According to various researches, China will inevitably become world’s largest economy by 2050, followed by India, while the United States will only be able to rank third. As of now, India’s population is already surpassing 1.2 billion people, and the numbers keep growing. It’s curious that the total population of the European Union barely reaches 510 million people, and among its states birth rates have been on a sliding slope for a long while.
That is precisely why there’s a growing number of international players that have been carefully monitoring every step that New Delhi makes in hopes of establishing close bilateral ties with the rapidly developing Asian giant that can lead to a possible economic cooperation. For instance, the latest visit of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Russia followed by his trip to Kazakhstan made to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit has drawn a massive amount of attention from all sorts of analysts. It is expected that those steps will not simply give a new momentum to the development of Indian-Russian relations, but could also revive the project of the North-South International Transport Corridor that is being negotiated for years to no apparent result. India views large infrastructure projects as a means of expanding its influence in those regions of the world where China has already established a firm footing by advertising its One Belt, One Road initiative, getting European states involved in an unprecedented level of cooperation with Asian states.
Some voices have recently been saying that India is playing its own game, pitting the US against Russia in a bid to gain certain advantages at a negotiation table. Indeed, relations between the United States and India over the last decade have been evolving into a close strategic partnership, with the US Department of Defense naming India a major defence partner, once a Defense Technology Trade Initiative that was designed specifically for New Delhi has been established.
But India famously values its non-alignment in foreign policy, therefore it enjoys its long-standing relationship with Russia without any limitations. Even today, Russia remains India’s primary arms supplier as the US has always been picky about introducing all sorts of restrictions as far as future use of its arms is concerned, while Russian arms come with very few strings attached.
In spite of the difficult geopolitical situation, the ties between Russia and India are only getting stronger and there is a pretty simple explanation one can give for this phenomenon. Washington’s crumbling positions in the world have given the Eurasian region a new impulse for development. Both China and India are simply unafraid to enjoy close ties with Russia, they are able also capable of defending their position along with their own interests.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the most populated country in the world – India and the largest democratic on the world map – Russia. While India has been signing cooperation deals with well over twenty countries of the world, back in 2010 both Moscow and New Delhi agreed that their relations could be defined as “special and privileged.”
Both Moscow and Delhi have been particularly interested in developing various aspects of the bilateral relations. It won’t be much of a surprise for those who follow the topic that about 50% of all the military equipment Indian armed forces are using was produced in Russia. But at the same time most analysts are ignorant of the fact that Moscow and New Delhi have agreed to carry out a joint fight against cybercrime. The total trade turnover between the two countries amounts to tens of billions of dollars.
At the National New Delhi Research Center has recently stated in one of its papers, Russia has become India’s most important strategic partner, followed by the United States, France, Britain, Germany and Japan. This study showed that for more than a decade Russia has been providing strong political and diplomatic support to India, and has played a pivotal role in the strengthening of its defense potential. However, the report also notes that the economic aspect of the Indo-Russian relations is relatively weak, therefore urgent and decisive steps are to be proposed to improve economic ties so that the partnership between the two countries remains stable and predictable.
As it’s been noted by the Foreign Policy recently:
Modi’s government may have preferred a successful rapprochement between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, just as American resistance to Chinese aggression would be most welcome in New Delhi. But it can live with a chilly US-Russian relationship and a seemingly chummy start to Trump’s relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping — as long as Washington never demands that India stop working so closely with Russia.
So it’s safe to say that India is capable of making its own decisions about the friends it wants to make.
Grete Mautner is an independent researcher and journalist from Germany, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”