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Should India be more allied with the USA or Russia?

Walking the Tightrope: India's Strategic Balancing Act Between the US and Russia


India, the world's largest democracy, finds itself in a unique geopolitical situation. With a long-standing partnership with Russia and a burgeoning relationship with the US, India navigates a delicate balance between these two global powers. 

The Legacy of Indo-Soviet Ties: 

For decades, India's defense sector heavily relied on Russia (formerly the Soviet Union). From fighter jets to missiles, Russia remains a crucial supplier of military equipment. This deep-rooted partnership extends beyond defense, encompassing areas like nuclear energy cooperation. 

A Postage stamp, that shows the telephone connection between USSR and India

The relationship between India and the Soviet Union (USSR), though a product of the Cold War era, left an indelible mark on India's strategic posture and continues to influence its foreign policy choices today. Let's delve deeper into this legacy:

Foundations of Friendship:

Indian PM Narendra Modi with Putin 

Shared Ideology: 

Both India, under Nehruvian socialism, and the USSR subscribed to an anti-colonial worldview, fostering a sense of solidarity.

Countering Western Dominance: India, wary of Western dominance, found a counterweight in the USSR, which supported its non-aligned stance.
Pillars of Partnership:

Military Cooperation: 

The USSR emerged as India's primary supplier of defense equipment, from MiG fighter jets to T-series tanks. This dependence continues today, with Russia (the USSR's successor state) fulfilling a significant portion of India's military needs.

Russian Made S400 Missile Sysytem

Economic Collaboration: 

The USSR played a crucial role in India's industrial development, assisting in setting up major steel plants, power stations, and heavy industries. This laid the groundwork for India's self-sufficiency in certain sectors.

Diplomatic Support: 

The USSR consistently backed India on the international stage, particularly during the Indo-Pakistani wars and the Bangladesh Liberation War. This unwavering support cemented trust between the two nations.

The Enduring Impact:


Strategic Culture:

India's strategic outlook, emphasizing self-reliance and a focus on border security, was heavily influenced by the Soviet emphasis on a strong military.

Defense Reliance: 
Despite diversification, Russia remains a vital source of spare parts and ongoing maintenance for Soviet-era equipment, forming the backbone of India's military arsenal.

Nuclear Cooperation: 
Indo-Soviet cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy continues, with Russia assisting in the construction and operation of nuclear power plants in India.

Beyond Nostalgia:

Indira Gandhi with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

The nature of the relationship has evolved since the USSR's collapse. While the strategic partnership has weakened to some extent, the legacy endures:

Russia as a Counterweight: 

India still views Russia as a strategic partner, particularly as a counterweight to China's growing influence. Both India and Russia share concerns about terrorism and Islamic extremism, creating opportunities for continued security cooperation.
Economic Ties: While trade has declined, Russia remains a source of energy imports for India, and both nations explore avenues for renewed economic engagement. 

The legacy of Indo-Soviet ties goes beyond mere historical significance. It continues to shape India's strategic calculus and influences its foreign policy choices in the 21st century.

The Rise of the US-India Strategic Partnership: 

Recent years have witnessed a significant strengthening of ties between India and the US. Converging interests in counter-terrorism, maritime security, and the rise of China have fostered this strategic partnership. The US has emerged as a major source of advanced defense technology for India. 

President Carter visits India in 1978

From Cold War Rivalry to Strategic Convergence: A Look at the Recent India-US Relationship :

The relationship between India and the United States has undergone a dramatic transformation in recent decades. Once marked by Cold War suspicion, ties have blossomed into a strategic partnership driven by shared interests and growing convergence on regional issues. 

A Historical Thaw:

The seeds for this shift were sown in the 1990s with the end of the Cold War. Strategic concerns, particularly China's growing influence, and economic liberalization in India opened doors for cooperation. The landmark civil nuclear deal in 2008 marked a turning point, normalizing nuclear trade and fostering closer ties. 


Defense and Security:

The US has become a major source of advanced military equipment for India, with joint military exercises and increased defense technology transfer becoming commonplace. Both nations collaborate on counter-terrorism initiatives and maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Economic Cooperation:

Bilateral trade has flourished, making the US India's largest trading partner. Both countries are actively involved in regional economic initiatives like the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF). 

People-to-People Ties:

A vibrant educational exchange fosters deeper understanding. The large Indian diaspora in the US contributes significantly to cultural and economic ties. 

Challenges and Opportunities:

Narendra Modi with USA President Biden

While the relationship is on a positive trajectory, some challenges remain: 

Balancing Act:

India's long-standing ties with Russia can create friction with the US, particularly regarding defense purchases. 

Trade Issues:

Disagreements on agricultural subsidies and intellectual property rights can occasionally impede economic cooperation. 

SCO Considerations:

This article avoids mentioning any sensitive political or military alliances (like QUAD) that could be viewed negatively by SCO members. The focus remains on the positive aspects of economic and security cooperation. 

India & USA military Exercise

Security Concerns with Russia and the USA: 

Russia: A reliable supplier of military hardware, critical for India's border disputes with China and Pakistan. 

US: Provides cutting-edge technology and potential support in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Economic Considerations: 

Russia: A vital source of energy imports, particularly crude oil. 
US: A major trading partner and a potential source of investment.

Beyond the Binary: 

Instead of a binary choice, India might explore a "multi-alignment" strategy, fostering deeper partnerships based on specific needs:

Defense: Joint exercises and technology transfer with both the US and Russia. Energy: Diversifying energy sources beyond Russia, including US LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) imports. 
Technology: Collaboration with both the US and Russia in areas like space exploration and artificial intelligence. 


The Indian Way Forward: 

India's strategic calculus will prioritize its national interests – security, economic growth, and regional stability. By maintaining strong ties with both the US and Russia, India can leverage this strategic partnership to achieve its long-term goals.

Despite these challenges, the future of the India-US relationship appears bright. Both nations recognize the strategic importance of a strong partnership in a multipolar world. Areas like clean energy collaboration, space exploration, and joint efforts to tackle global health challenges present exciting opportunities for further cooperation.

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