Increased Indian-Russian Military Cooperation in the Shadow of QUAD

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India and Russia are among the leading powerful countries in the world. India is not only the second largest economy in Asia after China but it is also the largest economy in South Asia. Russia, on the other hand, is known as the most powerful state in Eurasia militarily and politically. India and Russia, which established very good political, military and economic relations during the Cold War in the context of the Friendship Treaty signed in 1971, entered a process of separation with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the establishment of the Russian Federation in 1992.

New Delhi preferred to approach the West and especially the United States of America (USA) in the early 2000s. Along with this, the changes in the international conjuncture, the widely escalating security crises and the rise of extremist terrorist groups such as the State of Iraq and al-Sham (DEAS) in various geographies of the world required India to draw a new roadmap. During the determination of this route, the US invasion of Afghanistan and China’s rapid economic growth were also effective. At the time when these reasons were born and started to emerge, in 2012, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi set forth on his duty. With Modi coming to power, New Delhi started to re-develop relations with Moscow.

In this process, India’s rapidly rising and increasingly assertive problems with China caused New Delhi to change its neutrality policy towards Beijing. To counterbalance China, India inevitably turned to the United States and its allies in the Asia-Pacific region. Washington’s awareness of this tendency brought about an increase in India’s strategic importance in the eyes of the United States. This was even reflected in the Donald Trump administration’s decision to put India at the center of Washington’s “new Indo-Pacific” strategy.[1]

The inclusion of New Delhi in QUAD was considered a very important development. This is because it is clear that India is in any case one of the critical pillars on which the US Indo-Pacific strategy is based. For this reason, it is not surprising that India is prominently featured in the forward-looking Indo-Pacific debate. But QUAD for India is that diplomatic cooperation is the means to regulate coordination in the production of global public goods and to create a collective entity that can strengthen the larger rules-based order. In other words, compared to other members, New Delhi does not see QUAD as a military alliance.[2]

Therebeside, the main problem for India is the long-standing conflict with China, which has security, diplomatic and economic dimensions. In fact, India’s vision of the Indo-Pacific is more based on the Indian Ocean. The vision in question does not deal too much with the Pacific Ocean, where China is strong and is of concern to the US, Australia and Japan.

For India, the Indo-Pacific perspective stretches from the east coast of Africa to the east and south of the Pacific and includes parts of the Middle East as well. On the other hand, Africa and the Middle East are not included in the Indo-Pacific strategy of the USA. On the other hand, India is also uncomfortable with the perception of QUAD as an anti-Chinese “alliance of democracies”.

New Delhi discursively rejected non-alignment after the end of the Cold War; but it still has not been willing to enter into an alliance with any country or group. In the current situation, India is worried that China is a rising power. Despite this, it also faces the fact that China has overtaken the United States to become the number one trading partner in 2021.[3]

On the other hand, the China-India border crisis in eastern Ladakh in the summer of 2020 increased New Delhi’s dependence on Moscow. At the beginning of the crisis, Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh met with his Russian interlocutors to travel to Moscow, meet with Russian defense officials, ensure the urgent supply of spare parts and equipment, purchase new warplanes and seek expedited transfer of arms purchases. New Delhi may also have sought Russia’s help as a crisis manager with the potential to help end border conflicts in India’s favour, as it is believed to have done during the Doklam Dilemma in 2017.[4] Moreover, India is one of the world’s largest arms importers. The country’s military needs range from warplanes to submarines as part of a $100 billion military modernization program.

Russia’s arms sale to India has been the mainstay of bilateral relations since the Soviet Union and India signed an agreement in 1971. More than 60% of the Indian Defense Forces are equipped with Russian weapons. India’s ambition to become an arms exporter also explains why it cooperates with Russia in arms production. The two countries cooperate in the manufacture of the “Brahmos” missile system and in the licensed production of SU-30 aircraft and T-90 tanks. According to the information received, joint production of AK-203 rifles with full technology transfer is also planned. In addition, India’s decision to purchase Russia’s S-400 missile system reflects its desire to maximize its military and diplomatic options by diversifying its weapons suppliers.[5]

According to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, approximately 23% of Russian arms exports between 2016 and 2020 were to India.[6] Military and technical cooperation, on the other hand, has been time-tested and remains the cornerstone of bilateral partnership. The Bilateral Defense Agreement has been extended for another 10 years until 2031. Russia continues to provide essential military equipment requested by Singh during his September 2020 visit to Moscow following China’s Galwan offensive. This is despite China’s request to delay the supply of important materials to India.[7]

Indian diplomats stated that the decision to purchase the S-400 supports the country’s famous practice of “strategic autonomy” and that the United States should respect it. Trigunayat said that India’s large defense budget also gives it a strategic advantage.

