Why India cannot Afford to alienate Russia? : Daily Current Affairs

Relevance: GS-2: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India's interests, effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India's interests,

Key Phrases: United Nations Security Council, UN Resolution, Explanation of Vote,, Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership, Huge Military Dependence, Strategic Autonomy, “2+2 Dialogue”, India’s Hegemony in South Asia

Why in News?

  • India’s recent decision to abstain from condemning Russia’s actions in the United Nations Security Council (as a non-permanent member) has annoyed several UN member-countries.

Key Highlights:

  • In order to substantiate its abstention from voting, India was compelled to issue an Explanation of Vote (EoV).
  • In it, India asked for a “return to the path of diplomacy” and an immediate cessation of “violence and hostilities.”
    India has called for dialogue which is in accordance with India’s declared stance towards the relevance and objectives enshrined in the UN Charter.
  • From a strategic perspective, India is precisely replicating what it did when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.
  • For India, its own national security is at stake, as well as its current and future geostrategic influence in Asia and the world.

India-Russia Relationship : Important Timeline

  • In 1947, Soviet Union became one of the first countries to recognise India‘s independence. Even before India became independent, an official announcement was made on 13 April 1947 on the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and the Soviet Union.
  • Soviet Union took more neutral positions on Kashmir and Goa. It used veto power in UN Security Council for the first time to block anti-India initiatives on Jammu & Kashmir (first in February 1957 and then again in June 1962) and Goa (in December 1961).
  • IIT Bombay was established in 1958 with assistance from UNESCO and the Soviet Union and was stocked with Soviet equipment.
  • The Soviets declared their neutrality during the 1962 Sino-Indian War and helped broker a peace agreement during the 1965 India-Pakistani border war.
  • The military-technical assistance the USSR was providing to India came with the advantage of payment in nonconvertible rupees through a Rupee-Rouble credit fund set up by the Soviets, thereby saving scarce foreign currency. Indian debts to the USSR could be paid back in goods as per the agreement between the two nations.
  • India got assistance in the sector of industrial technology, with the Soviets building dozens of factories throughout India for producing heavy machinery, for manufacturing of Steel, for generating power, and for extracting and refining oil. USSR also helped in setting up India’s energy major ONGC.
  • During the 1971 Indo-Pak war, the Soviet Union cast three vetoes in the UN Security Council to block attempts to stop India from its ongoing military campaign.
  • ISRO built India's first satellite, Aryabhata, which was launched by the Soviet Union on 19 April 1975. Indo-Russian energy cooperation has acquired new dimensions particularly in the hydrocarbon and nuclear sector.
  • India-Russia Civil Nuclear Cooperation is an important dimension in the strategic partnership and includes transfer of nuclear power reactors, fuel supply agreement, fuel supply assurance, agreement to transfer reprocessing technology and enriched technology.

Significance of Russia for India:

  1. Huge Military Dependence:
    • The huge military dependence of India on Russia is evident from the fact that almost 60-70% of its military supplies are from Russia.
    • In fact, 70 per cent of all Indian military equipment currently in use has been directly produced in Russia, or manufactured with the majority of parts coming from Russia, or licensed by Russia.
    • In 2020, these included:
      • the majority of Indian tanks
      • the only aircraft carrier (the INS Vikramaditya, a heavily modified Kiev-class aircraft carrier) in use
      • all of its combat aircraft MiG-29s
      • six frigates, four destroyers
      • the only nuclear-powered attack submarine, the INS Chakra
      • Eight out of 14 Indian Navy submarines belong to the Russian Kilo-class.
      • Sukhoi Su-30MKIs and Mil Mi-17s, which, respectively, constitute the largest share of the combat aircraft and utility helicopters, in addition to Russian tanker planes.
      • S-400 missile system
    • Defence agreements and long-term supply contracts have been in place since the “Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation” was signed in 1971.
    • India and Russia have shared a strategic relationship since October 2000, and this was upgraded in December 2020 to a “Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership.”
    • India can’t afford to alienate Russia particularly when Indian and Chinese troops remain in a border stand-off.

Some recent Joint Cooperation Projects:

  • Military-Technological cooperation:
    • India and Russia have begun a new phase in their military-technological cooperation with the“2+2 Dialogue” (Foreign and Defence Ministers).
    • India has used this format for furthering cooperation in strategic, security, and intelligence issues with four of its key strategic partners: Australia, the US, Japan, and the newly added Russia.
    • Russia and India agreed upon a further deepening of mutual military relations for 10 years (until 2031).
  • Research and Development:
    • After the traditional purchase of Russian weapons systems, many common research projects and the development of new weapons systems have been agreed upon with their production taking place equally in both countries. It includes:
      • New frigates
      • Helicopters
      • Submarines
      • Cruise missiles
      • Kalashnikovs

Why is this extreme military dependence a cause of concern?

  • The depth of this mutual engagement, and especially India’s dependence, highlights a huge dilemma that might not only have drastic strategic consequences, but also long-lasting regional repercussions.
  • The worldwide sanctions issued against Russia aim at the Russian economy and military.
  • When it comes to the procurement of such crucial components as microchips or airline parts, Russia is soon expected to face shortages, essentially crippling its capacity to repair, construct, or have spare parts available.
  • Unless other countries, such as China, circumvent international sanctions and step-in, the expected Russian inability to take care of its own military will have repercussions for India.
  • Russia is unlikely to be able to fulfil its contractual obligations towards India.
  • The lack of spare parts also has the potential to cripple India’s own military with regard to the Russian weapons equipment.
  • The procurement agreements and common projects hence, are in a state of vulnerability and India, now more than ever, depends on Russian goodwill.

2.  Economic Dependence:

  • The worldwide sanctions have already led to dramatic increases in oil and gas prices, with India relying on imports of up to 85 per cent.
  • India will, therefore, have to pay much more for such crucial imports.
  • Military imports from other countries aimed at substituting Russian equipment will also be much more expensive.
  • All of these will have a negative impact on the Indian economy that has already been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.

3.  Political Dependence:

  • Politically, India’s hegemony in South Asia has been markedly under pressure, because of the China-Pakistan axis, a threat to the already highly volatile India-Pakistan relationship.
  • In addition, the Sino-Indian relationship reached a new low in May 2020 when Chinese infrastructure projects along the Himalayan borderlands led to fighting and the killing of soldiers.
  • Chinese growing influence on Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and especially Pakistan is also regarded with discontent by India as it claims that China is following a policy of encircling India.


  • In its 75th year of Independence, India is following politics of pragmatism in the Russia-Ukraine war by not alienating Russia yet keeping Ukraine along.
  • The consequence is that Russia has now offered more discounted oil, gas, and investments, while at the same time, Ukraine has suggested its military relationship with India could be upgraded and has also offered weapons made in Ukraine.
  • Russian support, militarily or as a producer of cheap oil and gas, cannot be foregone.
  • Going forward, India’s military will need to protect its national security and project Indian influence and power well beyond its borders.

Source: The Hindu BL

Mains Question:

Q. India abstained from voting on UN resolutions condemning recent Russian aggression against Ukraine. Discuss the reasons behind India’s stand. (250 words).