India and Russia have been brought even closer due to the sanctions regime and trade disputes that happened as a result of the Ukraine crisis.
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The Ukraine crisis has revealed a significant change in how international relations are structured. The acceleration of Russia’s shift toward Asia and the difference in interests between the major powers are examples of how this shows itself.
The breakdown is an indication of a deeper process: A rift in mutual understanding something that is not only a current-year phenomena.
Due to its hazy and unstable nature, we can rarely pinpoint the start date, but the symptoms are clear. A world in disarray can be seen in the sanctions regime, trade disputes, debates about COVID-19, protectionism, Iran and North Korea’s nuclear challenges, and the US exit from Afghanistan, to name just a few.
The growing gap and misunderstanding have further widened as a result of the current situation. A certain amount of introspection and a reevaluation of the ideals and tenets of collaboration on all levels are required in light of the current situation. At least from Moscow, everything appears to be this way.
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However, the presence of similar signals in other parts of the world suggests that reconfiguration difficulties are especially relevant. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, the minister of external affairs for India, spoke persuasively about this issue during the Raisina Dialogue.
He stressed that the current crisis might be a “wake-up call” for Europe to also consider things that have been happening in Asia for the past 10 years while countering criticism of New Delhi’s stance. This reflects the somnambulistic state, which is marked by a disregard for the crises in Asia and an ignorance of the national interests of the Global South.
For instance, it is clearly clear that Western countries view India with the attitude “you are either with us, or against us.” Given that for the first two months of the Ukrainian Crisis, the EU countries accounted for more than 70% of Russian fossil fuel exports, and the share of the US imports exceeds that of India, such a stance appears especially unfounded. Furthermore, it appears that Western attitudes reflect a lack of knowledge about India’s place in the world and the history of the country’s development.
Three pillars formed the foundation of India’s political culture after it attained independence: the desire for greater political and economic status, the neutrality principle, and the efforts to take and spread its moral stance as a voice of the post-colonial world wherever possible.
Jawaharlal Nehru made a point of taking a balanced approach to policymaking even before the nation gained its independence, and finally the macro-objectives of this foreign policy came to be accepted by the entire country.
On the global stage, this mindset was institutionalized in the Non-Aligned movement and modified in “multi-alignment” following the demise of the bipolar system. In fact, India’s policy did occasionally resemble that of the US and the USSR, but it also tried to balance out those countries’ positions.
The core of India’s foreign policy, which pursues a well-balanced position and expresses the interests of developing nations, hasn’t changed fundamentally despite this. In general, this policy protected the nation’s functional, coexistential, and existential interests at the time.
Durable economic growth that was initially focused on the domestic market forms the foundation of the functional aspect. Reforms on liberalization provided an external dimension to this element around the turn of the century. Despite certain socioeconomic challenges, India has emerged as one of the world’s largest economic powers.
The interaction of the interests and guiding principles of India’s national policy can be described as the developmental pattern. Many people in India believed that American policy was detrimental to the three aforementioned elements.
Examples include the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and the hard-to-predict sanctions stance adopted by two successive administrations towards Iran.
The limits imposed introduced a degree of uncertainty, which impeded economic and connectivity cooperation and impacted energy security, a topic of major relevance to India’s economy, despite the fact that India and the US tried to calibrate their positions on Chabahar port and oil imports.
The only option to reevaluate the values is to discover new goal-oriented channels and sources of cooperation because the current crisis does not signify attempts to establish mutual understanding.
This would also apply to Russia, which is looking to Asia for economic opportunities. It might also be referring to India, which will profit politically and financially by serving as a bridge between the two countries, as well as from its expanded role as a global economic hub.
One of the main focuses of Russia and India’s tried-and-true cooperation is a military sphere that has stood the test of time. For instance, India’s military imports provided the Russian sector with a lifeline after the fall of the Soviet Union. However, there is still potential for improvement given that the entire commodities turnover is only $12 billion, or 1.3 percent of all trade.
Russia has historically played a significant role in ensuring India has access to edible oil and fertilizers, despite the country’s low dependence on agricultural imports, which is falling as a result of rising domestic production. The Russian Federation is aware that India is adopting a more export-oriented stance as the crisis progresses. A conflict of interest is not necessarily implied by this.
