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Russia-India: Geopolitical Project

India is the second biggest buyer of Russian weapons after China. And in terms of the qualitative substance of military-technical cooperation, New Delhi is a unique and still unparalleled partner of Moscow.

-- By General Leonid Ivashov

The visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to India, and the agreements reached and documents signed there surely represent a pivotal moment in development – or, to be more precise, in restoration of relations between the two great powers.

The overwhelming majority of analysts and journalists—and official persons, too— are focusing on economic and military-technical aspects of the visit. The importance of these aspects can hardly be overestimated. India is the second biggest buyer of Russian weapons after China. And in terms of the qualitative substance of military-technical cooperation, New Delhi is a unique and still unparalleled partner of Moscow.

My opinion is based on my personal experience of contacts with Indian military experts. The Indian military have never signed a contract for acquisition of large quantities of weapons (or a major weapon system) without first having our designers make serious engineering changes that would improve combat effectiveness of the supplied products. Secondly, the Indians have always accompanied their consent to acquisition with requests for licensed production and joint development.

In other words, our Indian partners have always been willing to buy the most modern weapons and simultaneously engage in their development and production. This corresponds to the strategic goal of the Indian government—making their country a highly industrialized and high-technology world power.

The Indian side’s approach to military-technical cooperation played an exceedingly important role for the Russian defense industrial complex, which has been in a state of collapse since the 1990s. India has helped the Russian defense industrial complex to survive, find funds, and consolidate efforts on fulfilling Indian orders—not simply turning out Soviet samples but also modernizing them (sometimes pretty thoroughly) and developing innovative technologies. The then arms dealers, in the first place Rosvooruzheniye, were not too happy about this— they would have preferred to quickly push off what they had in the inventory and what disintegrating enterprises were still able to turn out. Instead of showing a systemic approach to development of India’s defense potential, Russian arms dealers were trying to push off obsolete weapon samples to the Indian market.

This is why they did not like my good friend, the current Indian President Abdul Kalam. At the time, Dr Kalam was in charge of Indian scientific research, who annoyed his Russian partners with proposals of joint research in the field of military, space, and missile technologies. As a Russian saying has it, constant dripping wears away a stone. Today, it may be stated that India’s orders not only helped to preserve entire sectors of the Russian defense industrial complex, but also provided an impetus for qualitative development of weaponry. And if Russia in the 1990s had had a more or less distinct international posture and nationally oriented leaders, we would not now fear competition of Germany, France, Israel or the US on the Indian weapons market.

There are few of those who are aware of the following scandalous fact. At the turn of the 21st century, the Indian Air Force negotiated a purchase of four Russian radar surveillance aircraft A-50. The agreement was reached by Defense Ministers and approved by the Indian Prime Minister and Russian President. However, Ilya Klebanov, Russian Vice Premier and Secretary of the Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation, blocked the deal, suggesting a tin-can option that favored Israel instead of Russia. Under this option, Russia supplied the aircraft (tin-can), with Israel providing the contents—a radioelectronic system. And, despite President Vladimir Putin’s endorsement of the fully Russian option (the one put forward by the Defense Ministry), despite NPO Vega’s readiness to install the radioelectronic system Shmel-2 in the aircraft, Russia’s Israeli lobby won. The Russian radioelectronic systems were not sold to India.

Similar things happened in tank and fighter jet deals. All of this inflicted serious harm to both bilateral cooperation and the defense industrial complex.

In the mid-1990s, India was declared Russia’s strategic partner. This was a proper decision. Our countries really have many coinciding strategic interests. New Delhi supports the multi-polar world concept, equality of nations and peoples, and enforcement of the UN Charter principles. Besides, India actually is the leader of the Non-Aligned Movement. All of this serves Russia’s interests – in the same way that Russia’s interests would be served by India becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

In terms of the world’s economy, India is a dynamic power, a large goods and services market, an innovational and intellectual centre of the 21st century. For Russia, it is also a reliable partner in development of space technologies, nuclear power engineering, world ocean research, development of hydrocarbon resources, etc. However, the inborn disposition of the Russian elite of the ‘90s to look towards the West hampered timely realization of the potential of Russian-Indian cooperation. Besides, there was a lot that Washington did not allow Russia to do during Yeltsin’s rule. This is not surprising, for the military strategic potential of Russian-Indian cooperation is truly enormous.

In the first place, increased Indian military presence in the Asian and Pacific region does not contradict Russia’s interests but much rather serves them, as Russia’s current weakness made it abandon its formerly active role in maintaining the balance of forces in the region. As a result, we are facing the absolute domination of the US, which is increasing its military presence in the Asian and Pacific region.

