India and Russia are mutually complementary strategic partners since they share the same vision of “balancing” Eurasian affairs, albeit differently. The South Asian state is presently recalibrating its “multi-alignment” policy between Russia and the US to “balance” China’s rise. New Delhi has recently come to view Beijing as among its top national security threats, which explains the eagerness with which it’s comprehensively expanded its military-strategic ties with the US, which also shares its concerns. Be that as it may, that country’s recent moves in the Western direction were regarded by some as a de facto pivot that risked inadvertently destabilizing Eurasian affairs, which explains why it’s nowadays rebalancing its relations towards Russia.
As for Russia, it aspires to maintain a balance of power between its top two strategic partners, China and India. Moscow does this through its “military diplomacy” of selling equally high-quality arms to both neighbouring rivals to reduce the chances of one or the other gaining a military edge and thus resorting to such means to settle their unresolved disputes. The Kremlin calculates that maintaining their balance of power can instead encourage a political solution to their problems. This contrasts with the US “military diplomacy”, which aims to maximally enhance India’s military capabilities to encourage it to utilize such means to settle existing disputes with China in its favour. That policy risks further destabilizing Eurasia, while Russia’s is predicated on stabilizing it.
Given this insight, it can be said that the historical strategic partnership between India and Russia – which is among the modern era’s most enduring – is an axis of stability in Eurasia. Russia’s excellent relations with China and India enables it to “balance” both of them in a “friendly”, “gentle”, and most importantly, “non-hostile” manner. Moscow has no ulterior motives in this respect, unlike Washington, which hopes to divide and rule Eurasia by pushing India into an intractable conflict with China. Indian decision makers wisely realized what was going on a few years ago after they remained loyal to their S-400 air defense deal with Russia despite their new American “ally’s” sanctions threats against them. This speaks to their geopolitical pragmatism and awareness of the US’ ulterior motives.
The mutually complementary nature of the Russian-Indian Strategic Partnership extends far beyond geopolitically “balancing” Eurasian affairs. It also envisions a crucial integrational component consisting of the North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) and Vladivostok-Chennai Maritime Corridor (VCMC), which will bring these two Great Powers closer together through the mainland and maritime routes, respectively. With that in mind, there’s also the chance of them carrying out trilateral cooperation within those transit states through or adjacent to which these connectivity routes will pass. For instance, Iran and Vietnam could become the centrepieces of trilateral projects along the NSTC and VCMC. Both also have excellent relations with India and Russia, which would be maximally beneficial.
The ultimate impact of these complementary, integrative visions is that Eurasia’s many regions and countries will be more closely tied together via Russia and India. This pairs perfectly with what China is trying to achieve through its Belt & Road Initiative’s (BRI) vision of creating a community of common destiny. Therefore, the Russian-Indian axis creates not so much an alternative but simply a different means towards the shared end of advancing the common goal of Eurasian integration. The best-case scenario is that these two Russian-Indian initiatives will eventually converge with BRI’s, unleashing Eurasia’s full economic potential and thus further improving its billions of residents’ lives with time. This would make the Russia-India-China (RIC) format the core of Eurasian integration.
About that, their Foreign Ministers held a video conference at the end of last month where they agreed on plenty of issues from Afghanistan to their united opposition against the US’ aggressive export of its subjectively defined model of “democracy”. This was impressive since India and China’s differences are well known, especially in recent years. Yet, their top diplomats showed their maturity in looking past these problems and focusing solely in this context on those areas where their interests align. It’s significant to note Russia’s participation in these trilateral talks since the Kremlin has consistently remained the common denominator in Indian-Chinese relations due to their shared strategic partnerships with it even during the tensest moments of their relations over the past few years.
This further reinforces Russia’s role in responsibly regulating the Indian-Chinese rivalry through its “balanced” approach towards both, which also crucially includes its practice of “military diplomacy”, as was earlier explained. Once again, this is the polar opposite approach of the one advanced by America, which aims to divide and rule those two countries through its “unbalanced” practice of “military diplomacy”, whereby it intends to significantly bolster its preferred Indian partner’s military capabilities at China’s expense. Altogether, the conclusion is that India should appreciate the role that its strategic partnership with Russia plays in Eurasia and thus continue recalibrating its “multi-alignment” policy in that direction instead of being tempted by the US to aggressively “contain” China.