar, Chairman of the Department of Atomic Energy was called to Washington to take part in the negotiations at Washington during the PM’s visit there in July 2005.  Since then India has veered towards the US policy on sanctions against Iran at the IAEA.  Our relations with the US have become complicated by the tension in US-Russian relations.


Air Marshal Menon denied the charge reportedly made by an American defence analyst that the Indian side was involved in corruption in procurement of equipment from the Soviet Union. 


Some members urged  India to review its Iran policy and be more aware of Russian moves in West Asia, Central Asia and Turkey, where the two countries have convergent interests, in contrast to the US policy in this important region. 


To a question on what India could do to raise the level of Russian interest in us, Amb. Sikri replied that our government could show more understanding of Russia and its problems, considering that Putin in his January 2007 visit to New Delhi showed a more appreciative warmth towards India than he did in 2002.  There is a way of tackling Russians.  The impression they have that India is far too much swayed by US concerns should be removed.


On defence cooperation, Air Marshal Menon reiterated the Indian side’s concerns about unsupplied spare parts, the Russian interpretation of Intellectual Property Rights to block India manufacturing some essential parts, the escalation of prices.  There is no easy solution, but joint production of some equipment is a possible way out.   


A view was expressed that, India should give more scope in defence production to the private sector also.  But the commercial viability of any project would depend on the scale of production and the size of the facility. 


Air Marshal Menon accepted that Russia tended to take India for granted in some defence deals.  Russia is not yet a promising partner for business and production deals.


The Chairman recalled his own experience of working in the Indian Embassy in Moscow in the latter half of the 1985.  The transition from the Soviet Union to Russia is a historical phase in the international sphere, to be seen in the background of the post-Yalta period and the post-Mao period in China.  The Soviet Union came to India’s rescue through defence and diplomatic cooperation over a long and critical period, even supplying advanced equipment like MiG 29 aircraft at moderate prices.  The Soviet system was very different from ours, with the procurement of parts for materiel spread over several distant facilities, each with its own problems.  This made it difficult to provide specific spares when we wanted them.  All great powers want to have good relations with their partners without letting one relationship spoil another  important relationships.  In the Nonaligned Movement India worked for a similar independence.  

Amb. Rajiv Sikri added that overall the most important component of the bilateral relationship is defence.  Despite the problems which have come up on spares and costs, India continues to receive important materiel from Russia.   Both are jointly planning for nuclear-powered submarines and fifth generation fighter aircraft.  PM’s economic-centric view of foreign policy should take into account complex political and other aspects that India has to weigh in order to balance its relations with the major powers, the US, China and Russia and the main regional powers.  


The seminar brought out the main facets of Indo-Russian relations in the 21st century as distinct from those of the Soviet period, from the 1950’s to 1991 and the languishing bilateral context of the 1990’s.  The three main speakers covered the historical, political, defence, space, science, nuclear, economic and cultural relations in some detail, with some overlapping and difference of approach.  There is a perceptible lag in bilateral trade which can be reduced with a better mutual appreciation of each other’s demand profile.  The discussion reflected the divergence between two views: one that stressed the importance of cultivating Russia as India’s reliable and constant partner, if not as the mainstay in strategic and defence related terms; and second, the contrary view that India in the post-Soviet period should seek to strengthen its US relationship to hasten development as an economically advanced country and to gain a regional if not a global eminence.


Two inter-related trends are relevant:  first, the rise of Russia as a major power since Putin’s accession as President and second, the concurrent reversion to acrimonious tension in US-Russian relations, reminiscent of the Cold War period.  Meanwhile, the swift rise of China to prominent global status and Russia’s high priority to China in its foreign policy complicate Indo-Russian ties to an extent.  In a sense, the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union continued in a subdued and disguised form even after the precipitate collapse and break-up of the Soviet Union, with the US taking strategic advantage of Russia’s economic weakness and strategic vulnerability.  This was the time when India was obliged to seek out other alternatives to an overly dependent partnership with the Soviet Union. 


The rise of Russia is made possible mainly on its bountiful  oil and gas resources and secondly on its gradual recovery as a provider of defence materiel to partners, which now include China in a paradoxical turn of international equations.  Russia has also been active in forging close ties with the former Soviet Central Asian republics like Kazakhstan through the SCO and as partners in the increasingly strategic field of energy diplomacy.  In West Asia too Russia has been quick to seize its chances of improving bilateral ties, especially with Iran, despite heavy political pressure from the US and the West.  It is in India’s interest not to go counter to the tenor of these developments by moves which could be misconstrued as undue identification with US policies. 


Since defence cooperation will remain one of the main planks in our bilateral relations, it behoves both countries to nourish it with mutual understanding, patience and concern.  India is doubtless trying to settle particular difficulties on spares and costs through negotiation.  Meanwhile, the policy of diversifying our military procurement has to continue, but without giving cause for resentment to Russian competitors.  India has the diplomatic skill to negotiate such difficult passages and leaders to diffuse any misunderstanding.  The need is to avoid such contingencies as far as possible through prior mutual consultations.


On civilian nuclear cooperation, much depends on the outcome of the deal with the US and the consequent negotiations with the IAEA, which will bind Russia as a supplier.  The Koodankulam project is a pioneering effort which can be expanded, provided the international setting does not obstruct it and our requirements mesh with the Russian terms of supply.  On cooperation in science and technology and space related matters, the two countries can and should intensify their partnership by increasing their exchanges of experts, scientists, engineers and research students.  IT is a field where both should seek niches of mutual reinforcement to achieve better results as exporters of hardware, software and consultancy services to third countries.  The deficit in social and cultural exchanges can also be corrected, building on the presentations envisaged in 2008. 


Altogether, the India-Russia partnership is a key element in our foreign policy which needs careful nurturing and continuous monitoring at top levels.  It is indispensable in the emergence of a truly multipolar world order.

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