Think Tank
Russia and India: How Not to Fall Under the Grindstone of Others’ Rivalries
List of speakers

On May 15, the Valdai Discussion Club, in partnership with the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), hosted a webinar on Russian-Indian relations. Timofei Bordachev, programme director of the Valdai Club and moderator of the event, defined its task as an honest dialogue on the most pressing issues between experts from two countries that have always been distinguished by their good relationship, which will allow the parties to better understand each other’ s interests and intentions during the on-going global crisis.

The main areas of discussion were set in the report by Nivedita Kapoor, an ORF Junior Fellow, who revealed two dimensions of Russian-Indian relations – the internal, currently mainly reduced to economic cooperation, and the external, which is now primarily associated with the impending bipolar confrontation between the USA and China, which threatens to involve other countries, including Russia and India. Vasily Kashin, senior fellow at the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies, raised the issue of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world order, suggesting that the resulting decrease in interdependence between countries will increase hostility between key players, i.e. the United States and China. Against this background, Russia and India – the countries on which the outcome of the confrontation will depend – will find themselves in an advantageous, but dangerous position, requiring the coordination of efforts and expansion of cooperation.

The unwillingness of either country to fall under the millstone of rivalry was also emphasised by the Valdai Club’s Research Director Fyodor Lukyanov, who added that there are a number of countries that do not want to get involved in a confrontation, and that Russia and India could become the flagships of this movement. Nandan Unnikrishnan, Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, noted in his speech that for both Russia and India, the bipolar world is preferable to a unipolar one and that no country would like another hegemon to appear in the world. The Indian expert also expressed concern that in recent years, the military-technical aspect has prevailed in relations between both countries and called for the diversification of cooperation, with particular attention to finance and investment. Ivan Safranchuk, Senior Fellow, Institute for International Studies, MGIMO-University, in turn, emphasised that we have not yet arrived at the bipolar world and it is early to predict what forms Russian-Indian cooperation can take. At the same time, he suggested that the technology of cooperation, now under discussion in the new environment, would most likely not work.

The topic of specific areas of cooperation was developed by Aleksey Kupriyanov, senior researcher at IMEMO RAS, who listed a number of promising fields for joint activities, such as the supply of medicines and medical equipment, projects in Africa and the cybernetic sphere. Particular attention was paid to cooperation in the financial and economic sphere by Anuradha Chenoy, former dean at School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, who emphasised the importance of local currency-based trade between countries and called for India to join the Eurasian Economic Community. At the end of the discussion, Sanjay Despande, Director of the Centre for Central Eurasian Studies at the University of Mumbai, returned to the topic of the COVID-19 pandemic and expressed hope that it would not adversely affect the time-tested relations between the countries.