In the context of the recent India-Russia annual summit in Vladivostok, there were some underlying interests between the two countries that seemed conspicuous. Firstly, India and Russia find themselves with very few political issues between them, a rare foreign policy relationship that has stood the test of time. Recently, India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar pointed to the fact that the India-Russia relationship has remained a relatively stable factor in international relations, more so than any other significant relationship since the heydays of the Cold War.
Secondly, both countries are building on the economic dimension of their partnership, evidenced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s participation as the chief guest in the Eastern Economic Forum to boost Indian investments and business in Russia’s Far East. There is an increasing recognition that the economic relationship can move beyond its current one-dimensional nature based on New Delhi’s reliance on defense imports from Moscow.
Thirdly, and most importantly, India and Russia have a common interest in reducing their dependence on the United States and China in matters of regional importance. While India is tugged by the United States to deepen their military partnership through various initiatives like the Quad, Russia’s current strategic closeness with China is not guaranteed in the long run.
Greater Indo-Russian cooperation should seem like a foregone conclusion. New Delhi and Moscow could benefit greatly from strategic alignment given the current geopolitical rivalry unfolding in the Asian theater between Beijing and Washington. While China has little reason to draw down its military presence in the Indo-Pacific, the United States continues to attempt to bring together like-minded countries to check China’s moves.
India, being an important stakeholder in the region, has obvious interests in seeing China pushed into a disadvantageous position. However, it has still not bought into the U.S. idea of containment, which retains features of the Cold War pushback against the former Soviet Union. Moreover, India has carefully broached the issue by avoiding overt anti-China posturing in the region. It has also shown no desire to toe the U.S line, which it deems as harming its “strategic autonomy.” Thus, for India, the Indo-Pacific strategy comprises largely of either cooperative or coercive engagement.
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