The India’s Strategic Relationship with Russia!

During the Cold War years India, while not a member of any bloc due to her non-aligned activism, enjoyed a proximate relationship with Russia. The proximate India-Russia relationship embraced intense political, economic and military cooperation. This strategic cooperation reached its peak in August 1971 with the signing of the “Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation” incorporating security clauses.

The contextual imperatives that forged the India-Russia strategic cooperation were from the Indian side- US-Pakistan military alliance and aid, Indo-US estrangement, the Sino-Pak strategic relationship and the Sino-Pak-US strategic convergence. On the Russian side the imperatives were – Sino Russian military confrontation, the Sino-US quasi-strategic relationship of the 1975s-980s and the Russian need to reach out to the Third World Countries through India.

The basic and common denominator on both sides was the containment of China and Pakistan. These contextual imperatives underwent a sea-change with President, Gorbachev coming into power. He initiated what can be described as Russia’s ‘China First’ priority. Russia’s strategic shift in its foreign policy formulations removed the planks on which rested the India-Russia strategic cooperation.


Russia ‘China First’ policy was vigorously pursued by President, Yeltsin, and received active pursuance by President, Putin. Russia latest foreign policy document (Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation July 20, 2000) is reflective of Russia’s ‘China First’ policy.

At the turn of the millennium, India which so heavily rested for its national security interests on strategic cooperation with Russia is faced with the crucial question “Is it time to move away”? The question gets further reinforced, when it is seen that Russia’s switch to China has incorporated a Russia-China strategic coalition and build-up of China’s military power and force projection capabilities by advanced Russian weapon systems. The same has security implication for India.

Following conclusions can be made:

1. India should move away from tins strategic relationship, while continuing its traditional friendship with Russia.


2. India should explore and exercise an alternative strategic option which furthers her national interests.

3. India should decrease her military dependence on Russia.