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1 September 2011, Gateway House

Re-energising the India-Russia relationship

This paper assesses the India-Russia relationship in today’s context and explains why it is time for the two countries to re-energise the bilateral


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3. India-Russia website coverIntroduction

Contemporary scholarly publications on the Indian-Russian relationship almost invariably mention Raj Kapoor‘s films and Indian tea—both wildly popular in the Soviet Union decades ago—and, going further back in time, often recollect hoary anecdotes about Rabindranath Tagore‘s closeness with Leo Tolstoy. These images accurately reflect the historically close bonds between India and Russia, but also say little about what the relationship signifies for the two generations of Indians and Russians that were born or came of age after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Discussions of the India-Russia partnership in policy circles likewise are still too often shrouded in the mists of nostalgia for the close diplomatic, military, commercial, and cultural ties of the Cold War years with little reference to the new realities in both nations. Yet, much of the oratory rooted in the rich history between the Soviet Union and India does not translate into pragmatic prescriptions for re-energising a relationship that, while truly privileged, is showing multiple signs of structural challenges and inertial thinking. These bilateral ties need strengthening which should come from a more active involvement not just from scholars but also political, media, and, critically, corporate figures. The Indo-Russian marriage is long past its youthful bloom and must at this point be based on realistic assessments of mutual strengths and opportunities as opposed to idealized and impracticable mythologizing about the bright future of “Hindustan-Russia Bhai Bhai.”

On Dec 20, Ronen Sen, the former Indian Ambassador to Russia, the U.K. Germany and the United States, released Gateway House’s report on re-energising the India-Russia  relationship. Addressing the progress in India-Russia relations over the past year – 30 MoU’s were signed, two Russian nuclear reactors were set up in India and visa regimes have been eased considerably- the report suggests measures to lift the relationship from the benign neglect of the past.

Related reading:

1. You can read a précis of this paper here.

2. India-Russia: Taking each other seriously

Gateway House published this Op-Ed, by Katherine Foshko, on 5 December, 2011, before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Moscow for the 12th India-Russia summit. She suggests ways to lift the Indo-Russian relationship out of the benign neglect of the past, and to build a strategic bilateral relationship.

3. Russia, India at Crossroads

The Diplomat, a leading news website in Asia, republished this Op-Ed, by Katherine Foshko, on 14 December, 2011.  She argues that it’s time for the two countries to use their history of cooperation and political goodwill to address their respective economic needs and market gaps by boosting joint innovation. 

4. Russia’s growing nationalism

Gateway House published this Op-Ed, by Katherine Foshko, on 7 February, 2012, after the Bhagwat Gita scandal took place in Russia, in December 2011. She analyses if Russia’s state-anointed xenophobia and nationalism could dampen the formerly solid Indo-Russian relationship.

5. Re-energizing the India-Russia Relationship

The Jindal School of International Affairs, republished this paper in full, in the 2012 edition of their annual journal, Jindal Journal of International Affairs.

You can download the PDF version of this paper, here.

Katherine Foshko, Fellow, Russia Studies, Gateway House.

This paper was exclusively written for Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations. You can read more exclusive content here.

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