Secondly, the stronger Indian military potential produces a restraining effect on China, drawing off a considerable part of Peking’s growing military might. This is also important for Russia.

Thirdly, India represents a showcase of Russian politics, strategy and modern weapon technologies. This country is a kind of image-maker for Russia’s defense potential.

India accounts for more than 30 percent of Russian weapon exports. Today, practically all services of the Indian armed forces take part in Russian-Indian military-technical cooperation. The Indian army is learning to use T-90C tanks supplied from Russia in quantities which make our own army envious – in 2006, it got only 31 tanks, whereas the Indians ordered 374 tanks with an option for almost the same number.

The Indian navy operates the former Russian (Soviet) aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, undergoing modernization with the help of our experts and enterprises, Russian-built submarines, and Russian-built frigates armed with modern cruise missiles BrahMos. The Russian aircraft building corporation MiG, which did not make a single deck-based aircraft during the years of Yeltsin’s reforms, was for the first time commissioned to supply shipboard fighters MiG-29 to India.

The Indian Air Force has bought and started licensed production of the modern Sukhoi-30MKI, is looking into the possibility of joint development and manufacture of the fifth-generation fighter MiG-35, medium military transport aircraft, unmanned aircraft.

Achievements and failures, and grandiose plans and doubts related to further progress of Russian-Indian military-technical cooperation found their confirmation in the course of Vladimir Putin’s visit to India in January 2007. It got an extensive press coverage, but I believe that the essence of the visit still remains off screen.

This essence is the inter-civilization geopolitical project, which reveals itself in the logic of development of Soviet, and later, Russian-Indian contacts. Russia and India are civilization states. Their behavior in global politics and mutual relations is predictable. The two countries have coinciding geopolitical interests and positions on major international issues.

In the second half of the 19th century, N.Ya.Danilevsky, a classical representative of Russian geopolitical thought, wrote that the main players on the scene of global history are cultural-historical-type civilizations, rather than states or ethnoses. And the modern world, in terms of geopolitics, represents a new type of bipolarity, arbitrarily divided into two super-civilizations – one of these focuses on material consumer values, professing hedonism, whereas the other continues placing priority on moral and spiritual values. The geopolitical code of the former is profit, benefit; that of the latter, conscience and justice.

The former is directly associated with the West, the political strategy of its advance guard—the Anglo-Saxons and Israel, who have launched a power struggle for control over the planet’s resources, for the growing consumption of these resources by the golden billion. And now we are witnessing another, increasingly more distinct tendency, which is bringing this struggle over to the plane of inter-civilization confrontation. It was most clearly demonstrated at the 14th Conference of Non-Aligned Movement held in 2006 in Havana, where 114 states, represented by their leaders, declared that the Anglo-Saxon world order based on Judeo-Protestant ideology is unacceptable.

It is lamentable that Moscow does not yet heed the call of time—Russia did not participate in the conference. It still has strong illusions originating from the desire to become part of the golden billion. Nevertheless, the sober attitude is gradually gaining ground. It is the West itself that contributes to this process, regarding Russia as its raw materials base. To prevent our country from even daring to pretend to a more important role, it is being surrounded with US and NATO military bases, covered with an anti-ballistic missile defense system, encircled by Western satellites, as though it were a wolf within a string of red flags. As for the new global elite, they only intend to include a few hundreds or even dozens of the wealthiest people of Russia, as well as those who have unreservedly served the interests of world oligarchy throughout the reform years.

It is time for the rest of Russia to determine their allies.

Development of our relations with India is a step in the proper direction. It is a geopolitical choice of Russia that is capable to change the whole world for the better. But it may only happen if Russia finally perceives itself as the center of Orthodox Slavic civilization, rather than a part or appendage of the West.

Located on the geographic axis of Eurasia, Russia has as its objective historical task the structuring of a triple-vector system of relationships within the Old World, with India representing the first vector, the Muslim world (especially Iran) acting as a second vector, and China, a third one.

By proposing in the late ‘90s to set up the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, we actually proposed to create an inter-civilization union, with Russia, India, China and Iran serving as the nucleus. This is a long-term objective. Yet, rapprochement with India may become a present-day reality—if, in the new stage of Russian-Indian relations, military-technical cooperation is supplemented with cooperation in the fields of politics, culture, science, high technologies, education, etc.

Russian Export and Import Figures During 2001-2006 || Russian-IndianTrade & Economic Ties
Russian Indian Projects



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