India - Russia Relations in Global Perspective IAS Target

India - Russia Relations in Global Perspective

19 Jul 2019

Category : International Relations

Topic: India - Russia Relations in Global Perspective

Consultations on Bilateral and Global Issues

  • Official level consultations (Secretary/Joint Secretary) on issues such as Central Asia, disarmament & non-proliferation, European issues, South Asia, information security, BRICS, SCO, UN, and RIC were held in 2016.
  • During the 17th Annual Summit, the sides concluded a Protocol for Consultations b/w the foreign ministries for the period 2017-18. In 2017, a number of Consultations on issues including-
    • Property issues
    • Information security
    • Non-proliferation and Disarmament
    • Counter-terrorism have already taken place according to the new plan


The full form of BRCIS is Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Originally the first four were grouped as "BRIC" (or "the BRICs"), before the introduction of South Africa in 2010. The BRICS members are known for their significant influence on regional affairs and all are members of G20. Since 2009, the BRICS nations have met annually at formal summits. South Africa hosted the most recent 10th BRICS summit on 08 January 2018 while China hosted the 9th BRICS summit in Xiamen in September 2017. The term doesn’t involve countries such as Mexico, South Korea, and Turkey, for which other associations and acronyms were later created.

Important Points

  • BRICS countries hold US$4.46 trillion in combined foreign reserves
  • 4 out of 5 members (except South Africa) are in the top 10 of the world by population
  • In 2015, the five BRICS countries represented over 3.1 billion people, or around 41% of the world population
  • The BRICS are expected to expand by 4.6% in 2016, from an estimated growth of 3.9% in 2015. The World Bank expected BRICS growth to boost by 5.3% in 2017.
  • Bilateral relations among BRICS nations have been conducted on the basis of:
    • Equality
    • Mutual benefit
    • Non-interference

During Indian Presidency of BRICS from Feb. 2016, Russia participated in the BRICS Ministerial and high official level meetings in India. Vladimir Putin (the President of Russian) participated in the 8th BRICS Summit and BRICS-BIMSTEC Outreach Summit in Goa on 15 & 16 October 2016, where the member states adopted the Goa Declaration.

Spikes in Russia-India bilateral relationship in recent times

  • There are rising concerns in Russia-India bilateral relations. The most significant of which is Pakistan. Of late, Russia is courting Pakistan as India inches closer to the West.
  • India is the biggest market for arms and Russia and has been the long-established supplier. India is looking up to the West, particularly to Israel and the US, and because of this Russia is finding new markets and allies as it feels slightly separated. Russia still has substantial military-technical engagements with India which will nonetheless continue. Russia as such appears to be trying to balance its South Asia relations rather than discard its traditional strategic partner India even as it cultivates new engagements and partners.
  • India is also a part of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) with Japan, Australia, and the US seeking a viable balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region which raises some eyebrows in Russia. Russia has suggested India join China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Russia has also shown a willingness in joining China and Pakistan in giving legitimacy to the Afghan Taliban.

India-Russia-China new Engagement

  • The India-Russia-China triangle is reconciling on a shared responsibility and vision for the future of Eurasia.
  • The strategic triangle might soon face increased pressure that could challenge the current balance of power
    • The U.S.-China trade war tends to be gone out of hand.
    • China may stimulate its outreach throughout the continent to toss American presence.
  • Russia and India may benefit from the existing status quo in interactions, geopolitical coordination andenhanced exchange.
  • India is concerned about Russia increasing dependency on China, while the Russia wants to shun possible rifts in India-China relations.
  • Such beliefs act as powerful catalysers to increase more fruitful relations b/w the two countries on a number of areas.

China factor in Russia - India relationship

  • Demand to enhance relations also prevails in the Russian corridors. Currently, India saw more closeness b/w Russia and China. Russia wants to have a close relation with China and see China as a big market for its arms and energy. At the same time, China also committed investment in infrastructure, gas, oil, and other development projects.
  • Recently, China’s GDP is four times larger and defence spending is almost three times bigger than that of India. China and India have expanded territorial conflicts that occasionally turn into border stand-offs. Also, there is a trust deficit between b/w the two countries. So, a peaceful exchange b/w China and India is considered fragile and Russia’s balancing role is seen to be in high demand.
  • Close U.S.-India relations don’t seem to be having a somber impact on the exchange. Despite the harmony to bypass U.S. sanctions and use of national currencies with Russia, India is still hoping to obtain a waiver from the US. India acknowledges the US’s support in its claim for a permanent seat at the UNSC (United Nations Security Council).
  • Russia’s relations with India include the latter’s quest to sustain a balanced and diversified policy that keeps enough space for manoeuvering. In 1971, India signed an agreement of friendship and cooperation with the Soviet Union to balance a China-U.S. rapprochement. This move performs a significant role in Russia’s interpretation of Indian foreign policy to date.

The fact is that Russia has been a long-standing and important partner of India. The bilateral ties with Russia form a base of India’s foreign policy and it is probably to continue despite occasional concerns. The two countries have a political understanding underpinned by a strong strategic and economic relationship that continues to evolve. Recently, President Putin and Prime Minister Modi had a fruitful informal meeting in Sochi in late May 2018 where the two discussed regional and bilateral issues like BRICS and the International North-South Transport Corridor. These talks have been labeled ‘extremely productive’. There are some concerns that India looking up to the West and trying to swap Pakistan as the US pivot in the South Asian region as it aspires for Western defence equipment (including aircraft). Russia is warming up to Pakistan to answer the US in Afghanistan and Central Asia. Despite the concerns, if the two nations keep playing the balancing game then bilateral relations will continue.