‘Where does India fit in the new Russia-China partnership?’

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (front R) and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (front L) walk during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, December 23, 2015 © Alexey Nikolsky
It is important for India to remain part of the conversation with Russia and China despite disagreements between Beijing and New Delhi over Afghanistan and Pakistan, Indian journalist and commentator Vijay Prashad told RT.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived to Moscow on Wednesday for a two-day visit, just one week after India’s Defense Acquisition Council (DAC) approved the purchase of five S-400 air defense systems from Russia.

RT: Why is Modi's visit so significant at this particular time?

Vijay Prashad: Mr. Modi has been traveling to most of the world’s capitals. So it was about time he came to Moscow. The most important aspect of this visit is that there needs to be a readjustment between India and Russia. This has been a long time coming, particularly given the fact that Russia and China have been creating a new kind of partnership. I think there needs to be a discussion of where India fits in to the new Russia- China partnership.

RT: It's believed the two countries will sign a massive weapon deal. How significant will this be for both Moscow and India's military goals?

VP: India used to buy most of its armaments from Russia, then the Soviet Union, until the 1990’s. From the 1990’s onward, India has diversified its purchases from the US and to a large extent from countries like Israel. It seems now that Russian arms have come back on line. India is going to rebalance some of its arms purchases. It is important to bear in mind: India is the leading importer of weapons in the world.

But actually there is something else on the horizon here, not merely arms purchases. India is now eager to create a domestic arms industry, and it seems that the Russian government is quite willing to transfer some technology towards this end. So not only will India likely begin to buy greater volumes of arms from Russia – there is talk of several billions of dollars of arms purchases in this two-day trip itself - but also India is going to try to ink some deals so that it can develop its own arms industry. 

RT: How important do you think relations with Russia are for India?

VP: India has over the last 20 years leaned quite heavily towards the US. And in the last 10 years or so with the emergence of the BRICS bloc, this has balanced out India’s allegiances or alliances with the US. So the relationship with Russia is very important because it brings India back somehow not so much as a subordinate ally of the US, but it might allow India to develop once again a rational pragmatic foreign policy based on a more complicated understanding of the world. When the Indian government saw the geopolitics as largely framed by the US that had a tendency to move India into the Western camp. Now with the emergence of what we might consider multi-polarity, the new relationship with Russia will allow India at least to balance its place in the world order.

READ MORE: India seeks Russia's 'crown jewels' in biggest arms deal of the decade

RT: China is also a diplomatic rival of India. How might Beijing view a potential deal between Russian and India?

VP: This is a very complicated situation. India and China have a great deal of disagreement about the role, for instance, of the Taliban in Afghanistan, where because of China’s entanglement with Pakistan, it has a slightly different view than the Indian government. This is also of course the case between, say, the role of the pipelines that are being drawn across Asia: what is the relationship between China and Pakistan; where will India fit into this?

...It is important that India remains part of the conversation. It is important that countries such as Russia and China understand that the enmity between India and Pakistan should not be used as a tool against these countries. But they should also use their leverage as a way to bring India and Pakistan to the same table.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.