Colonel Awadhesh Kumar, Veteran Special Forces
Indo Soviet relationship started in earnest only in 1960s with defence procurement relationship with Moscow, especially with heavy ticket items which the Americans and British were loath to part with or added too many strings. The saga of supply of Rolls Royce engines for HF24, submarines for the Indian Navy and transporters for the IAF by Britain are well documented and should not be forgotten in haste. The Unipolar world had by then become Bipolar with some free radicals like India.
The Soviet Union then offered India not just reliable military hardware like MIG21, AN12 and Foxtrot Submarines to start with but there also started one to one strategic level relationship. At that time US-Pakistan military tie up was flourishing and finally resulted in 1965 attack on India by Ayub Khan. India which already had an experience with US military supplies during the 1948 war had then to face similar embargo in 1965 war. Where as the solid friendship with Moscow not only helped India fend of the anti India resolutions in the UN Security Council but also resulted in neutralizing Nixon’s direct threat in shape of a nuclear armed flotilla led by USS ENTERPRISE in the Bay of Bengal, during 1971 Indo Pak war.
The collapse of the Soviet Union did affect the relationship in many other spheres but defence purchases continued and kept growing. Though Russia faced internal political crisis and economic crisis of unprecedented level, the strategic relationship too losing a lot of shine, things managed to stay the course. Even with deeper Moscow Beijing relations, the Moscow Delhi friendship remained on more or less even keel. Around this time Americans started thinking that it was again a Unipolar world.
The Sukhoi MKI, Nuclear submarine CHAKRA, help for the ARIHANT series, Cryogenic engines, BRHAMOS and construction of Nuclear Power Plants are there for all to see. With such deep military ties both India and Russia should ensure further uplifting of relationship to the next level. India is rapidly moving towards No3 position as a World Economic Power. So it will certainly be in Russian interest to be fully aligned to us. At the same time, it will ensure for India that Sino Russian relations are properly balanced with Indo Russian relations and of course BRICS is there. Though Russians have to be bluntly but politely conveyed that there should be no action to try equating Pakistan at any level with India, it will be counterproductive.
The mutual trade between the two countries have been growing at a good pace. However it has to be given impetus to multiply at a faster pace. India can be a huge market for Russian gas, oil, minerals, and other goods and at the same time India can export much needed consumer durables to Russia which they cannot get from the West. The Arms trade will also multiply several folds as helicopters and frigates are in rhe pipeline. Then may be FGFA will come into picture because we will need a few squadrons of 5th/6th generation fighters. India is now consolidating on LCA and soon will begin the process to have its own MCA. However planning to replace the present HCA the Sukhoi 30 MKI will need to be started by 2025 onwards either with FGFA or something else. Our own HCA will replace the FGFA.
General Bipin Rawat recently stated that in spite of USA we went ahead with S400 deal, because “we follow an independent policy”. As per the General this he has been conveyed to Russian officials who were concerned about India moving closer to the United States at a time when the latter had imposed sanctions on Russia. This statement right after the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to India, are indicative of the government’s stance on own independent foreign policy. Also CAATSA is a domestic US legislation – not international sanctions. The onus is on the Trump to exercise the provision for requesting the US Congress for a waiver for India. India will never request the American administration for such a waiver. India follows an independent foreign policy and will thwart any such attempts. By now the World is becoming multipolar both militarily and economically.
In fact the US administration is itself divided on this issue. Trump himself regards the CAATSA as an attempt to constrain his dealings with Putin. Even the secretaries of defence and state apparently want a waiver for India because of the strategic importance of India. Yet, it is not clear that Trump will oblige because Trump is also keen to promote US military exports to India. Also he is being advised to use CAATS to bargain and extract concessions from India on trade issues.