In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

Russia, India in renewed embrace

Posted by seumasach on March 15, 2010

On a geopolitical level, enormously significant developments are coming thick and fast. The US is now reminiscent of the Soviet Union in its decline: it is unable to consolidate its influence in places where it appears to have established a foothold. Russian diplomacy is becoming more and more influential and it interesting to see them trying to resolve or attenuate conflicts such as that between India and Pakistan.

Ravi Velloor

Straits Times

14th March, 2010
A raft of agreements between Russia and India signal Moscow’s return to centre stage in New Delhi’s strategic calculations, where awareness of the limits of its special relationship with the United States is rapidly building.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin flew home last Friday (March 12) night after a day-long working visit during which the two sides inked several major deals. These come on top of agreements totalling more than US$10 billion on weapons transfers, covering MiG-29 fighters and a final price for the aircraft carrier Gorshkov.

Also, Russia will get to build a total of 14 nuclear reactors for India’s civilian energy programme. Two months from now, it will transfer a nuclear attack submarine from its fleet to India as part of a previous agreement.

An agreement to cooperate on building an alternative satellite navigation system, which has immense implications for the military, is likely to be followed in the months ahead by an announcement that Russia will help reprocess and dispose of some of India’s spent fuel at a facility it is building in Siberia, people with knowledge of the talks said.

Taken together, they underscore the renewed embrace between New Delhi and Moscow after a period of what some analysts describe as benign neglect of each other.

Much of the impetus for India’s turn away from Moscow was prompted by former US president George W. Bush’s overtures to it, including his steering of a landmark civil nuclear cooperation accord that lifted decades of sanctions on India’s nuclear programme.

Stepped up defence contacts, including several joint exercises, reinforced the impression that the US was building up India as a bulwark against China.

However, Washington’s continued reluctance to part with dual- use technologies and President Barack Obama’s more calibrated approach to India have cooled some of that ardour.

Mr Obama’s more sympathetic attitude towards Pakistani interests as he seeks its help to bring US troops home from Afghanistan was also a factor.

New Delhi is also having difficulty convincing opposition parties of the merits of proposed new legislation that would seek to limit the liabilities on companies that build nuclear reactors, should there be nuclear accidents.

This is aimed at facilitating US companies such as Westinghouse to build nuclear power plants in this country.

The Russians, who say their nuclear reactors are built to withstand a crash by a medium-sized aircraft, have shown no such qualms and are gaining by snapping up billions of dollars worth of contracts.

One issue on which there seems to be divergence is Pakistan.

Russia, wary of a Nato push into Central Asia, is keen to see that Pakistan, a critical player in the region, is not pushed too closely towards the US. Washington, for its part, would perhaps like to pry Islamabad away, or at least loosen its ‘all-weather friendship’ with Beijing.

Mr Putin asked New Delhi to show more understanding of Pakistan’s efforts to tackle terror.

“Putin advised privately that India should take a less uni-dimensional view on Pakistan,” a person with knowledge of the talks told The Straits Times.

“He also was clear on China – that it is best to try to leverage its weight rather than push against it. These are things that (Prime Minister) Manmohan Singh doesn’t necessarily disagree with.”

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