India’s ties with Russia goes as far back as 1950s, when the Nehru’s inward looking model for growth inspired from the then USSR was implemented almost with zero resistance from the public discourse. We import arms and fighter aircrafts mostly till now from Russia not to mention the recent nod from the Deface acquisition council to buy 21 MiG-29s and 12 Su-30 MKIs.
Why was Russia our principal partner during the 20th century while it was/ the main reason for the problems we faced then?
The problems were both with the economy and on the military issues.
The reason demands another article but what we do know for sure is that those policies hadn’t paved the way for the growth intended to achieve
As economist Sanjeev Sanyal in his book THE INDIAN RENAISSANCE:
“The private sector was tolerated but strictly held in check by industrial licenses, while the public sector became the centerpiece of national policy”
In other words the businesses were over regulated given little freedom against the principles of democracy. This eventually led to bureaucratic red tape, unemployment, poverty and rising inequalities.
Our GDP grew at a rate of not more than 4% resulting in our poor spending on public health, in primary education and in military which proves to be a headache now
When India was confronted with a war by the neighbouring China which used our Peace-loving weakness to grab land the size of Switzerland our partner Russia didn’t offer any help. It was the United States of America’s (which we then thought as an enemy) Ships which forced the Chinese to agree to ceasefire along the Line of Actual Control. And again during the Indo-Pak war when our Army had intruded well inside Pakistan till Lahore, again, Russia compelled us to ceasefire and forced our PM Lal Bahadhur Shastri to sign the peace deal after which, the very next day, he was found dead there.
Things changed when the USSR disintegrated and India opened up its economy for the world which lifted crores of Indians out of poverty, gave them jobs, growth increased, people got cell phone connection in a go to list it among other things
It’s heartening to see that our policy makers change their perspectives in response to the ever changing multilateral order
Our present ties with Russia is in a complete different picture as India has invested heavily (nearly 1 billion $) in the eastern port of Vladivostok, which China claims as theirs, as a part of its Act East Policy. Vladivostok is a strategically important place to have investments in. And the Russia is different from USSR is visible in how it reacted during the ongoing border skirmishes along the LAC (being silent and agreeing to export arms to India during this crisis sends a different message to Beijing. The whole credits can be given to Team Modi who facilitated the selling of Indian private Oil Major Essar Ltd. to the Russian state owned Oil companies when it was faced with sanctions from the US.
Russia wasn’t a good partner then but now having that military superpowers on our side (at least they aren’t in the same side of our expansionist neighbour) is a remarkable achievement by our government which now helps us in a time of crisis.
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