India drifting away from Russia as far as defence and strategic alliances are concerned looks to be a poor diplomatic move. Traditionally the three wings Indian Armed Forces are equipped with Russian armament and during its crucial time Russia stood with India be it 1971 war, Kargil war and the trade was carried out in rupee terms. India became a strategic partner with Russia after the Chinese expansion and close proximity to Pakistan. The emergence of Russia’s strategic importance makes it a major player in the geo-political equation of the region comprising India, Pakistan, China and Iran. India has tasted American ‘hospitality’ during the 1962 Chinese aggression when the later refused to supply arms and ammunition to India. Now once again the Indian tilt is going towards America which may not prove good. Moscow’s mediation, in fact, can prove useful in bringing together Pakistan and India on Afghanistan, which could lead to the breaking of the Indo-Pak diplomatic ice. The American diplomacy today is not that impactful what it used to be a decade or so back. The fall out of such lopsided policy surely will impact India especially its relations with Iran viz-a-viz the oil trade and tariff war with China. Meandering through a naval agreement and sale of Mi helicopters, the Russia-Pakistan security relationship looks to enter a more intimate phase of training Pakistani troops in Russian institutes. Pakistan may have taken the plunge because the US, its steady pole of security cooperation, is more interested in a settlement in Afghanistan rather than shoring up Pakistan Army’s arsenal. In this India stands a looser. But for India’s policy planners this is a moment of reflection. Both sides have taken comfort in the other’s company at times of international distress – India backed Moscow to the hilt on Afghanistan while Russia bailed out India on Kashmir with its vetoes. There was also a healthy dose of self-interest involved: Russia backed India in the 1971 war to pay back Pakistan for arranging a secret summit between Nixon and Mao. For India, Moscow provided a reliable hedge against geopolitical arm-twisting by the West during the Cold War. India’s best option is to pursue a genuine multipolar global order where it has a fair say; and coordinating with Russia is important for this.
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