Russian President Vladimir Putin with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Leaders’ Summit in Samarkand on September 16, 2022. “Today’s era is not an era of war, and I spoke to you on the phone about that,” Modi said. Putin during a televised meeting.
Alexander Demyanchuk | Afp | Getty Images
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have publicly rebuked Russian President Vladimir Putin for the war in Ukraine, but the long-standing friendship between the two countries will not fade away, analysts say.
“Today’s age is not an age of war, and I talked to you about that on the phone.” Modi announced this to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during a televised meeting at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, two weeks ago.
It marked a change in tone from the early days of the war, when India was seen as reluctant to criticize Russia, given its abstention from a UN vote that condemned the country for, among other things, the invasion.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in turn, claimed that Russia and India are “friends”, a month after the invasion of Ukraine.
But despite India’s apparent shift in its stance on war, India still needs Russia, CNBC analysts said.
“India is in the unique position of needing Russia in the short term to manage China,” said Harsh V. Pant, vice president for research and foreign policy at the Observer Research Foundation, a Delhi-based think tank.
Pant added that India needs the West in its long-term relationship with China, calling the latter “India’s most important strategic rival”.
China and India have been embroiled in a two-year border dispute in the Himalayas, although the armies of both sides have recently begun to diverge on the western side. But both still had it thousands of soldiers lined up along the de facto border known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The future of China-India relations will be complex, said Raymond Vickery, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
On a the regular briefing of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of India in AugustWhen asked about Delhi’s approach to the One China policy, the spokesperson confirmed that India’s policy is “consistent” and “needs no repetition”.
“Besides, there is a whole The Belt and Road Initiative.which is really designed to eventually give China control over the Indo-Pacific region,” Vickery said.
The BRI is China’s ambitious program to build physical and digital infrastructure to connect hundreds of countries from Asia to the Middle East, Africa and Europe. Critics consider it a landmark foreign policy of Chinese President Xi Jinping to expand his country’s global influence.
During the recent SCO meeting, India refrained from confirming China’s support for the BRI.
According to analysts, Russia is a key military partner and the main supplier of weapons to India.
“The bulk of India’s conventional weapons come from Russia,” said Samir Lalwani, a senior expert at the US Institute of Peace. “[This] meaning it has been heavily dependent on Russia for the supply of forces, including spare parts, maintenance and upgrades for many years.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, India was the first the main importer of Russian weapons from 2017 to 2021and Russian equipment accounted for 46% of India’s arms imports.
While this is a far cry from the 80% figure during the Cold War, it still reflects India’s “huge dependence” on Russia, Pant said, especially as tensions between India and China remain “very active”.
“Russia remains the most important for India [military] partner,” he added.
India too increased purchases of Russian oil after the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, taking advantage of preferential rates.
India’s long-standing friendship with Russia will not disappear — thanks to its military dependence, according to Lalwani.
“Even as India seeks to further indigenize its defense capabilities, without a staggering and financially exorbitant overhaul of its force structure, it will continue to depend on Russian weapons, ammunition and components for decades,” Lalwani said.
He added that India’s export of cruise missiles to Southeast Asian countries cannot function without Russian propulsion systems.
“Even if military relations between India and Russia are on the decline, they will still continue for decades.”