Cozying up to Russia

Lately, Indo-Russian ties seemed to be cooling off. Faced with economic sanctions imposed by Russia and the European Union, Moscow was seen to be getting far too close to China and Pakistan for India’s comfort. Prime Minister Modi’s recent visit to Russia has gone a long way in further cementing India’s traditional ties with Russia and blowing away cobwebs of doubts and uncertainties. Signing of the pact for setting up of two more units in the nuclear power plant at Kudankulam is a welcome development as is the decision to give a ‘new direction’ in defence cooperation. On terrorism also, the Russian stand has been forthright and unambiguous. Moscow has assured India on its relationship with Pakistan. Its condemnation of terrorism is frank and forthright. In the joint declaration the two countries have called for an end to cross-border terrorism and have called on the international community to stop adopting ‘double standards and selectivity’ in combating terrorism. Russia has also agreed to supply India the S-400 Triumf anti-aircraft missile systems – a deal worth over $5 billion.
In the constantly changing geopolitical equations, Indo-Russian friendship has stood the test of time. The basis of the friendship was laid by Jawaharlal Nehru and strengthened by Indira Gandhi. It is well worth recalling that but for the Twenty Year Indo-Soviet Friendship Treaty, the birth pangs of free Bangladesh might have been much more painful and more prolonged. The role played by the erstwhile Soviet Union in laying the foundation of heavy industries like steel in India at a time when the industrialized nations of the West were unresponsive cannot be forgotten. Whatever the ideological orientation of the BJP Government, it just cannot afford the Indo-Soviet relations to go to seed. India cannot forget the umpteen times the Soviet Union used its veto in the UN Security Council in India’s favour on the Kashmir issue.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project has thrown a number of challenges to India – from its sovereignty over the Pakistan-occupied part of Jammu and Kashmir to new security threats emerging on the Himalayan border. With Donald Trump in the White House nobody can predict what the US foreign policy will be. At this juncture, a stable relationship of mutual trust and understanding with Russia will be of immense value. It is in India’s interest to deepen its friendship with Russia in the face of the hostility from her two neighbours – China and Pakistan. The significance of the Prime Minister’s recent visit to Russia has to be seen in the larger context of India’s need to safeguard her security. Unlike India’s Western allies, Russia never stopped supplying essential military hardware in times of war. The relationship with Russia is an asset of immense value.

Monday, 5 June, 2017