India And Russia Relations – Analysis



India since its independence in 1947 has followed a policy of peace and non-alignment. India has always raised its voice in favor of truth and Justice. It was after India got its Independence in 1947 that the Nation has able to form its own foreign policy. India relationship with the Soviet Union started off very well due to Pandit Nehru’s initiative. The relationship began with a visit by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to the Soviet Union in June 1955 and Khrushchev’s return trip to India in the fall of 1955. While in India, Khrushchev announced that the Soviet Union supported Indian sovereignty over the disputed territory of the Kashmir region and over Portuguese coastal enclaves such as Goa.

 India’s relations with the Soviet Union in those first five year after independence were ambivalent, guided by Nehru’s decision, to remain non-aligned and take active part in the Commonwealth of Nations. However in February 1954, when the US administration announced the decision to provide arms and supply sophisticated military hardware and economic aid to Pakistan, this development alarmed India. This close Pakistan-US relationship also did not down well with Soviet Union, which also utilized this opportunity to develop a closer relationship with India.

The Soviet Union declared its neutrality during the 1959 border dispute and the Sino-Indian war of October 1962, although the Chinese strongly objected.

The Soviet Union’s strong relations with India had a negative impact upon both Soviet relations with the People’s Republic of China, including Indian relations with the PRC, during the Khrushchev period. There were a no. of factors that led to the deterioration of Sino-Soviet and Sino-Indian relations that includes the competition between USSR and China over the point that who will rule the communist bloc. Following the 1962 Sino-Indian war, the Sino-Pakistani axis was also a force for growing cooperation between India and Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union gave India substantial economic and military assistance during the Khrushchev period, and by 1960 India had received more Soviet assistance than China had. This disparity became another point of contention in Sino-Soviet relations. In 1962 the Soviet Union agreed to transfer technology to co-produce the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 jet fighter in India, which the Soviet Union had earlier denied to China.

In 1965 the Soviet Union served successfully as peace broker between India and Pakistan after an indian-Pakistani border war. The Soviet Chairman of the Council of Ministers met with representatives of India and Pakistan and helped them negotiate an end to the military conflict over Kashmir. A declaration was signed named as Tashkent Declaration.

An important event took place on August 9, 1971 when the USSR and India signed a Treaty of Peace, friendship and Cooperation. It is important to note under which circumstances this treaty was signed. Tensions between India and Pakistan were running high. Their allies and opponents from “third” countries were involved, directly or indirectly in the conflict in South Asia. Pakistan was being supported by China and through this relationship china was seeking ways to contact Washington. That time, china was in a state of perpetual conflict with both India and China. The United States helped Pakistan considerably not just with political support but with supplying arm as well.

 This treaty played an important role which was well-prepared and thoroughly thought out and it took into account the high tensions in and around the Hindustan. This treaty further stated effective commitment of Soviet’s Union that it shall not enter into or participate in any military alliance directed against the other party. The parties also undertook to abstain from providing any assistance to any third country that engages in armed conflict with the other party. This was an important to India especially during the time when territory was under pressure from both East and West Pakistan.

During the 1980s, despite the 1984 assassination by Sikh separatists of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the mainstay of cordial Indian-Soviet relations, India maintained a close relationship with the Soviet Union. Indicating the high priority of relations with the Soviet Union in Indian foreign policy, the new Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, visited the Soviet Union on his first state visit abroad in May 1985 and signed two long-term economic agreements with the Soviet Union. In turn, Gorbachev’s first visit to a Third World state was his meeting with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in New Delhi in late 1986.

Mikhail Gorbachev unsuccessfully urged Gandhi to help the Soviet Union set up an Asian collective security system. Gorbachev’s advocacy of this proposal, which had also been made by Leonid Brezhnev, was an indication of continuing Soviet interest in using close relations with India as a means of containing China. With the improvement of Sino-Soviet relations in the late 1980s, containing China had less of a priority, but close relations with India remained important as an example of Gorbachev’s new Third World policy.


