International Relations

India and Russia- History and Beyond


India since its independence in 1947 has followed a policy of peace and non-alignment. India has always raised its voice in favour of truth and Justice. It was after India got its Independence in 1947 that the Nation has able to form its own foreign policy. India relationship with the Soviet Union started off very well due to Pandit Nehru’s initiative. India’s relations with the Soviet Union in those first five year after independence were ambivalent, guided by Nehru’s decision, to remain non-aligned and take active part in the Commonwealth of Nations. However in February 1954, when the US administration announced the decision to provide arms and supply sophisticated military hardware and economic aid to Pakistan, this development alarmed India. This close Pakistan-US relationship also did not down well with Soviet Union, which also utilized this opportunity to develop a closer relationship with India. Although Indo-Soviet cooperation had begun much earlier, Soviet defence and military cooperation with India began mainly when Sino-Soviet and Sino-Indian relations started deteriorating. Following the 1962 Sino-Indian war, the Sino-Pakistani axis was also a force for growing cooperation between India and Soviet Union.[1]

An important event took place on August 9, 1971 when the USSR and India signed a Treaty of Peace, friendship and Cooperation. It is important to note under which circumstances this treaty was signed. Tensions between India and Pakistan were running high. Their allies and opponents from “third” countries were involved, directly or indirectly in the conflict in South Asia. Pakistan was being supported by China and through this relationship china was seeking ways to contact Washington. That time, china was in a state of perpetual conflict with both India and China. The United States helped Pakistan considerably not just with political support but with supplying arm as well.

During this time, both Beijing and Washington were interested in stemming the spread of soviet influence in Asia, where India was becoming one of Moscow’s few allies. Under these circumstances, the Soviet Union made its historic decision in favour of India in Hindustan in the early 1950s, and remained loyal to its ally, supporting the position of New Delhi during a difficult period in the early 1970s.

It was during the time of 1971, when the national movement in East Pakistan erupted. This led to the proclamation of the Republic of Bangladesh on March 26, 1971. The USSR tried to prevent tensions from escalating into a direct armed conflict. The then Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko arrived in New Delhi in the summer of 1971 when the relation between India and Pakistan were in miserable was during this time of August 9, 1971 when the USSR and India signed a Treaty of Peace, friendship and Cooperation. This treaty played an important role which was well-prepared and thoroughly thought out and it took into account the high tensions in and around the Hindustan. This treaty further stated effective commitment of Soviet’s Union that it shall not enter into or participate in any military alliance directed against the other party. The parties also undertook to abstain from providing any assistance to any third country that engages in armed conflict with the other party. This was an important to India especially during the time when territory was under pressure from both East and West Pakistan.[2]

Nevertheless Conflict broke out despite the Soviet Union’s effort’s to preclude it. The conclusion of the treaty and the Soviet Unions’ obvious support for the Indian position did not help. The talks and manoeuvres and other great powers, primarily the United States and China, and the triple use of the Veto by the Soviet envoy to the UN did not achieve the desired effect. The sides were not ready for compromise. Military actions eventually led to military defeat of Pakistan, the consolidation of the International positions of the newly-independent Bangladesh and a geopolitical change in the region .All of India’s friends and foes recognized its regional leadership.

It was during 1971, Treaty was signed for a period of 20 years with an automatic extension of five years for each subsequent period. During the end of this term, Soviet Union was suffering serious upheavals and was on the brink of collapse. It was in beginning of 1993, that the experts, diplomats and scientists managed to peruse President Yeltsin not to ignore such friends and allies as India. It was later again in 1993, Yelstin made an official visit to India where they signed   a new bilateral Treaty on friendship and Cooperation. Both the countries reaffirmed their commitment to the New Delhi Declaration on the principle of Nuclear Weapon Free and Non-violent World, which was signed on November 27, 1986. Moreover, in Article 12 of the document the parties undertook to protect and facilitate the implementation of human rights and fundamental liberties, including freedom of religion and minority rights, and to counter all forms of religious extremism, hatred and violence. Further, this document reflected new challenges faced by the world and the two countries such as on terrorism, the taking of Hostages, threats to sea navigation and civil aviation, and illegal drug trafficking. By displaying cooperativeness and realistic approach of their assessment of global events, and to the test they faced in determining the form and direction of their bilateral reforms.[3]

Later in 1990s after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russia found it difficult to keep up the economic position with India. The infrastructure that supported trade, economic, scientific and technical cooperation was practically destroyed. The leaders tried to maintain the same ties but that couldn’t happen because they were concerned with their own economic and social problem. It was during the backdrop they signed an important document called the Moscow Declaration on the protection of Interests of Pluralistic states. This historic tie happened in the summer of 1994.

Military-technical cooperation was another important area of their bilateral relation .It stared to develop when India was going through difficult times, when it faced serious threat to National Security. It was later when the Russian-Indian Inter-Governmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation began meeting regularly. In 2000, the two sides signed an agreement on strategic partnership. Article 12 of the joint statement at the conclusion of Vladimir Putin’s official visit to India in January 2007 is devoted to military-technical cooperation between India and Russia that “has traditionally remained a major pillar of the bilateral strategic partnership.” Later, in December 2009 the parties signed an agreement on a long –term programme for military and technical cooperation for the period 2011-2020.   The leader of both the countries continue to meet regularly and have signed many joint documents. Their various topics and a broad range of bilateral, regional and global issues indicate that relations between Russia and India develop in the national interests of both countries. They have been cooperating in high-tech areas, energy security, the nuclear power industry, use of the GLONASS navigation system, military and technical spheres as well as in science and culture.

India has become a major global power. Its outstanding achievements in high-tech fields and in the implementation of economic reforms are worthy of close attention and through analysis. Russian specialist can learn a great deal from the Indian colleagues. Despite New Delhi’ policy of diversifying its foreign policy, trade and economic ties, it is prepared to promote cooperation with Russia as an equal partner. The 1971 treaty created a legal foundation for ties between USSR/Russia and India It reflected the existing alignment of forces in the region and the world, and played a historic role by helping India to assert its regional and global positions and secure its special relation with the USSR. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, India and Russia have taken important steps in cementing this friendship further. On the whole the friendship between India and Russia has remained steady. [4]

[1] A Flame that Does not Flicker, Dr Nivedita Das Kundu

[2] It all Began in August, Tatyana Shaumyan

[3] New Theme, on Russian-Indian Affiars, Vol. VII. Issue No-1 September 2011

[4] New Theme, on Russian-Indian Affiars, Vol. VII. Issue No-2, Nov-Dec  2011


– Vivek Jain


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