Wednesday, 04 January 2012 12:11



During the Cold War, India and the Soviet Union (USSR) enjoyed a strong strategic, military, economic and diplomatic relationship. After the collapse of the USSR, Russia inherited the close relationship with India, even as India improved its relations with the West after the end of the Cold War.

India is the second largest market for the Russian defence industry. In 2004, more than 70% of the Indian Military's hardware came from Russia, making Russia the chief supplier of defence equipment. More recently, the defence relationship has been strained due to repeated price escalations by Russia over the sale of the aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, the delays in delivery of critical defence equipment and the elimination of the Mikoyan MiG-35 from the Indian MRCA competition.

India has an embassy in Moscow and 2 Consulates-General (in Saint Petersburg and Vladivostok). Russia has an embassy in New Delhi and 4 Consulates-General (in Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai).

Soviet Union and India

A cordial relationship with India that began in the 1950s represented the most successful of the Soviet attempts to foster closer relations with Third World countries. The relationship began with a visit by Indian Prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru to the Soviet Union in June 1955 and Khrushchev's return trip to India in the fall of 1955. While in India, Khrushchev announced that the Soviet Union supported Indian sovereignty over the disputed territory of the Kashmir region and over Portuguese coastal enclaves.

The Soviet relationship with India rankled the Chinese and contributed to Sino-Soviet enmity during the Khrushchev period. The Soviet Union declared its neutrality during the 1959 border dispute and the Indo-China war of 1962, although the Chinese strongly objected. The Soviet Union gave India substantial economic and military assistance during the Khrushchev period, and by 1960 India had received more Soviet assistance than China had. This disparity became another point of contention in Sino-Soviet relations. In 1962 the Soviet Union agreed to transfer technology to co-produce the MiG-21 jet fighter in India, which the Soviet Union had earlier denied to China.

In 1965 the Soviet Union served successfully as peace broker between India and Pakistan after an Indian-Pakistani border war. The Soviet Chairman of the Council of Ministers, literally Premier of the Soviet Union, Alexei Kosygin, met with representatives of India and Pakistan and helped them negotiate an end to the military conflict over Kashmir.

In 1971 the former East Pakistan region initiated an effort to secede from its political union with West Pakistan. India supported the secession and, as a guarantee against possible Chinese entrance into the conflict on the side of West Pakistan, signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation with the Soviet Union in August 1971. In December, India entered the conflict and ensured the victory of the secessionists and the establishment of the new state of Bangladesh.

Relations between the Soviet Union and India did not suffer much during the rightist Janata Party's coalition government in the late 1970s, although India did move to establish better economic and military relations with Western countries. To counter these efforts by India to diversify its relations, the Soviet Union proffered additional weaponry and economic assistance.

During the 1980s, despite the 1984 assassination by Sikh separatists of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the mainstay of cordial Indian-Soviet relations, India maintained a close relationship with the Soviet Union. Indicating the high priority of relations with the Soviet Union in Indian foreign policy, the new Indian Prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, visited the Soviet Union on his first state visit abroad in May 1985 and signed two long-term economic agreements with the Soviet Union. In turn, Gorbachev's first visit to a Third World state was his meeting with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in New Delhi in late 1986. Gorbachev unsuccessfully urged Gandhi to help the Soviet Union set up an Asian collective security system. Gorbachev's advocacy of this proposal, which had also been made by Brezhnev, was an indication of continuing Soviet interest in using close relations with India as a means of containing China. With the improvement of Sino-Soviet relations in the late 1980s, containing China had less of a priority, but close relations with India remained important as an example of Gorbachev's new Third World policy.

Soviet active measures in India

Active Measures were a form of political warfare conducted by the Soviet security services (Cheka, OGPU, NKVD, KGB) to influence the course of world events. The Mitrokhin archive, which was smuggled to the West in 1992, revealed that the number of newspapers directly on KGB payroll reached ten by 1973, while numerous other newspapers in India spread stories prepared by the KGB's disinformation experts. KGB also had a press agency [which?] under its control. During 1972 the KGB counted that it had planted 3,789 articles in Indian newspapers. In 1975 the number had increased to 5510. The KGB found that there was no shortage of Indian journalists and politicians willing to take money. Yuri Bezmenov, who worked as a KGB agent in India, provided information about the Soviet manipulation of Indian society. Vladimir Bukovsky smuggled some files about the KGB payments to the Communist Party of India, the Indian Congress Party, and the political elite.

Russia and India

Relations with India have always been and I am sure will be one of the most important foreign policy priorities of our country. Our mutual ties of friendship are filled with sympathy, and trust, and openness. And we must say frankly that they were never overshadowed by disagreements or conflict. This understanding - this is indeed the common heritage of our peoples. It is valued and cherished in our country, in Russia, and in India. And we are rightfully proud of so close, so close relations between our countries.

