7 PM Editorial |Understanding China-Russia Ties To Calibrate Indian Foreign Policy|20th August 2020

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Understanding China-Russia Ties To Calibrate Indian Foreign Policy


Triangular partnership between Russia, China and USA are important in global geopolitics. This was the case since the 1950’s. US viewed China as key in victory against USSR, especially after the defeat in the Vietnam war. Similarly, Russia now views China as vital to maintain its global power.

India’s relations with USA, China and Russia are most important from foreign policy perspective.  Hence their triangular relations between themselves becomes important to calibrate Indian foreign policy.

Changing dynamics of of US-Russia-China relationship:

2 trends are visible:

  • China has gained an advantageous position. Previously, US had an advantageous position in the relationships between the three in all areas – economic, geopolitical and trade. But this has changed in recent times.
  • Disintegration of USSR has removed any Russian threat to China. Hence China is recalibrating relations with Russia without any apprehensions.
Deepening Sino-Russia cooperation:

Western sanctions on Russia have pushed it into a closer relationship with China. To overcome economic and security challenges, Russia has deepened collaboration with China.

3 pillars of Sino-Russia partnership are:

  • Peaceful boundary
  • Expanding trade
    • Trade doubled after western sanctions
    • Chinese currency reserves with Russia have increased by 1300%
    • China replaced Germany as supplier of industrial plants and technology
  • Shared distrust of American intentions and actions to tackle resultant threat perception
    • Coordination in multilateral fora
    • Joint military exercises
    • Coordination with other countries like Iran, Turkey.

Due to these actions, there is a perception of strategic convergence between both and possible alliance. But this is not a complete picture.

Russian concerns remain:

Increasing power gap between both countries has raised apprehensions in Russia.  It’s concerns include:

  • Rising influence of China in Central Asia, Eastern Europe and Arcticwhich are historically closer to Russia. BRI(Belt and Road initiative) has led to this closer integration of these regions with China. But Russia considers itself a great power and want to retain its prominence in these regions
  • Possible threat to Russian territorial integritydue to Chinese migration into the far east. Further voices in China raise grievances of historical occupation of Chinese lands by Tsarist Russia.
  • Trade asymmetry: Chinese have advantage due to technology related exports. Russia primarily supplies oil and gas as well as raw materials. Chinese investment is minimal except in China’s core interests like gas and oil pipelines(Power of Siberia pipeline etc).
  • Economic divergence:
    • Chinese intention to integrate Russia into China’s economy is not preferred by Russians who want to maintain economic sovereignty.
    • Russia’s plan to control China using oil and gas supplies will not be acceptable to Chinese
  • Ties with US and west are still seen as repairableby both countries. Hence any strategic convergence in the short term is due to necessity rather than deeper alliance.
  • Defense supplies of S-400 have more economic importance than geo strategic. China’s defense purchases will go down due to self reliance and Russia has limited period to gain from defense trade with China.

Hence there is increasing asymmetry of power with the real possibility of Russia becoming a junior partner. This is not acceptable to Russia.


India must have a realistic understanding of Sino-Russia ties. Any deepening Sino-Russia relationship should not be the cause of friction in India-Russia partnership as China is not a factor in this. India-China and India- Russia partnerships have their own salience.

Russia is a major defense supplier to India and both share a common belief in multipolarity as well as have no conflicts of interests.. Hence this friendship must be nurtured more by both sides.

Source: The Hindu

Mains question:
  1. In the context of deepening China-Russia ties, how should India recalibrate its foreign policy? [15 marks, 250 words]
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