First off, the country is not immune to climatic anomalies, particularly heat waves, cyclones, and floods, despite having relatively huge grain reserves. Second, domestic consumption will, in the mid-term perspective., guarantee the demand for products like wheat, oil, fodder (due to the large increase of animals), and others.
This area of cooperation is even more appealing due to low-cost transactions. Thirdly, if there is a pressing need to guarantee food security, mutually beneficial partnerships might be expanded to other countries. For instance, it will aid in “mitigating” Bangladesh’s occasional tensions with India over migration.
India is now undertaking energy transition efforts with the goal of raising the share of renewable energy sources. The government’s commitment to ensuring the country’s energy security is the most important factor in this situation, and conventional energy sources won’t see a significant drop in their function.
In terms of supplies of coal, gas, and oil, Russia can be a successful business partner. Through such cooperation, external dangers that contributed to the coal crisis and energy shortage in some states last year would be avoided, opening the door to the potential of a discount arrangement that would result in financial profits.
The national budget would lose more than $1 billion for every dollar a barrel of oil increased in price. Due to this, India has doubled its orders for Russian oil from 2021 and is already raising its shareholdings in the Sakhalin-1 project. In addition, cooperation in the energy sector is very advantageous for both parties given the steady increase in gas shares, which is encouraged by programs like “One Nation, One Gas Grid.”
What is sometimes overlooked is that Russia can lend assistance to India’s energy transition initiatives. First, the development of small hydropower plants in Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir will help to end energy shortages. Second, collaborative efforts in the field of nuclear energy have proven successful not just in India but also in other nations. Take the Rooppur Power Plant as an illustration. Energy multilateral regional projects (like the Nepal-Bhutan-Bangladesh initiative) will become more and more important.
The logistical infrastructure will need to be improved for several bilateral projects. The development of India and Russia’s connectivity cooperation was slow for a very long period. They are now prioritized on the agenda. First and foremost, updates are being made to the North-South and Chennai-Vladivostok transport corridors, and their joint execution will increase supply stability. Russia is currently stepping up talks with Iran, a nation that can act as a “fulcrum” for several trade-related problems. Along with boosting bilateral trade, this will help Russian regions’ infrastructure development. It could also serve as India’s entryway to the “extended neighborhood,” which includes Central Asia.
India’s trade volume there, however, is well below not only the benchmarks set by China and Russia. Additionally, it lags substantially behind other neighborhoods in terms of trade levels. Over 11% of India’s overall trade is conducted on a bilateral basis with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Meanwhile, the trade level with Central Asia is more than 50 times lower.
Theoretically, this project will strengthen India’s standing in the region and might operate as a “counterbalance” to China’s assertive economic policy, which is a major source of worry for the Central Asian leaders. The INSTC will offer a different route to Europe, which is likewise heavily reliant on Chinese goods and with which India just signed a connectivity partnership agreement.
The marine route between Chennai and Vladivostok is becoming increasingly significant as the Indo-Pacific region receives more attention. India does not consider this conceptual underpinning as a tactic or as a club with a few number of members. The nation wants to keep multiple powers from controlling the area’s waterways. Thus, there is a chance to further connectivity initiatives in order to promote bilateral commerce and the regional contributions of Russia and India. In addition, South-East Asia may view Russia’s expanded position favorably if India can serve as a viable option in Central Asia.
The potential for cooperation may actually be achieved in a variety of fields, from heavy industry to disaster-resilient infrastructure and smart city initiatives, and is not just restricted to the ones mentioned above. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gave an excellent explanation of the Russian position to India Today. “With India, we supported Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s concept of ‘Make in India’. We started substituting the simple trade with local production, shifting production of the goods needed by India on their territory,” the official stated.
In conclusion, the ability to find shared interests and create projects that are practice-oriented and mutually beneficial is particularly crucial during challenging times. This is how friendship is tested.
The Russian administration is also aware that “eternal friendship” does not exist in foreign policy and that India will act in its own best interests. If past international relations were not always expected to have a solid economic base, things are now changing. The search for shared interests led to the development of the strategic alliance between the Soviet Union and India.
Economic ties are more important today than ever before, thus the nations must re-discover areas of economic convergence and create unique forms of cooperation. There is a great need for political will from both sides, which originates from the history of our friendship and the idea of mutual respect, for them to become the hallmark of India-Russia cooperation.