Seven months after China and Russia announced their “no limits” partnership, the two countries seem closer than ever. In the face of growing Chinese belligerence, this augurs ill for India, which should urgently reconsider its long-standing diplomatic and strategic dependence on a weakening Russia.
NEW DELHI – During a parliamentary debate in April, I expressed my concerns about India’s relationship with Russia. My words were met with grim-faced silence. But the events of the last five months have only strengthened my case.
The debate was on the Ukraine war. While deploring India’s reluctance to call a Russian shovel a spade, I acknowledged that India has historically depended on the Kremlin for defense supplies and spare parts, and appreciated Russia’s long-standing support on vital issues like Kashmir and border tensions with China and Pakistan. But the Ukraine war and Western sanctions had weakened Russia considerably, I noted. The ban on semiconductor chips, for example, had significantly eroded its ability to produce advanced electronics and defense goods that form the basis of India’s dependence.
Worse still, I argued, the war had highlighted and reinforced Russia’s reliance on China as its principal global partner – a relationship that would intensify as Russia grew weaker. India could then scarcely depend on the Kremlin to counter Chinese aggression, exemplified by the People’s Liberation Army’s territorial encroachments and killing of 20 Indian soldiers in June 2020.
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