India Wants Defense Ties with Russia and the United States. Can it Have Both?

December 9, 2021 Topic: India Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: IndiaS-400RussiaChinaQuadrilateral Security DialogueQuad

India Wants Defense Ties with Russia and the United States. Can it Have Both?

Could India have divided loyalties?


The Russian and Indian militaries are somewhat quietly strengthening a partnership that includes joint military drills, technological collaboration, and the Indian acquisition of thousands of AK-203 assault rifles

The Indian military may even acquire Russian-built S-400 air defenses, according to Russia’s TASS news agency. Russian and Indian foreign and defense ministers met recently to discuss extending partnerships in the military sphere, the paper said. 


This growing partnership between India and Russia raises interesting questions regarding the global balance of power in light of the United States's wish to strengthen its own partnership with the Indian military to deter and counterbalance China. 

“Russia and India signed in New Delhi an inter-governmental agreement on a program for military-technical cooperation for 2021-2030. The agreement provides for cooperation among various branches of the armed forces, and also the supplies and development of armaments and other military hardware,” the TASS paper says. 

Should there be any kind of unanticipated confrontation between India and China, Russia’s sizeable and formidable land forces would be well-positioned to close in on China from the North. However, Russia is also building its own collaborative alliance with China as well, something which seems to complicate the overall equation in a geopolitical sense. Would it be possible for Russia to maintain close military-to-military ties with both India and China? 

Could India have divided loyalties? It certainly intends to safeguard its border with China and, to that end, may be looking at multiple partnership avenues through which to stake a powerful stand against Chinese provocations along the Indian border. The U.S. Navy clearly sees India as a critical ally in its efforts to contain China in the Pacific and strengthen its naval presence in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Could India get caught between Russia and the United States, given the state of tensions between the two superpowers? It certainly seems possible, and it is something that could cause some tensions within India as Russia is in close proximity to India’s sensitive border areas and occupies the same continent. The United States, however, can significantly help India’s Naval presence in places such as the Indian Ocean or Pacific theater. India would be quite challenged to project Naval power into the Pacific and is one of the four “Quad” countries collaborating to contain China in high-risk areas such as the South China Sea or Taiwan Strait. 

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

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