We are confident that India lives in the hearts of every Russian. In the same way, I can assure you that Russia also lives in our souls as a Homeland, as people who share our emotions, our feelings of mutual respect and constant friendship. Long live our friendship!

Military relations

The Prime Minister of India, in collaboration with External Affairs Ministry, handles key foreign policy decisions. Shown here is the current Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh with the former President of Russia, Vladimir Putin.

Defence relations between India and the Russian Federation have a historical perspective. The Soviet Union was an important supplier of defence equipment for several decades, and that relationship was inherited by Russia after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Today, the cooperation is not limited to a buyer-seller relationship but includes joint research and development, training, service to service contacts, including joint exercises. The last joint naval exercises took place in April 2007 in the Sea of Japan and joint airborne exercises were held in September 2007 in Russia. The last military exercise between Russian and Indian army units were held in Uttarakhand in October 2010. However, the bilateral relations seem to be strained with Russia cancelling both its 'Indra' series of military exercises with India for the year 2011. In April 2011, a flotilla of five warships from the Indian navy's eastern fleet that went for joint naval exercises to Vladivostok in the Russian far-east, was turned back without any manoeuvres. The joint army exercises scheduled to be held in Russia in June, 2011 was also cancelled shortly afterwards. One of the reasons given was that the MoD had not informed Moscow of the army exercises in advance.

An Inter-Governmental commission on military-technical cooperation is co-chaired by the Defence Ministers of the two countries. The Seventh session of this Inter-Governmental Commission was held in October 2007 in Moscow. During the visit, an agreement on joint development and production of prospective multi role fighters was signed between the two countries.

An India–Russia co-operation agreement was signed in December 1988. It has resulted in the sale of a multitude of defence equipment to India and also the emergence of the countries as development partners as opposed to purely a buyer-seller relationship. Two programmes that evidence this approach are the projects to form Indian-Russian joint ventures to develop and produce the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) and the Multirole Transport Aircraft (MTA). The agreement is pending a 10-year extension.

India and Russia have several major joint military programs including:

  • BrahMos cruise missile program
  • 5th generation fighter jet program
  • Sukhoi Su-30MKI program (230+ to be built by Hindustan Aeronautics)
  • Ilyushin/HAL Tactical Transport Aircraft

Additionally, India has purchased/leased various military hardware from Russia:

  • T-90S Bhishma with over 1000 to be built in India
  • Akula-II nuclear submarine (2 to be leased with an option to buy when the lease expires)
  • INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier program
  • Tu-22M3 bombers (4 ordered)
  • US$900 million upgrade of MiG-29
  • Mil Mi-17 (80 ordered)
  • Ilyushin Il-76 Candid (6 ordered to fit Israeli Phalcon radar)
  • The Farkhor Air Base in Tajikistan is currently jointly operated by India and Russia.

However, more recently the defense relationship between India and Russia has been drifting apart. The relationship has been strained due to delays and frequent pricing changes for INS Vikramaditya, and repeated delays in delivery of several critical defense systems. In May 2011, Russia canceled joint army and naval exercises with India allegedly in response to the elimination of Mikoyan MiG-35 from the Indian MRCA competition. An Indian Navy report to the Ministry of Defence referred to Russia as a fair-weather friend and recommended the review of Russia's status as a strategic partner.

Economic relations

Indian and Russian diplomats holding talks at Hyderabad House in New Delhi

Bilateral trade turnover is modest and stood at US$ 3 billion in 2006–07, of which Indian exports to Russia were valued at US$ 908 million. The major Indian exports to Russia are pharmaceuticals; tea, coffee and spices; apparel and clothing; edible preparations; and engineering goods. Main Indian imports from Russia are iron and steel; fertilizers; non-ferrous metals; paper products; coal, coke & briquettes; cereals; and rubber. Indo-Russian trade is expected to reach US$10 billion by 2010.

The India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation (IRIGC) is co-chaired by India's External Affairs Minister and the Russian Deputy Prime Minister. There are six Joint Working Groups [WG] under the IRIGC, namely, WG on Trade and Economy [trade and financial matters], WG on Energy [oil and gas, thermal and hydel power, non-conventional energy], WG on Metallurgy and Mining [steel, non-ferrous metal, coal], WG on Science & Technology; WG on Communication and Information Technology; and WG on Culture and Tourism. The 13th of the IRIGC was held in Moscow on 12 October 2007.

The two countries have set up India-Russia Forum on Trade and Investment at the level of the two Commerce Ministers to promote trade, investment and economic cooperation. The first Forum was held in New Delhi on 12–13 February 2007, which was attended by the Minister of Commerce and Industry and the Russian Minister of Economic Development and Trade, apart from a large number of business representatives from both sides. The Minister of Commerce & Industry, Shri Kamal Nath participated in the 11th Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum on 9–10 June 2007.

