India or China: Who Will Russia Support In A Possible Clash Between India & China?

India-China border clashes and a possible war-like situation has grabbed global media attention. Russia is a common ally to both India and China and many netizens are wondering whom would Moscow support in case of a possible clash between India and China?

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India’s Defense Minister Rajnath Singh is on a three-day visit to Russia. Singh will hold talks with the high military officials of Russia and will participate in the grand military parade organized to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in the second world war.

This visit of Defense Minister Rajnath Singh to Russia is taking place at a time when India is engaged in a deadly conflict with China in the Ladakh region.

Before leaving for Moscow, Rajnath Singh tweeted – Leaving for Moscow on a three-day visit. The visit to Russia will give me an opportunity to hold talks on ways to further deepen the India-Russia defence and strategic partnership. I shall also be attending the 75th Victory Day Parade in Moscow.

Senior officials of the Indian Ministry of Defense believe that despite the tensions on the border with China, Singh did not postpone the visit to Russia as India has historical military ties with Russia and the meeting between high-level India and Russian official will further increase military cooperation between the allies.

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This visit of Indian minister is being seen in the media as an attempt to increase India’s military capability and shore-up military hardware. But analysts believe that the Indian government has woken up late, and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it will now take more time than ever before to acquire arms and defence systems from Russia.

Defence Deals Delayed From Russia?

Experts believe that India has been dodging many important defence deals for a very long time. Sometimes it is said that there is no money, sometimes some other reason is given. Like in the case of multi-utility helicopters, Russia said that 60 helicopters should be ready and 140 helicopters will be built in India. And they have not been decided on since 2014.

“If India had these helicopters ready, then the soldiers who died due to lack of medical help in the Galwan Valley could have been saved easily”.

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It is not only the helicopters, there is also an agreement to make rifles with Russia and various other joint projects which are trapped in the bureaucracy.

Sukhoi and MIG aircraft are the backbone of the Indian Air Force, but their buying process is also stuck. And until the trouble comes, they remain stuck. The issue has been put in front of the current government of India from Russia and investors have also raised questions on the seriousness of the government. So the delay is due to the Government of India, experts argue.

S-400 Defense System

India is expected to urge Russia to expedite the delivery of the S-400 missile defence system during defence minister Rajnath Singh’s to Russia.  The S-400s are one of Russia’s most sophisticated long-range surface to air missiles and arguably the most versatile in the world with over half a dozen types of surface to air missile each specialised in intercepting different types of targets at different ranges.

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But why is there a delay in acquiring these defence systems? Experts believe that the US had threatened  India if they agreed to buy air defence systems from Russia. This scared the Indian banks, especially the ones whose money is engaged in trade with America. This wasted a lot of time and the advance payment of S-400s was delayed.

Experts also mentioned that Russia has sold the S-400 missiles to China, but it is not the system it is going to give to India. Russia says that China has given the S-400 to protect itself from the US, their range is short. But India will be given the longest-range missiles of the S-400.

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India-Russia Ties

According to experts — “The visit of the Defense Minister is also an opportunity to strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries, apart from the India-Russia defence partnership”.

A common understanding of relations with Russia in India is that ‘there are historical relations between the two countries and if India has a dispute with any country, Russia will come to help India’.

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However, according to defence experts – ‘Russia has a good understanding that India is a democratic country, whereas China is a totalitarian or, say, a country with a kind of dictatorship, so Russia considers its ties with India more friendly based on historical relations. However, the situation has changed in the last decade as Russia and China have bonded really well, despite differences, to counter the US hegemony.

The situation is not less challenging for Russia either. The population is less than Pakistan and the area is much more which extends from Europe to Asia. Then the US builds base around the region to encircle  Russia. There is such a large area to be protected with the help of technology and Moscow cannot afford any atmosphere of enmity around its borders. Moscow does not want tension at the eastern border with China and in such a situation, Russia also has limited options.

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Additionally, China and Russia are close to each other. That is why negotiations between India and Russia are very important. India would also like Russia to put some pressure on Beijing to keep China calm in Ladakh and move back to original positions, experts believe.

Another expert says – Russia is a weak power now, which desperately needs China’s help to stand up. Russia’s economic condition is bad, in which it needs help from China. In such a situation, India knows and understands that Russia cannot outrightly support India and if the tensions escalate, the US is the only country which is capable and willing to tame the dragon.