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And if the US plans to beef up Pakistan’s military muscle, as it has been doing since 1970s, India has no choice, but to stick to its traditional policies of economic and military cooperation with Russia. The fact that the ruling party in India, the Indian National Congress, is expected soon (most likely, in early 2014) to be headed by Rahul Gandhi, the great grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of independent India and the pioneer of Soviet-Indian cooperation, is deeply symbolic.
Why the US has chosen Pakistan, with its chronically unstable government, rampant (and, unfortunately, well deserved by Washington) anti-American sentiment in the population, and its decades long ties to the militant Taliban – this question should be left for historians to ponder on.
Partially, this American choice might be explained by Washington’s rudimentary focusing on Russia – or rather, on ways to limit Russian influence in various parts of the globe, even if this obsession draws US into alliances with awkward partners (the Syrian jihadists and the Pakistani Taliban-connected secret services are to be named among these strange bed fellows).
What is certain, however is that India, a much more economically promising, democratic and influential partner than Pakistan, is being drawn by this American decision closer to Russia. And it would be serious folly on the part of the Russian president Vladimir Putin not to step closer to Delhi.No wonder then that the two BRICS partners found themselves reiterating that “Special & Privileged Strategic Partnership”.
At Monday’s summit meeting in Moscow, Putin and Singh reiterated India’s desire to be involved in preparations for the Geneva-2 conference on Syria. Russia, on its side, “reaffirmed its strong support for India’s bid to become a permanent member of the United Nations’ Security Council.”
The former Russian ambassador to India, Vyacheslav Trubnikov noted in his interview to RIA Novosti news agency that Russia would support giving India veto powers, which the five “historic” permanent members of the United Nations Security Council have been enjoying for decades. Trubnikov said such powers in India’s hands would reduce the probability of war, with special mention of India’s “no military interference” stance on the Syrian crisis. “Diplomacy, not brutal force should be let to resolve the issues of this kind [of the Syrian civil war],” Trubnikov was quoted as saying.
If politically both countries see eye to eye on many issues of today’s international politics, the situation in military and economic cooperation, a traditional stronghold, between the two countries is not so rosy.
Russian arms, a staple element in the Russo-Indian trade menu, produced a couple of disappointing failures during the last 10 months, but India remains one of the most important markets for Russian arms – if only for political reasons. During Manmohan Singh’s visit to Russia, agreements on deliveries of 235 additional Russian T-90 tanks to India were confirmed; India is set to get 67 more Russian helicopters and 6 MIG-29K fighters before the end of the year. The tradition of the Russo-Indian military cooperation, started back in 1962 by the signing of the first contract for a party of Soviet MIG-21, this tradition is very much alive.
For Russia, trade with India is the exact model that Moscow would love to see its trade with China emulate. President Putin noted the high share of exports with high added value on the Russian side, something one rarely sees in Russia’s trade with other countries, including China, where Russia is seen as an almost net exporter of natural resources. In 2012, Russia’s trade with India reached $11 billion, but this is still several times less than Russia’s trade with China, not to speak of the European Union.Trying to deepen its cooperation with Serbia, Russia has suggested building atomic electric power plants in India.
President Putin gladly noted during his conversation with Manmohan Singh that the first reactor of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant, constructed in the southernmost tip of the Indian peninsula with the help of Russia, was due to start operations Monday evening. The second reactor too is supposed to start operations in early 2014. The sides voiced their desire to see the third and the fourth reactors constructed in the same area, which has witnessed a series of protests seeking to halt work at the nuclear power plant. Incidentally, the Indian Prime Minister Singh said last year that the protests were organised by NGOs funded from the US and Scandinavian countries.
“There are NGOs, often funded from the United States and the Scandinavian countries, which are not fully appreciative of the development challenges that our country faces,” said the prime minister.
Nuclear energy is one of the ways to provide India with cheap fuel for its economic growth, without compromising its security and geopolitical standing. There is, however, much less enthusiasm from the Russian expert community for an ecologically viable, but geopolitically compromised project of building a natural gas pipeline from Russia to India, via post-Soviet Central Asian states, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Even former Russian ambassador Trubnikov, generally viewed as a staunch supporter of Russo-Indian cooperation, called the construction of such a pipeline “a complicated task.”
It should be noted that the project of a pipeline from non-Russian Central Asia to Pakistan via Afghanistan, long honed in the 1990s by American oil companies, proved to be an unrealistic project under the Taliban regime. Other attempts to whisk the Central Asian natural gas away from Russia and China have also proved unrealistic, numerous and unrelenting as they were. The US and the EU could probably find a better use for their intelligence than trying “to forget about Russia (or China)”.
It is just about time to see Russia as part of the solution – as India does. Otherwise Russia will remain part of a problem – for people who see it as a problem.