- Students’ Column
- War and Military
India’s relations with the Soviet Union can be traced back to the 15th century when the Russian merchant Afanasy Nikitin visited Northern India and published an account of his travels. Soviets started developing friendly relationship with India since 1950s. The government of India approached the Soviet Union only when it got disgusted with the Anglo-American attitude of patronizing Pakistan at the cost of India because the latter had the courage to take independent line of action on several world issues. India and the Soviet Union exchanged military attaches in their respective embassies in 1955. By now India had signed numerous pacts with USSR. The weapons and defense equipment provided by Soviets were cheaper than that of the Wests. The Soviets also provided facilities to assemble the aircrafts and other equipment in India and gave training to Indian soldiers to operate sophisticated weapons. They dealt with India in soft currency unlike other countries who demanded hard currency. This system continued even after collapse of Soviets and development of Russia. The Russians considered India as an ally and continued selling weapons to India. Russia is India’s biggest arms supplier. This helps Russia to maintain its economy and fund its weapons industry. In recent years, India had been trying to develop its own aircraft with the help of the Russians. In the defence arena, the Indo-Russian relations have evolved from buyer-seller relationship to joint collaborators in such big-ticket projects as Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) and BrahMos missile. The biggest USP of Russia for India is while other countries are reluctant to transfer technology; the Russians do it without any fuss.
India cannot afford to sacrifice the current military cop-operation with Russia. In material technologies and strategic raw materials inheritance, Russian strength is well acknowledged, Russia is far better source for easier technology transfer than what India can ever hope from USA. One cannot forget that George W. Bush is pensioned and the U.S. Congress has a substantial chunk of Congress members heavily opposed to India’s nuclear power status due to India’s positions on NPT and CTBT. Moreover, India got itself tied-up with the Russians. India will need Russian support, be it on Kashmir or other matters at the UNSC, if India radically sways away from Russia, Vladimir Putin could anytime open up Pakistan military aid option. One cannot decline to discern that Russia is a factual Eurasion power enjoying the largest land mass in the world. It may possibly have the largest nuclear submarine fleet and one does not know how many Russians submarines are floating around India or the USA. Hence, irritating one such as Russia is out of question for India. Though, such an event doesn’t seem possible in the near future because Russia has always been friendly to India even during Soviet times when Uncle Sam looked the other way supporting Pakistan dictatorship against India. Any India connivance with a pro-America military alliance will cost us blood and other economic problems. India’s friendship with Iran and Afghan would get strained. This would result in decrease in supply of oil from Iran as India will have to follow USA’s policy of sanctions on Iran and it will also make hostile situations between India and Muslim countries. On the other hand, Russia supports both, Iran and Afghan. Russia has long been an invited observer of OPEC meetings and know their Arab friends quite well.
Russia’s game in the world is open. Nonetheless, it does not foreclose India’s military cooperation with democratic forces in Asia vis-à-vis a potential Chinese power aggression. India needs to culture Russian relationship deeper so that it works as an antidote to any possible Sino-Pak aggression on India. American help in such a situation would mean confrontation, a Russian help peaceful compromise. If both China and Pakistan were to gang-up on India, the US, in order not to risk a nuclear war, will stay neutral. Russia, on the other hand, would provide intermediary help, because Russia has a certain strategic leverage on China. China needs Russia’s strategic alliance for SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) to succeed. The SCO is a Eurasian Silk Road, which in the long run expectedly change the entire economic landscape of Eurasian continent, guaranteeing economic future of all involved. Why should India forego a chance for that reality by entering into U.S.–tailored Asian defense alliance principally designed to torpedo such developments to keep up U.S. predominance.
Moreover, USA is one of the most self-centric country in the world. History is witness that USA is not a reliable partner in several areas, politics, military and hardware spare parts. India will be optioned to buy whole-system units at high prices, probably with loans from US Banks to get India mortgaged to the US as a permanent financial slave. Whenever and wherever US helped, it made sure it got something solid in return.
Russia is a much more reliable partner as it has helped India on several occasions in many fields, politics, military, business, etc. Let it be the 1971 War with Pakistan or Nuclear tests or many other fields, it was Russia and former Soviet Union which stood by India and helped it to come over hard times. India will have to choose its friends and foes carefully in order to succeed in this modern world.
TWR Note: Articles under students’ column are written by school going students. Readers and commenters are requested to maintain healthy debate avoiding the use of improper language. Please stay away from directing personal attacks.