During the cold war years, India, while not a member of any block due to its non-aligned activism, enjoyed a proximity relationship with Russia. The close India-Russia relationship embraced intense potential, economic and military cooperation. This strategic cooperation reached its peak in 1971 with the shining 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 1975-80s, and Russia’s 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 which rested the India-Russia strategic cooperation. Russia’s China First policy was vigorously pursued by President Yeltsin and received active pursuance by President Putin. Russia’s foreign policy document (Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation 20th July 2000) is reflective of Russia’s China First policy.
At the turn of the decade, India which so heavily rested for its national security interests on the strategic cooperation with Russia is faced with the crucial question “Is it the 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 implications for India.
Following conclusions can be made:
• India should diplomatically tackle the Russian angle and be self-reliant while continuing its traditional friendship with Russia.
• India should explore and exercise alternative strategic options which further its national interests.
• India should decrease its military dependence on Russia.
India should not enter into the creation of any multipolar initiation of the kind Russia-China-India triangle. These are highly inadvisable.