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THE INDO-RUSSIAN RELATIONSHIP

Sachin K, Editing and Quality Control (EQC) Team

Week of Monday, January 17, 2022


Russian President Putin and Indian Prime Minister Modi in 2018[1]


Indo-Russian relations have come under stress over the last two years due to the emergence of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) between Australia, India, Japan, and the US, India’s growing relationship with the US, and China’s increasing assertiveness on the Sino-Indian border.[2] India’s participation in Quad activities has almost certainly resulted in it moving away from Russia politically and militarily as the Quad challenges Russian interests in Asia. India’s alliance with the US is in its early stages, and India will likely be concerned with the reliability of the US and is unlikely to abandon its historically strong alliance with Russia. The changing geopolitical climate in Central Asia and Eastern Europe will very likely make Russia value its strong relationship with India. Managing its historically strong relationship with Russia for its military needs while investing in its growing relationship with the US to balance China’s assertiveness at the border is almost certainly a challenge for India’s foreign policy.


The Quad promotes a free, open, and rules-based world order, based on international law, democratic values, and territorial integrity of countries to enable a secure and prosperous world, free from coercion.[3] This notion of the world order sits in contrast to Russia’s view of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and freedom.[4] Russia will likely perceive that the Quad’s increased engagement in Asia and the Indo-Pacific threatens Russian interests and actions in Ukraine, including Crimea, by promoting their version of sovereignty and territorial integrity. Although the Quad’s primary focus is to balance China, they will almost certainly challenge Russian influence and primacy in Asia by enforcing a Western notion of the world order in the region. The Quad likely believes that their reaction to Russia’s assertiveness on the Ukraine border will likely influence China’s actions in the Indo-Pacific and Taiwan, shaping China’s approach in the region. While India has maintained silence over Russia’s recent actions on the Ukraine border, the Quad will almost certainly expect India to participate in activities to promote the primacy of a rules-based world order in Asia even if Russia is involved. If Russia invades Ukraine, India will almost certainly struggle to maintain its commitment to the Quad and its historically strong relationship with Russia. In case of an invasion, Russia will likely rely on its relationship with China for political support, almost certainly pushing it closer to China and away from India, increasing tensions in the Indo-Russian relationship.


India’s improving relations with the US and its involvement in the Quad will almost certainly concern Russia. In his 2021 visit to South Asia, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was critical of the Quad, calling it an “Asian NATO” and a US-led initiative to persuade India to join its anti-China strategy, suggesting India’s participation in the Quad will hurt the Indo-Russian relationship.[5] Russia will almost certainly be concerned about losing India as an ally to the US as Russia is facing several geopolitical shifts on its southern and western borders and almost certainly wants to preserve its strong alliance with India to ensure stability.[6] During Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India in December 2021, the two countries signed 28 Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) on defense, energy, and space, and India solidified its promise to buy S-400s missiles from Russia.[7] The outcome of the meeting almost certainly indicates that India values its alliance with Russia and will not abandon Russia amidst developing relations with the US and participation in the Quad. Putin’s visit to India was very likely intended to assure the world, India, and Russia that Indo-Russian ties are strong, despite changing geopolitical dynamics.


Despite Asia’s changing geopolitics, India will likely be reluctant to enter into a formal alliance with the US like Japan or South Korea, as allying with the US will likely make it hard for India to establish an alliance with non-US allies. There is a roughly even chance that India does not trust the US to be a reliable partner due to the historically complicated relations between the two countries during the Cold War.[8] The US withdrawal from Afghanistan will likely further concern India regarding the US’ reliability as an ally. US Democratic Party members such as Pramila Jayapal, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib have been critical about India’s abrogation of Article 370 for Kashmir and have raised concerns over India’s treatment of Muslims and human rights abuses in Kashmir.[9] India’s notion of national sovereignty maintains that other countries should not interfere in a nation’s internal matters.[10] Criticism by US politicians over Indian domestic matters will likely cause friction between the two countries. The US will likely conduct backroom conversations or negotiations with the Indian government to manage the Kashmir crisis effectively. Similarly, India’s purchase of weapons from Russia will likely cause friction between the US and India. However, US Republican Senators Ted Cruz, Todd Young, and Roger Marshall have proposed a bill to exempt India from sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) for buying weapons from Russia.[11] The importance of the Quad and the threat of an increasingly assertive China in Asia and the Indo-Pacific will likely encourage the US to refrain from criticizing India publicly on a governmental level or raise objections over India’s purchase of Russian weapons.


