Russia-India Rapprochement and Building a Multipolar World

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The President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, in his statements on November 12, 2021, remarked that Moscow sees India as the independent and powerful center of the multipolar world.[1] Besides, it is expected Vladimir Putin to go “2+2” New Delhi in order to attend the Summit of India-Russia which will be held for the first time on 6 December 2021. Russia has previously used 2+2 format meetings with the Foreign and Defense Ministers as a problem-solving mechanism with countries such as the United States of America (USA), France and Japan. Now, Moscow carries out this format thanks to the administration of New Delhi.

 According to the Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, the USA is much more flexible about India’s relations with Russia and China, showing that it is now open to new proposals and cooperation in this regard.[2] As for the opinion of New Delhi, the global competition between the USA and China points out the begining of a return to Cold War era. This conflict environment makes the world two-pole. On the other hand, India created an alternative axis for “third world countries” as the founder of the Non-Aligned Movement during the Cold War (in 1955). In other words, India was an axis on its own even during the Cold War era. In this case, today, it is needed a new “third axis” or multipolarity to resolve the polarization between the USA and China.

At this point, Beijing is not a reliable actor in the eyes of Russia, although it expresses that it defends multipolarity by challenging the West. This is because it is, at the same time, a competitor of Moscow as well. Furthermore, it is more agressive than Russia in challenging the hegemony of the West. In fact, it would be a relative approach to evaluate how big a threat Russia and China’s aggressive actions in their immediate surroundings pose to the West. In this sense, one of the most important debates in the USA is whether the main enemy of the country is Russia; or is it China? The “real threat” for the United States is China, which poses a national security threat in its immediate vicinity (in the Pacific). Russia is more of a threat to Europe’s security.

The USA is trying to buck-pass the Russian problem to Europe in order to be able to fight the challenge of China more easily. In this regard, Washington wants to make sure about Europe and especially Germany if they will truly fight against Russia. Russia and China, on the other hand, focus on breaking the Western hegemony within themselves. In this respect, fueling the fight both within the Atlantic (USA and England) and within Europe (England, Germany and France) and on the Atlantic-Europe line will lead to the destruction of Western hegemony from within. If Russia and China are able to tear the West apart in itself, they will spontaneously achieve multipolarity. However, China’s challenge against the West is seen as a danger for Russia. This rise of China may be a threat in itself, especially in Eurasian politics for Russia. In this regard, Russia thinks that it has much more common interests with its competitor India, especially in the Eurasian region, compared to China.

First of all, Russia has become India’s largest arms supplier in the last 2 years. Besides, India plans to sign a Military Logistics Agreement (RELOS) and an internaval cooperation memorandum with Russia, as it has done with other Quadruple Security Dialogue (QUAD) countries. If this happens, Indian ships will be able to regularly visit Russian ports in the Arctic, while Russian ships will be able to regularly visit Indian ports in the Indian Ocean. The most important transportation project connecting Russia to India is the Vladivostok-Chennai Economic Corridor. In other words, Russia sees India as a foothold in the Indo-Pacific. Although the North-South Transport Corridor has remained in the background due to the difficulties in Iran, Azerbaijan and Afghanistan, the project in question has not been completely abandoned. Therebeside, the parties are making efforts to increase the bilateral trade volume from 10-11 billion dollars to 30 billion dollars. Moscow wishes for India to explore investment potential, especially in Russia’s Far East province, and to create a corridor through the port of Vladivostok. It is also stated that the process of signing a Free Trade Agreement between India and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) is coming to an end and this will be clarified at the 2+2 format Putin-Modi Summit on December 6, 2021.

Another case which brings two great powers together is the issue of Afghanistan. New Delhi hosted the Regional Security Dialogue meeting on Afghanistan on 10 November 2021, with the participation of security consultants from Russia, Iran and five Central Asian countries. High-level diplomats and academics from India state that New Delhi has recently had to make an opening in foreign policy. For instance; Raja Mohan who is the founding director of Carnegie India, one of the foremost think tanks of India, states that India needs a new and comprehensive Eurasian strategy.[3] Countries participating the Afghanistan meeting in New Delhi might constitute the core of India’s new Eurasian expansion. From this point of view, Russia, Iran and five Central Asian countries, which are the Eurasian countries, can play a central role in India’s strategy to create a “third axis” in the international system.

