New Delhi: India's Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday (June 24) witnessed the 75th anniversary of the Victory Day Parade in Moscow's iconic Red Square, where a 75-member Tri-service contingent of the Indian Armed Forces also participated. The historic occasion was symbolic of age-old ties between India and Russia.
Armies of 19 countries, including China, participated in the Victory Day which lasted for one and a half hours amid the presence of about 64,000 spectators. The function was earlier scheduled to be held on May 9, but the date was shifted due to global outbreak of COVID-19.
Had it been May 9, Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself would have participated in the parade to further strengthen Indo-Russian relationship.
For President Vladimir Putin, the occasion was to showcase the Russian might besides presenting his global leadership. Indian interest, however, lies in Putin's decisive stand amid ongoing Sino-India border dispute along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh.
Will President Putin choose his one of his oldest allies or favour economic interest with China. To understand it, we need to look at President Putin's bonhomie with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Although PM Modi and President Putin have held several rounds of meetings in the past, this warmth was witnessed globally when Modi arrived in Russian city Sochi in 2018 to participate in an informal India-Russia summit. Both the leaders travelled in a luxurious boat and agreed to strengthen the strategic partnership between the two nations. The ties got further push in September 2019, when they again met in Vladivostok.
The question, however, arises if this friendship will push Russia to come in support of India against China. The answer is not so easy as both the nations, despite having age-old ties, have to assess their positions in the existing global scenario. In world politics, Russian stature has now lost it erstwhile shine and it's economy too is largely dependent on China.
Although Russia is the largest arms exporter to India, which still buys 56 percent of its weapons from Russia. China has got an upper hand with Russia because of its economic power. The trade between India and Russia is about Rs 55,000 crore while China and Russia trade is ten times more than this. In 2018, both these nations had a trade of over Rs 8 lakh crore.
No doubt, Russia has stood with India whenever the latter faced any crisis. In 1971 India-Pakistan war, Russia stood like a rock between India and America. Prior to this, Russia had extended help to India. In the 1960s, when America refused to give fighter jets to India, Russia gave India Mig 21. On several occasions in the UN Security Council, Russia has vetoed in favour of India.
The people of Russia and India are very close to each other culturally, and Hinduism is one of the fastest emerging religions in Russia. Indo-Russia relationship has waded through rough waters, but Moscow in recent years has come closer to Beijing because of increasing trade. Apart from this, Russia also has about 4000 kilometres long border with China.
Russia and China friendship has got a push due to the chemistry of President Putin and President Xi Jinping as both the leader are currently facing similar international challenges.
In 2014, when Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea, the US had imposed a number of economic sanctions against Russia, besides snubbing Russian role in Syria. Similarly, the US-China relationship is also at the lowest level due to ongoing trade war between them, and the outbreak of COVID-19 has further worsened it. US President Donald Trump has held China responsible for the spread of the deadly virus.
The US has blacklisted Chinese companies like Huawei. On the other hand, Russia has allowed Huawei to enter an agreement with the Russian telecom firm for the 5G network.
In the given scenario, China needs a strong ally to deal with the US while Russia needs Chin's economic support. Since money plays a decisive role in making or breaking friendship, it would be interesting to watch which way Russia will tilt amid Sino-India border inching towards a major faceoff.