Russian President Vladimir Putin with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization leaders’ summit in Samarkand on September 16, 2022. ‘Today’s era is not an era of war , and I spoke to you on the phone about this,” Modi told Putin in a televised meeting.
Alexander Demyanchuk | AFP | Getty Images
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have publicly chastised Russian President Vladimir Putin for the war in Ukraine, but the long-standing friendship between the two countries is not going away, analysts have said.
“Today’s era is not an era of war, and I told you about it on the phone,” Modi told Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during a televised meeting at the United Nations Cooperation Organization. Shanghai (OCS) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, two weeks ago.
It marked a change in tone from the early days of the war, when India was seen as unwilling to criticize Russia, given its abstention in a UN vote censuring the country for the invasion. , among others.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia and India were “friends” a month after the invasion of Ukraine.
But despite India’s apparent shift in stance on the war, India still needs Russia, analysts told CNBC.
“India is in a unique position where it needs Russia in the short term to manage China,” said Harsh V. Pant, vice president for studies and foreign policy at the Observer Research Foundation, a Delhi-based think tank.
Pant added that India needs the West for the long term to manage its relations with China, citing the latter as “the most important strategic challenger for India”.
China and India are locked in a two-year border dispute in the Himalayas, although troops from both sides have recently started to disengage from the western side. But both still had thousands of troops lined up along the de facto border, known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The future of China-India relations is going to be difficult, said Raymond Vickery, senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
At a regular Indian Foreign Ministry press briefing in August, the spokesperson claimed that India’s policies are “consistent” and “do not need to be reiterated”, when asked him about Delhi’s approach to the “One China” policy.
“Additionally, there’s a whole Belt and Road initiative, which is designed to eventually give China control of the Indo-Pacific,” Vickery said.
The BRI is China’s ambitious program to build physical and digital infrastructure to connect hundreds of countries from Asia to the Middle East, Africa and Europe. Critics consider it to be Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy to expand his country’s global influence.
At the recent SCO meeting, India refrained from reaffirming its support for China’s BRI.
Russia is a key military partner and India’s main arms supplier, analysts said.
“Most of India’s conventional weapons come from Russia,” said Sameer Lalwani, senior expert at the US Institute for Peace. “[This] means it is heavily dependent on Russia for sustaining the force, including spares, maintenance and upgrades for years to come.
According to data firm Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, India was the top importer of Russian arms from 2017 to 2021, and Russian equipment accounted for 46% of India’s arms imports.
While that’s a far cry from the 80% figure during the Cold War, it still reflects India’s “great dependence” on Russia, Pant said, especially as tensions between the India and China on LAC are still “very active”.
“Russia remains India’s most important country [military] partner,” he added.
India also increased its purchases of Russian oil following the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, benefiting from reduced rates.
Ties ‘will last for decades’
India’s longstanding friendship with Russia isn’t going away – and that’s thanks to its military reliance, according to Lalwani.
“Even as India seeks greater indigenization of its defense capabilities, absent a stunning and financially exorbitant overhaul of its force structure, it will continue to depend on Russian arms, ammunition and sub-components for decades to come. decades,” Lalwani said.
He added that Indian cruise missile exports to Southeast Asian states cannot work without Russian propulsion systems.
“Even if the Indo-Russian military relationship is in decline, it will still last for decades.”