Well-known Cold War era rivals Pakistan and Russia are due to hold their first ever military exercise this month, as stated by Pakistan’s military on Friday. Pakistan’s top military spokesman Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa said ‘a contingent of Russian ground forces’ arrived in Pakistan for a two-week exercise program, beginning on Saturday.
As known to most scholars, as well as observers of history, during the Cold War the communist Soviet Union was closely aligned with India while their bete noire U.S. was Pakistan’s ally. Many are raising alarms in New Delhi that India is in the process of losing its long-weathered ally. However, these alarms are underestimating the value of cooperation between India and Russia in strategic areas such as nuclear energy, the INS Arihant and fifth generation fighter aircraft, Brahmos. But India should not relax as all is not well.
As this article explains, one of the noticeable differences in India’s relationship with Russia is the fact that no leader from either side seemed committed to build the relationship with a goal for the 21st century. Regardless of having several arenas of cooperation, the initiatives were not made part of any common plan to broaden the connections. Most notably, Pakistan, despite being a ‘new’ friend of Russia, has constituted a strategic working group that oversees different areas of mutual interest and coordinates joint initiatives with Moscow. India-Russia ties are suffering due to lack of such measures.
Even in the case of people-to-people ties, the exposure between both countries are limited. Aspects of Indian soft power are becoming more of mainstream features in Western societies, as compared to Russia which is a BRICS ally. For reasons best known to the decision makers, there exists a certain torpor to present the context of Hindi- Rusi ties in a new world order. With the slow but obvious change in the global balance of power, both India and Russia must recalibrate their worth to each other instead of creating confusion regarding their mutual dealings. Hopefully, good sense will prevail in the South Block.