According to a report by the defense think tank Sipri, India is the world’s second largest arms importer, accounting for around 10% of global defense trade. Moscow remains India’s largest arms supplier, although its share has declined due to India’s decision to diversify its portfolio and increase domestic defense production.[8] Putin evaluates this military cooperation as follows:[9]

“We know that our defense relationship with India has expanded and deepened significantly in recent years. Our broad and deep relationship has grown commensurate with its status as an important defense partner. We expect this strong momentum in our defense relationship to continue. We definitely value our strategic partnership with India”.

According to the information published in July 2021, Russia’s National Security Strategy defines relations with New Delhi as “strategic partnership with special privileges” and discusses them in the paragraph on Russia-China relations networks. Recently, Modi has shown India’s interest in economic projects in Russia’s Far East, thus extending New Delhi’s “East View” policy to Vladivostok.

In addition, over Washington’s objections, India purchased the Russian-made S-400 air defense systems, which should be delivered before the end of the year. Moreover, Modi was awarded Russia’s best decoration, St. He is one of four foreign leaders to be awarded the Order of St. Andrew. Russians see India as a trusted friend with whom their nation has an almost seamless relationship. Most Indians, on the other hand, see Russia as a proven friend who has never harmed their country during the seventy-five years of India’s independence.[10]

Looking at the history of India’s foreign policy, it is seen that balancing relations between East and West has been at the forefront of policy making since New Delhi’s independence. However, the efforts of the Government of India to create and establish a balance have intensified since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Despite India’s deep strategic partnership with the United States, New Delhi feels distrustful of Washington. One of the reasons for this distrust is the relationship between Pakistan and the United States, which throughout its history has always been a serious threat to New Delhi.

Considering the balance in question, the United States realized that its threats against India were by no means operational, causing New Delhi to further deepen its relations with Moscow. Russia needs India for various reasons. Russia needs actors like India to get rid of the international isolation imposed after its annexation of Crimea in February 2014. This situation of Mokova has enabled the Indian authorities to take advantage of it. In general, Narendra Modi’s premiership can be regarded as a period of relative success in terms of relations between the parties. However, the Russians still consider India rather than a regional and international strategic partner; see it as a strategic competitor.

[1] C. Raja Mohan, “Are Indo-Russian Ties the Next Casualty of Great-Power Shifts?”, Foreign Policy,, (Date of Accession: 17.12.2021).

[2] Ashley J. Tellis, “India, Russia, and the Quad: Russia’s Place in the Indo-Pacific”, Carnegie Moscow Center,, (Date of Accession: 17.12.2021).

[3] Manjari Chatterjee Miller, “The Quad, AUKUS, and India’s Dilemmas”, Council on Foreign Relations,, (Date of Accession: 17.12.2021).

[4] Sameer LaLwani, “The Influence of Arms Explaining the Durability of India–Russia Alignment”, Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs, 4(1), 2021, s. 7.

[5] Anita Inder Singh, “India Must be Realistic About Russia Relations”, The Interpreter,, (Date of Accession: 17.12.2021).

[6] Saheli Roy Choudhury, “India and Russia Broaden Defense Ties Despite Potential Risk of U.S. Sanctions”, CNBC Newsletters,, (Date of Accession: 17.12.2021).

[7] Ashok Sajjanhar, “How Putin’s Delhi Visit Has Reinvigorated A Time-Tested Partnership between India and Russia”, Firstpost,, (Date of Accession: 17.12.2021).

[8] Vikas Pandey, “Vladimir Putin: What Russian President’s India Visit Means For World Politics”, BBC News,, (Date of Accession: 17.12.2021).

[9] Arul Louis, “Putin’s Visit to India Clouds Timing of India-US Ministerial Dialogue”, The Business Standard,, (Date of Accession: 17.12.2021).

[10] Dmitry Trenin, “Russia-India: From Rethink to Adjust to Upgrade”, The Moscow Times,, (Date of Accession: 17.12.2021).

Dr. Seyedmohammad Seyedi ASL
Dr. Seyedmohammad Seyedi ASL
Seyedmohammad Seyedi Asl, 2008 yılında Urmiye Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi Klimatoloji Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. 2012 yılında Tahran Üniversitesi Coğrafya Fakültesi Jeopolitik Bölümü’nde savunduğu “Explanation of Geopolitical Relationships of Iran and Azerbaijan Republic with Constructivism Approach” başlıklı teziyle yüksek lisans derecesini almaya haz kazanmıştır. 2021 yılında Gazi Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda sunduğu “İran’ın Dış Politikasında Şia Mezhep Faktörün Etkisi ve Kullanımı: Jeopolitik Bir Değerlendirme” başlıklı teziyle doktora eğitimini tamamlamıştır. Türkçe, Farsça ve İngilizce bilen Asl’ın bu dillerde yayınlanmış çok sayıda akademik çalışması bulunmaktadır.