India has to choose between being in favor of multipolarity, creating a new axis or joining existing alliances. Currently, India has three important expansions or axes: The first is the Russia-Iran-India axis, which it established in the early 2000s and to which Afghanistan was added later. In this context, Afghanistan is India’s gateway to Central Asia. The second axis is the OUAD alliance, which it formed with the USA, Japan and Australia in 2017 and focuses specifically on the Indo-Pacific. The third axis is the QUAD 2.0 alliance, which was formed in the Middle East and Mediterranean region in 2021 and includes Israel-UAE and the USA. Thus, India aims to control both Central Asia, the Indo-Pacific and the Middle East-Mediterranean. These are also the parts of New Delhi’s quest for a multipolar world. At this point, the questions should be asked are: “Can Russia and India together create a new axis and challenge the bipolar system between the USA and China?”, “India’s rapprochement with Russia, the USA’s setting up against China in the Indo-Pacific Does it mean that the axis he wants is broken-dissolved?”, and “Will Russia’s rapprochement with India undermine Moscow’s alliance with China?”

Primarily, it is necessary to mention that there is a mutual distrust beween Russia and India. If Russia moves along China’s axis especially in the Indo-Pacific, India will also approach the USA. The USA tries to gain over India and the other regional Powers against China. However, China aims to get Russia behind itself. With this way, a two-pole system emerges. Nevertheless, the most important equation which will break this polarization is the Russia-India alliances.

The fact that Russia has started S-400 deliveries to India could be the beginning of this breakup. The United States plans to impose the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CATSAA) sanctions for supplying India with weapons from Russia. However, US senators are concerned that New Delhi will shift more towards Moscow if sanctions are imposed on India, one of its important allies against China. For this reason, India’s relations with Russia in the upcoming period will be determinant in the US’s stance on sanctions. If the US and China are planning to return to the Cold War era, India can play by the rules (as in 1955) and move towards establishing an independent axis. In this sense, Russia can become an important partner of India.

[1] “Russia Views India As Independent, Strong Centre of The Multipolar World: President Putin”, Goa Chhonicle,, (Date of Accession: 15.11.2021).

[2] “China Should be in No Doubt About India’s stand: Jaishankar”, Time of India,, (Date of Accession: 15.11.2021).

[3] India Needs A New, Integrated Approach to Eurasia”, Indian Express,, (Date of Accession: 15.11.2021).

Dr. Cenk TAMER
Dr. Cenk Tamer, 2014 yılında Sakarya Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Aynı yıl Gazi Üniversitesi Ortadoğu ve Afrika Çalışmaları Bilim Dalı’nda yüksek lisans eğitimine başlamıştır. 2016 yılında “1990 Sonrası İran’ın Irak Politikası” başlıklı teziyle master eğitimini tamamlayan Tamer, 2017 yılında ANKASAM’da Araştırma Asistanı olarak göreve başlamış ve aynı yıl Gazi Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Doktora Programı’na kabul edilmiştir. Uzmanlık alanları İran, Mezhepler, Tasavvuf, Mehdilik, Kimlik Siyaseti ve Asya-Pasifik olan ve iyi derecede İngilizce bilen Tamer, Gazi Üniversitesindeki doktora eğitimini “Sosyal İnşacılık Teorisi ve Güvenlikleştirme Yaklaşımı Çerçevesinde İran İslam Cumhuriyeti’nde Kimlik İnşası Süreci ve Mehdilik” adlı tez çalışmasıyla 2022 yılında tamamlamıştır. Şu anda ise ANKASAM’da Asya-Pasifik Uzmanı olarak görev almaktadır.