India-Russia Relations

AUG 26

Mains   > International relations   >   India and Global Powers   >   India-Russia


  • India and Russia agreed to form a permanent bilateral channel for consultations on Afghanistan, after a telephone conversation between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin.


  • Relations with Russia are a key pillar of India’s foreign policy, and Russia has been a longstanding time-tested partner of India.
  • In the years after its independence, support from Soviet Union has been key in India’s space, technological and nuclear advancement.
  • During the Cold War era, India also found support from the USSR on strategic issues such as the Jammu and Kashmir problem.
  • The Indo-Soviet Friendship Treaty of 1971 provided the framework to deepen the cooperation.
  • Following the soviet disintegration and India’s LPG reforms in 1991, the relations underwent pragmatic changes and economic interests became the focal point.
  • Both countries signed “Declaration on the India-Russia Strategic Partnership” in October 2000.


  • Political:
    • Both countries have established strong institutional dialogue mechanisms, like annual diplomatic summits, to discuss cooperation in bilateral and multilateral issues of mutual interest such as the recent Afghan crisis.
    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Vladivostok in 2019 for the 20th India-Russia Bilateral Summit.
  • Defence:
    • Military-technical cooperation has been at the center of the bilateral relationship. Russia is the largest arms supplier to India and there are several joint ventures.
    • Eg: BrahMos Missile System and Indo-Russian Rifles Pvt. Ltd. for production of AK Series Assault Rifles in India.
  • Security cooperation:
    • The two countries hold exchanges and training exercises between their armed forces periodically. Eg: Exercise INDRA; Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) under SCO.
  • Trade and investment:
    • Trade between Russia and India amounted to USD 10.11 billion in 2019–20 and both countries have invested in each other's oil and gas sectors. They have set a bilateral trade target of USD 30 billion and bilateral investment of USD 50 billion by 2025.
    • Also, Indian government has decided to provide loans to Indian companies willing to implement projects in various areas in the Russian Far East.
  • Civil nuclear energy:
    • Russia is an important partner for India in civilian nuclear energy sector. In 2014, DAE and Russia’s Rosatom signed the Strategic Vision for strengthening cooperation in peaceful uses of atomic energy. Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) is built with Russian cooperation.
    • Also, Russia and India are cooperating in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project.
  • Connectivity:


  • Space:
    • Both sides cooperate in the peaceful uses of outer space, including satellite launches, cryogenics, GLONASS navigation system, remote sensing and other societal applications of outer space. The agencies are cooperating in India’s Human Spaceflight Program – Gaganyaan.
  • Multilateral cooperation:
    • Russia has been a long-standing supporter of India’s membership of the UN Security council and the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
    • India and Russia collaborate in several other multilateral forums, such as the BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
  • Cultural cooperation:
    • There is strong interest among Russian people in Indian dance, music, yoga and Ayurveda. Jawaharlal Nehru Cultural Centre, Moscow, established in 1989, has been mandated with the task of maintaining India’s cultural relations with Russian Federation. Indian-Russian Working Groups and Cultural Exchange Programme cater to the cultural and tourism needs of both the countries.


  • All-weather ally:
    • Russia has consistently supported India over the years. For eg: Russia has consistently supported India on the Kashmir issue and the demands for UNSC reforms.
  • Uphold Multilateralism:
    • Both Russia and India support the concept of a multi-polar world. That is why they insist on RIC (Russia-India-China), BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
  • Energy basket diversification:
    • India is actively pursuing a gas-based economy and Russia is a leading supplier of natural gas. India has agreed to import LNG worth an estimated USD 25 billion over 20 years from Russia.

Gas based economy:

  • Counterweight to USA:
    • Russia is a key element in India’s balancing act in foreign diplomacy. Eg: India needs strong cooperation with Russia to counter the occasional overbearing from USA.
  • Development of Indian industries:
    • India-Russia military technical cooperation has evolved from a buyer-seller framework to one involving joint research, development and production of advanced defence technologies and systems. Further expansion is key for India to emerge as a global manufacturing hub.
  • Resolve Afghan issue:
    • Like Russia, India is concerned about the spread of extremism and radicalism beyond Afghan borders. Moscow, being a dominant player in the region, could be helpful for New Delhi in reaching out to various Afghan players, particularly Taliban.
  • India’s Central Asian ambitions:
    • Strong relations with Russia is pivotal for India to tap into the energy and market potentials of Central Asia.


  • Russia-US relations:
    • The stagnation in US-Russia relations does not augur well for New Delhi's strategic interests. The growing distance between the US and Russia brings Russia closer to China and constrains India’s strategic choices.
  • Conflicting ties:
    • Russia’s growing alignment with China and Pakistan is proving to be a sticking point for India. There is also growing anxiety in Moscow over New Delhi’s deepening security ties with Washington, both bilaterally and through the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue.
  • China factor:
    • Russia is turning out to be a junior partner in Russia-China relationship. This does not bode well for India.
  • Potential US sanctions over India:
    • Washington has repeatedly warned India that it could face sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) for the purchase of S-400 missile system from Russia.
  • Indo-Pacific strategy:
    • India’s growing strategic partnership with the US, Japan and Australia conflicts with Russia’s interests. For India, the Indo-Pacific is a geographic space of economic and security importance, in which a cooperative order should prevent the dominance of any external power. However, Russia and China see the initiatives as part of a U.S.-led policy of containing them.
  • Russia’s domestic issues:
    • Russia’s annexation of Crimea, alleged poisoning of opposition leader etc. have resulted in the country having poor relations with European and Atlantic powers. This is a hinderance for India in expanding its cooperation with Russia.
  • Weak connectivity:
    • Connectivity between both countries is limited. Despite years of talks, INSTC is yet to begin. There is also the linguistic barrier, preventing strong people to people relations.
  • Question over Arctic resources:
    • With global warming opening up Arctic Sea, countries are hoping to make the region part of the global commons. However, Russia is against this idea, thereby contradicting with India’s interests in the region.

India & Arctic region:


  • Strengthen ties with Russia:
    • Russia is India’s all-weather friend and critical to India’s non-aligned foreign policy. Hence, India should take measures to strengthen this with Russia.
  • Promote economic relations:
    • Encouraging economic links with the Russian Far East and activation of Chennai-Vladivostok maritime corridor could help persuade Russia into retracing its relationship with India.
  • Promote connectivity:
    • India should seek to strengthen its presence in Central Asia through connectivity with Russia and other Central Asian countries. For this, projects such as the International North South Transit Corridor project and TAPI project needs to be completed at the earliest.
  • Capitalise on post-pandemic recovery:
    • COVID-19 could trigger a change, which should be capitalised by India in matters of global governance. India could utilise its relations with Russia and its centrality in SCO and BRICS to push forward global reforms and redevelopment strategies.
  • Leverage on anti-China sentiments:
    • Russia is aware of the growing asymmetry of its ties with China. India needs to capitalize on this and promote stronger economic, strategic and technological ties with Russia.
  • Encourage private sector cooperation:
    • India should encourage businesses and other interested parties to participate more with Russian entities.


Q. Contemporary geopolitical events have made Indo-Russian relations more significant. Elaborate?