Indo-Russian Military Technical Cooperation: Implications for Southern Asia

By Srivastava, Anupam | World Affairs, Spring 1999 | Go to article overview

Indo-Russian Military Technical Cooperation: Implications for Southern Asia


Srivastava, Anupam, World Affairs


The region of Southern Asia has inherited its own share of the flux and countercurrents generated with the end of the cold war.(1) International arms control initiatives have sought to deepen and widen adherence to the norms, outlooks, and interests enshrined in multilateral security regimes that seek to stem or reverse the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These initiatives have engendered greater international consensus but also have brought the core of intractable issues to the fore. Within the national contexts, Russia, as the successor to the Soviet Union, is struggling to come to terms with being a nation-state instead of an empire; to devise mutually acceptable relations with the former Soviet republics; and to establish its centrality within the post-Soviet space. India, whose economic restructuring roughly coincided with the end of the cold war, is searching for a way to facilitate closer integration into the global economic matrix without compromising its legitimate security concerns in the process. And China, consolidating nearly two decades of state-guided economic reforms, is modernizing its armed forces and appears to be on course to occupying a central position in the international community.

It is within this fluid context that I analyze Indo-Russian relations and examine their implications for the balance of forces and emerging strategic equation in Southern Asia. In the first section I examine the national issues within Russia and India that propel them to seek closer bilateral ties. In the following section I discuss the current relations between the two in the security sphere (arms acquisitions, technology transfers, future areas of cooperation, and so forth). In the final section I analyze the implications of expanding Indo-Russian relations for countries in the strategic neighborhood, with particular attention to Pakistan and China.

NATIONAL IMPERATIVES FOSTERING CLOSER BILATERAL COOPERATION

The Russian Case

To Russia devolved the nuclear mantle following the disintegration of the Soviet Union. However, this inheritance has produced a fair share of difficulties as the nation searches within for an acceptable status in the international community and for a way to forge its relations with countries of the former Soviet Union (FSU), the extended neighborhood (Western Europe and central and western Asia), and beyond (particularly the United States). The continued search for its national identity impinges sharply on the Russian strategic calculus in dealing with these other nations. As the national elite seek to situate these interactions within the ebb and flow of Russian history, an assortment of developmental issues emerge that explain the scope of its foreign policy decisions. An eclectic, albeit spare, survey of issue areas illustrates this dynamic.

Russia's inability to impede the eastward expansion of NATO has led to a considerable shrinkage of its sphere of influence within the region. As Russia seeks to reestablish its centrality within the post-Soviet space, it has had to enter into protracted negotiations with countries of the former Soviet Union. For the latter, these negotiations afford the means to harness Russia's (latent) hegemonic aspirations by binding its behavior to an institutionalized framework of relations. For Russia, on the other hand, they provide an avenue to reestablish its salience in the region. Further, Russia has sought to compensate for its shrinking sphere of influence by deepening its strategic relationship with China and India. A series of diplomatic initiatives has transformed its relationship with China from one of "containment" to "overt engagement." With India, it has sought to elevate the traditional close relation with the Soviet Union into a "strategic" one.

In addition, Russia has sought, particularly since 1993-94, to substantially increase its global sale of advanced conventional weapons (ACWs). …

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