India’s involvement in the Quad and its relations with the US are unlikely to go against Russian interests. India’s participation in the Quad is to balance China’s assertiveness at the Sino-Indian border.[12] Russia can likely leverage India’s increasing engagement with the Quad to convince China to reduce its aggressive actions at the Sino-Indian border. A less assertive China will likely reduce India’s, and by extension, Japan’s involvement with the Quad and reduce US influence in Asia. However, ignoring its relationship with Russia as it builds its relationship with the US will likely be undesirable for India as 70 percent of India’s current military inventory is supplied by Russia.[13] With the US reducing its military, political, and economic support for Pakistan, Russia will likely be an ally for Pakistan. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov visited Pakistan in April 2021 during his tour of South Asia, and both countries promised to increase their military cooperation.[14] India will almost certainly be concerned about this development due to tense relations with Pakistan over Kashmir. A political and defense relationship between the two countries will likely concern India’s security. India will almost certainly not want three nuclear countries in Russia, China, and Pakistan as political and military concerns.


Russia should increase its engagement with other Asian countries to reduce its economic and political dependence on China while diversifying its investment and economic relations with India, moving away from the defense-dominated relationship to balance the diversifying India-US relationship. India’s energy sector is very likely a promising investment area for Russia, while India can likely increase investment in Russia’s less-developed Far East region. The US should pass the bill exempting India from CAATSA to demonstrate that the US understands India’s geopolitical complexities and values its relationship with India.


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) and the PACOM Team will continue to monitor the evolving nature of the Indo-Russian relationship in the context of the Quad, the US, China, and Russia’s actions on the Ukraine border. The PACOM Team will continue to collect and analyze data on how India and Russia interact and how the relationship between the countries progresses. The CTG’s Worldwide Analysis of Threats, Crime, and Hazards (W.A.T.C.H.) Officers will remain vigilant to the movements in both North and South Asia by monitoring global events 24/7 and producing relevant reports.


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is a subdivision of the global consulting firm Paladin 7. CTG has a developed business acumen that proactively identifies and counteracts the threat of terrorism through intelligence and investigative products. Business development resources can now be accessed via the Counter Threat Center (CTC), emerging Fall 2021. The CTG produces W.A.T.C.H resources using daily threat intelligence, also designed to complement CTG specialty reports which utilize analytical and scenario-based planning. Innovation must accommodate political, financial, and cyber threats to maintain a level of business continuity, regardless of unplanned incidents that may take critical systems offline. To find out more about our products and services visit us at counterterrorismgroup.com.


________________________________________________________________________ The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)

[1]Russian President Putin and Indian Prime Minister Modi in 2018” by Narendra Modi licensed under Creative Commons

[2] Why Did Russian President Putin Visit India?, The Diplomat, December 2021 https://thediplomat.com/2021/12/why-did-russian-president-putin-visit-india/

[3] Joint Statement from Quad Leaders, White House, September 2021, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/09/24/joint-statement-from-quad-leaders/

[4] “Russia at the United Nations: Law, Sovereignty, and Legitimacy,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2020, https://carnegieendowment.org/files/Remler_UN_final.pdf

[5] India between Russia and the Quad, Deccan Herald, December 2021, https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/india-between-russia-and-the-quad-1061622.html

[6] What Kazakhstan’s Unrest Means for Russia, Foreign Policy, January 2022, https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/01/07/what-kazakhstans-unrest-means-for-russia/

[7] India and Russia broaden defense ties despite potential risk of U.S. sanctions, CNBC, December 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/12/07/india-russia-broaden-ties-and-military-cooperation.html

[8] U.S.-India Relations, Council of Foreign Relations, https://www.cfr.org/timeline/us-india-relations

[9] Pramila Jayapal-Ilhan Omar-Rashida Tlaib irritant in Indo-US ties, Economic Times, December 2019, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/pramila-jayapal-ilhan-omar-rashida-tlaib-irritant-in-indo-us-ties/articleshow/73002963.cms?from=mdr

[10] Securing India’s Sovereignty : by Dr Omkar Rai, Software Technology Parks of India (STPI), January 2021, https://stpi.in/blog/securing-indias-sovereignty-dr-omkar-rai

[11] U.S. senators file bill to exempt India from sanctions over Russia deal, citing China, Reuters, October 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/china/us-senators-file-bill-exempt-india-sanctions-over-russia-deal-citing-china-2021-10-29/

[12] India between Russia and the Quad, Deccan Herald, December 2021, https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/india-between-russia-and-the-quad-1061622.html

[13] Why Did Russian President Putin Visit India?, The Diplomat, December 2021 https://thediplomat.com/2021/12/why-did-russian-president-putin-visit-india/

[14] Russia's Lavrov in Pakistan to Discuss Bilateral Ties, Afghan Peace, VOA, April 2021, https://www.voanews.com/a/south-central-asia_russias-lavrov-pakistan-discuss-bilateral-ties-afghan-peace/6204223.html

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