In February 2006, India and Russia also set up a Joint Study Group to examine ways to increase trade to US$ 10 billion by 2010 and to study feasibility of a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA). The group finalized its report after its fourth meeting in Moscow in July 2007. It has been agreed that a Joint Task Force would monitor the implementation of the recommendation made in the Joint Study Group Report, including considering CECA.

The second BRIC summit was held in Brasilia in April 2010.

Cooperation in the Energy sector

Energy sector is an important area in Indo-Russian bilateral relations. In 2001, ONGC-Videsh Limited acquired 20% stake in the Sakhalin-I oil and gas project in the Russian Federation, and has invested about US $ 1.7 billion in the project. The Russian company Gazprom and Gas Authority of India Ltd. have collaborated in joint development of a block in the Bay of Bengal. Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project with two units of 1000 MW each is a good example of Indo-Russian nuclear energy cooperation. Both sides have expressed interest in expanding cooperation in the energy sector.

In December 2008, Russia and India signed an agreement to build civilian nuclear reactors in India during a visit by the Russian president to New Delhi.

Space Cooperation

Space is another key sector of cooperation between the two countries. During President Vladimir Putin's visit to India in December 2004, two space-related bilateral agreements were signed viz. Inter-Governmental umbrella Agreement on cooperation in the outer space for peaceful purposes and the Inter Space Agency Agreement on cooperation in the Russian satellite navigation system "GLONASS". Subsequently a number of follow-up agreements on GLONASS have been signed. In November 2007, the two countries have signed an agreement on joint lunar exploration. These space cooperation programmes are under implementation. Chandrayaan-2 is a joint lunar exploration mission proposed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Russian Federal Space Agency (RKA) and has a projected cost of 425 crore (US$90 million). The mission, proposed to be launched in 2013 by a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) launch vehicle, includes a lunar orbiter and a rover made in India as well as one lander built by Russia.

Science and Technology

The ongoing cooperation in the field of science & technology, under the Integrated Long-Term Programme of cooperation (ILTP) is the largest cooperation programme in this sphere for both India and Russia. ILTP is coordinated by the Department of Science and Technology from the Indian side and by the Russian Academy of Sciences and Russian Ministry of Industry & Science and Technology from the Russian side. Development of SARAS Duet aircraft, semiconductor products, super computers, poly-vaccines, laser science and technology, seismology, high-purity materials, software & IT and Ayurveda have been some of the priority areas of co-operation under the ILTP. Under this programme, eight joint Indo- Russian centres have been established to focus on joint research and development work. Two other Joint Centres on Non-ferrous Metals and Accelerators and Lasers are being set up in India. A Joint Technology Centre based in Moscow to bring cutting edge technologies to the market is also under processing. An ILTP Joint Council met in Moscow on 11–12 October 2007 to review cooperation and give it further direction. In August 2007, an MoU was signed between Department of Science and Technology and Russian Foundation of Basic Research, Moscow to pursue scientific cooperation.

North-South Transport Corridor

The "North-South" Transport Corridor Agreement [INSTC] has been ratified by all the three original signatory states, viz. India, Iran and Russia, and has come into force since 16 May, 2002. This route is expected to reduce the cost of movement of goods between India and Russia and beyond. The 3rd Coordination Council Meeting of the INSTC was held in October 2005 in New Delhi and the 4th meeting was held in Aktau, Kazakhstan in October 2007 to discuss further streamlining the operation of the corridor.

Cooperation in the sphere of Culture

India–Russia relations in the field of culture are historical. Five Chairs relating to Indology have been established in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Kazan and Vladivostok. Days of Russian Culture were held in India in November 2003, in Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai. "Days of Indian Culture" in Russia were organized from September- October 2005 in Russia. 130th birth anniversary of Nikolai Roerich and 100th birth anniversary of Svyatoslav Roerich were celebrated in India in October 2004. Chief Minister of National Capital Territory of Delhi led a delegation for participating in the event "Days of Delhi in Moscow" from 28 May-1 June 2006. The "Year of Russia in India" was held in 2008. It was followed by the "Year of India in Russia" in 2009. There is a Hindi Department, in the University of Moscow.


On international terrorism, India and Russia agree that there is no justification for terrorism, and this must be fought against, without compromise and wherever it exists. Russia has supported the Indian draft at the UN on Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism [CCIT]. The two sides signed a MoU on cooperation in combating terrorism in December 2002. A Joint Working Group on Combating International Terrorism meets from time to time and its fourth meeting was held in Delhi on 24 October 2006.Both Russia and India have faced the problem of terrorism, India has seen it in the context of its military presence in Kashmir and Russia has seen it in Chechnya and both the countries are supportive of each other on the issue of terrorism

Nuclear Deals

On 7 November 2009, India signed a new nuclear deal with Russia apart from the deals that were agreed upon by the two countries earlier.

Last Updated on Friday, 04 May 2012 03:11

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