Competitive Exams: Current Affairs 2011: Indo-Russia ties

Indo-Russia ties

The historic Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation India and the Soviet Union signed on August 9, 1971 sprang from a convergence of national interests and shared perceptions of security risks posed by the United States and Chinese role in the region. Forty years on, the same centres of power are at play in the region but security perceptions have changed, creating new challenges and opportunities for India and Russia, say Russian academics.

The 1971 treaty helped India win its third war against Pakistan, safeguard its independence and territorial integrity and neutralise external threats stemming from the Sino-American rapprochement, the China Pakistan nexus as well as the US strategic alliance with Pakistan. It became the mainstay of Indo Soviet strategic ties till the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Even though it was not a mutual security pact, the treaty provided for immediate mutual consultations in case either country came under attack. In the context of an impending conflict over East Pakistan, this provision amounted to Soviet security guarantees to India.

The Soviet support stemmed from the congruence of national interests, rather than ideology driven hopes of getting India to embrace the Soviet style socialist path some day. The Soviet Union needed a strong, independent and assertive India as a balancing force in the region. The Soviet Union offered India cheap credits and technological assistance in setting up steel, machine building, power generation, mining and pharmaceutical industries that ensured its economic independence. Massive Soviet defence supplies turned India into the dominant military power in the region. Even today, the Soviet and Russian made weapon platforms constitute 60 80 per cent of the Indian armoury.

Another important fallout was that the Indo Soviet treaty became a reality check for China. The treaty of 1971 helped bring about a turnaround in China's policy from attempts to set up an anti hegemonistic front to a more realistic worldview that was more consistent with international realities and consequently more productive.

Close ties with India remain the cornerstone of Russia's foreign policy. Following a period of drift under President Boris Yeltsin, the strategic nature of Indo Russian relations was reiterated by his successor Vladimir Putin and the ties were elevated to a privileged strategic partnership by President Dmitry Medvedev. At the same time, there is an ongoing debate in India on how relevant the strategic ties with Russia are today when the underpinning imperatives of the past decades are gone: Russia

China relations have turned around from hostility to friendship, whereas India sees China's rise as a challenge; Russia is no longer in confrontation with the US and India is pursuing strategic ties with the US

Russian scholars take the view that the China and US factors do not diminish the value of close partnership between India and Russia if seen in a correct perspective. A powerful, self sufficient China focussed on domestic growth offers great opportunities for the development of India and Russia and their cooperation with China.

The old principle of geopolitics, the enemy of my neighbour is my friend, born in Europe in the second half of the first millennium, the scholar says, is being replaced today with new wisdom my neighbour is my friend. The new ideology of good neighbourliness underpinned the Russian Chinese treaty of peace and friendship signed in 2001. Its main principle is the interests of my neighbour are more important to me than the interests of other countries and therefore I'll prioritise them over other interests.

A dialogue among Russia, India and China (RIC) can be useful in facilitating more harmonious relations between the two Asian giants.

The RIC triangle is a promising platform for discussing sensitive issues in a frank manner with no outside powers present. The three big nations surrounded by smaller countries cannot but share a common view on strategic equations in Asia. The RIC format is a manifestation of the build up of healthy regionalism, which is a more promising trend for Asia than globalisation.

The US factor is as important today as it was 40 years ago for both India and Russia alike, while its perception in both countries has changed from negative to positive. But Russian scholars warn against excessive expectations in New Delhi and Moscow for their bilateral relations with Washington.

However, there are a number of impediments that make a strategic alliance between India and the US unlikely:

India's traditional non alignment policy, the continuing USA

Pakistan strategic tie up and the likely reduction of the USA wherewithal in Asia in the light of the coming withdrawal from Afghanistan, the growing instability in Pakistan and the continuing standoff with Iran.

Courtesy: The Hindu and Times of India