Reaction from Recent Putin’s trip to India

Putin recently made a trip to India and signed a plethora of deals worth $10 billion. The deals include several nuclear power plants and military contracts worth $4 billion. I find it interesting that the Western media’s over-reaction to this trip. A common theme seems to be that the good relationship developed with India during the Bush Administration is getting squandered by Obama Administration’s policies. Obama’s policies were described as ignoring India while favoring engagements with “bad countries” like China and Pakistan. And due to America’s neglect, India has ran back to its traditional all-weather friend Russia. And Russia is sick of China copying its weapons and value India far more.

Needless to say, I found much of these articles to be comical. While it is true that India is getting less attention from America with Obama in power, I really don’t think it had much to do with these contracts. When Bush signed that landmark nuclear power deal with India, other nuclear power exporters like Russia and France were also excited that they now have an NPT-exception to sell to India. It should be to no one’s surprise that India chooses to diversify its nuclear power purchases between US, France and Russia to get the best available technology for the lowest price. That is what China is doing right now with building AP-1000, EPR, Candu and AES-91 at the same time. It seems like India is a huge nuclear energy market, so I don’t think American firms like Westinghouse, GE and McDermott would be missing out.

The military agreements that came out from this trip seem to be the new terms for the Gorshkov refitting project, additional Mig-29Ks and more signings to the 5th generation fighter project. All three of these agreements are basically additional agreements to existing projects. Does it really surprise anyone that India wants to conclude this Gorshkov saga and use the same naval fighter on all of its aircraft carriers? These decisions were made in the earlier part of this decade and really do not have anything to do with the current political climate. And with the first flight of T-50, India clearly thinks that this is the best and fastest way for it to get into the 5th generation of fighter jets. There were also talks of India purchasing additional Su-30MKIs from Russia. I think that will also happen due to the delays in the MRCA and LCA projects. Russia has always been a reliable supplier to India. There really is no reason for India to cut them out just because Western countries are join in now. America has already scored several major contracts like the P-8I and C-130J orders. It is still in competition for utility helicopters, Project 17A, missile defense, various army RFPs and the MRCA project. So while the Russians continue to sell well to India, America is in no way getting left out.

I also do not see Russia selling certain weapon systems to India as an indication that its relationship with China is decreasing. It is true that Russia is fairly pissed out at China for declining purchases and allegedly copying several of its export (although as I have stated in the past, it really is nowhere as bad as the Russians claim). However, that is due to China’s much improved military industrial complex and increased military cooperation with Ukraine and Belarus (at the expense of Russia) than weapons not being available. Over the last few years, military exports have become a much smaller part of the bilateral relationship. Otherwise, the leaders of the two nations would not be meeting so often.

In conclusion, Putin’s trip to India is reaffirms the decade long friendship of the two countries. The military cooperation between the two countries will continue to flourish. However, people should not see this as a rebut to the US/India relationship. India is already a power to be reckoned with and will become a superpower at sometime this century. Its relationship with Russia cannot possibly go back to the cold war period, when it was a little brother to one of the two super powers. Its relationship with US will only expand as it becomes more and more involved in the world economy. And sadly, its relationship with China will become only more complex as their growing economic ties are overshadowed by the mutual distrust. Things will never go back to the way they were in the cold war days.