India and Russia have long shared geopolitical perspectives on the balance of power in Eurasia. In the post-Cold War era both turned their attention to the West. However, over the past decade India has pursued the Look East Policy, seeking to regain its political and economic influence in Southeast Asia and building new strategic partnerships with East Asian powers like Japan and South Korea. Russia’s Turn to the East and India’s move from the Look East to the Act East Policy have created a new framework for closer India–Russia geo-economic and geopolitical relations.
Russia is a resources-surplus economy while India is a resources-deficit one. This difference has become the basis of a new partnership based on shared geo-economic interests. As a labour surplus and energy deficient economy, India can benefit from access to land (farming and food) and energy resources in the Russian Far East. As a labour-deficit economy, Russia can benefit from Indian migration inflows that do not pose any long-term strategic challenge in the manner that an influx from neighbouring regions could. Apart from that, India is a growing market for Russian exports.
The new thinking shaping Russia–India relations is a response both to their mutual economic needs, especially in the context of Western economic sanctions on Russia, and to the emergence of China as a geo-economic and geopolitical challenge in the Far East. To take full advantage of this opportunity India must improve its connectivity to the region. India’s growing engagement in East Asia and the emergence of the Indo-Pacific region (IPR) as a link between India and the eastern rim of the Pacific offer new opportunities for Russia–India partnership.