Later in 1990s after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russia found it difficult to keep up the economic position with India. The infrastructure that supported trade, economic, scientific and technical cooperation was practically destroyed. The leaders tried to maintain the same ties but that couldn’t happen.

The Strain in the Relationship:

The first concerns the rapidly expanding ties between India and USA, which started with the India US nuclear deal in 2008. The second concerns the growing defense relationship between India and USA. India has started purchasing defense equipment more from USA recently.

To minimize impact of sanctions by west Russia is developing economic complementary with China though both have rift between them. Today, China is among the major trading partner of Russia. Recently, both agreed to build gas pipeline. Russia had proposed a Russia-India-China (RIC) forum. India is hesitant about this because of the∙ unresolved issues with China, but still India China have billion dollars trade between them.

 Relation between Russia and Pakistan are the byproduct of China Russia relation. Engagement between both has increased through joint military exercises. Pakistan purchases military equipments from Russia. Also both agreed to build gas pipeline.

Russia needs India because:

A market for its goods to bypass Western sanctions imposed after its power push in Ukraine. Despite its renewed friendship with China, Russia will soon find itself in competition with it as Beijing regards itself as the new G2 along with the US. India can help provide the multi-polarity that Russia fiercely seeks.

India needs Russia because:

It can meet its abundant energy requirements at a cost-effective price. Despite expanding its defense purchases from the US, Israel and Europe, India still needs to collaborate with Russia to master future technology including for space. Russia can be a major market for Indian industry such as pharmaceuticals, manufactured goods, dairy Products, bovine meat and frozen seafood.

Geo-politically, Russia continues to be a balancing force against any designs China and Pakistan may have in our region.

Economic Ties:

Russia-India trade has not grown to great heights despite the encouragement of both states. Recently India and Russia decided to institutionalize the CEO’s Forum and agreed to liberalize business travel which will help boost bilateral trade Russia sees India – one of the fastest growing economies in the world – as a country that could alleviate Russia’s economic problems.  

Make in India initiative would welcome Russian companies from the public and private sectors Russian firms have shown a willingness to invest in India in construction, major infrastructure projects such as dedicated freight corridors and industrial clusters, smart cities, and engineering services, sharing technologies and skills.

Indian companies are exploring major investment options in Russia, especially in natural resources∙ such as coal, fertilizers, hydrocarbons, minerals, and rare earth metals Trade and investment relations are not up to the mark and this needs improvements.

Political Ties:

New Delhi needs Moscow’s support in the former’s bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. The Russians have backed the Indian position on Kashmir. India and Russia are engaged in several multilateral efforts that are greatly favored by Russia such as the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.  

Annual Summit meeting is the highest institutionalized dialogue mechanism under the Strategic Partnership.

Defense Ties:

India has longstanding and wide-ranging cooperation with Russia in the field of defense.  India-Russia military technical cooperation has evolved from a simple buyer-seller framework to one involving joint research, development and production of advanced defense technologies and systems.

The two countries also hold exchanges and training exercises between their armed forces annually. Recently, India has given Russia advanced payment for purchasing S-400 anti-aircraft missile system. Russia declared that this will be completed by 2025.


“An old friend is better than two new friends” – PM Modi

A sharp rise in Russia-China defense ties, the assertive foreign policy of a rising China in the Indo-Pacific, and the China-Pakistan nexus will all encourage India to continue to strengthen ties with Russia.  It is clear that India-Russia relations remain vital for both countries amid a changing regional and global security environment.

More will need to be done if the relationship is to play the role both countries clearly expect. With more emphasis on defense deals as well as energy ties in recent times, India tried to ward off the impression that it is tilting towards the United States of America.

Brief bio:

Authors are the students of Defense and Diplomatic Studies at Fatimah Jinnah Women University. The can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected] respectively.

One thought on “India And Russia Relations – Analysis

  • April 3, 2020 at 11:44 pm

    India should have opted for a market economy and allied with the U.S. it would have been a middle income country by now and on the way to becoming a high income country. There is little difference between the policies of BJP and the now defunct Congress. Basically India remains a poor country pretending to be a Global power.


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