In an interview with the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, Amir Hossein Askari referred to the meeting between foreign ministers of Russia and India and the two countries’ decision to jointly produce advanced weapons and stated: With the outbreak of the Ukraine war on February 24, 2022, pressure from the international community was increasing exerted on Russia and several measures were taken to reduce Moscow’s abilities and capacities through the isolation of that country. Despite the fact that several sanctions were imposed against Moscow and Russia is almost isolated, those applied restrictions have not been able to establish a global consensus and in some cases, various countries have not fully accompanied the regime of sanctions against Russia.
Recalling that several African countries in the United Nations did not agree to support the anti-Russian resolution or voted against it, he added: In Asia, countries like Iran and India have not fully supported the sanctions regime. India’s situation is unique in this regard; because on the one hand, this country has special relations with the West and the United States, and on the other hand, it is in competition with its two neighbors, namely China and Pakistan.
The international affairs expert said: India’s failure to fully comply with the sanctions regime against Russia, especially in the field of military industries and weapons, is important for Indians in several ways, and in addition, this situation has major consequences for the world system.
Referring to an Indian media, which acknowledged that Russian-Indian trade relations have accelerated with the increase in oil and fertilizer transactions between the two countries after the Ukraine-Russia war, and now Russia is known as India’s fifth largest trading partner, Askari continued: Indians have many and varied motives for cooperating with Russia and not going along with the sanctions regime in full. The most important motive for Indians to continue their cooperation with Russia is the issue of the country’s northern neighbor, the People’s Republic of China.
He explained: From the point of view of the Indian authorities, China is a strategic challenge for them, and they need to establish relations with Russia to manage their northern neighbor. For example, according to the statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of India, the officials of that country consider Beijing’s ambitious plans as a threat to them and have even declared that the Belt and Road Initiative is really designed to control China over the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
The analyst of international affairs pointed out: Although India had an anti-Moscow approach at least in its statement and tone at the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it later changed its approach to a great extent and distanced itself from the initial anti-Russian position. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also told Vladimir Putin at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit that ‘the period of war is over and I have already discussed this with you’. Moreover, India’s abstention on the anti-Russian resolution at the United Nations showed that Delhi has deviated from its initial stance towards Russia.
Saying that for India, Russia is known as a source of energy and for Russia, India is important as an arms market, Askari added: In addition to this issue, the war in Ukraine has caused Russia to tolerate the pressure from the West and turn towards China, and this can be an increasing threat to the Indians from the possible Beijing-Moscow alliance, therefore, besides not joining the international sanctions against Russia, India has adopted its own independent policy and tries to prevent Beijing-Moscow alliance as much as possible through the continuation of its cooperation with Russia.
While explaining the dimensions of military cooperation between Russia and India, he said: Russia has various capacities for cooperation with India. During the time of the Soviet Union, the three main pillars shaping Delhi-Moscow relations were; sale of Soviet weapons to India and extensive Soviet aid and finally the geopolitical alignment of the Soviet Union-India against the United States, Pakistan and China. Meanwhile, in an analysis published in September 2022, Carnegie listed the only surviving pillar as the sale of Russian military weapons to India.
Askari emphasized: Now India is the biggest destination of Russian arms exports in the world. In other words, for the next few decades, India will continue to rely on Russia for the supply of spare parts, repair and maintenance of weapons, and this justifies continuation and strengthening of the arms cooperation between Russia and India, despite the Ukraine war.
The director of the Research-News Center of European Studies said: Based on the review and assessment conducted by the Stockholm Peace Institute from 2017 to 2022, India is the largest importer of Russian weapons, accounting for 29.7 percent of Russia’s total arms exports and this has led to the fact that, from the point of view of the experts, Delhi’s military reliance on Moscow is considered as one of the factors behind India’s declaration of neutrality in the Ukraine war.
Referring to the consequences of the continuation of Delhi-Moscow military cooperation, he pointed out that the continuation of Delhi-Moscow military cooperation, despite the growing pressure from the West, can be significant in several ways. If the process of importing arms from Russia to Delhi is maintained at the current rate or reduces even slightly, it will leave almost no impact on the Russian arms market. Meanwhile, one of the most important objectives of Western sanctions against Moscow has been to limit Russia’s global markets, including in the field of weapons.
Askari called continuation of Delhi-Moscow military cooperation effective in the competition of superpowers in the South Asian region and the South China Sea and said: Although the South China Sea is not in the area of military cooperation between India and Russia, strengthening of Russia’s presence in South Asia along with proximity of Moscow to Beijing, could make both areas challenging for the US and its allies. Besides this, Russia can be recognized as a new balancing power in South Asia between Pakistan, India and China.
At the same time he emphasized: The biggest consequence of strengthening military cooperation between Russia and India, which includes all other dimensions, is the failure of the policy of trying to isolate Russia in the world.