Hananah Zarrar –
Recently it has been circulated via Indian media that India and Russia are finally very close to their agreement on Defence Logistics Sharing Pact. The agreement is expected to be signed by the end of the year 2020 during President Putin’s visit to India. Originally, the pact has been under consideration for two years already, yet the negotiations did not take formal shape earlier. This pact would enable both countries to access each other’s military bases and support facilities. It provides interoperability and military support and stationing of warships and aircraft. Moreover, the pact ensures access to mutual ports and exclusive economic zones for refueling purposes. This pact would likely serve as a revival of Russia’s status as a leading arms supplier to India. Evidence of which also comes from the recent official visit of Indian Defence Minister Mr. Rajnath Singh to Russia. He requested for the supply of equipment like missiles, assault rifles, and significant ammunition as an emergency purchase, for which Russia has given assurance.
Russia aspires to reserve its permanent or long-term presence in the affairs of the Indo-pacific region. Under the possible clauses of the proposed agreement, Russia would gain access to key Indian ports like Mumbai and Visakhapatnam for refueling and other supplies. Russia seems to be following its strategic tradition to challenge the United States to retain its presence in every possible international affair. Since the US has India as its reliable regional ally against the Chinese rise and Russia’s resurgence; it would be very unlikely for the US to lose its regional existence in near decades. For Russia, while the possible proposal of deploying a certain number of troops in each other’s country, this pact would enable Russia to reserve its position at the door of the Indian Ocean. This would also pave the way for Russia to conduct exercises and use the exclusive economic zone of India in the coming years. Thus, for Russia, this agreement completely stands as a balancer for its regional existence vis-à-vis the US.
Besides military supplies and strengthening of the Russo-Indian defense partnership, the signing of the pact as early as by the end of this year can be seen as a major step for India towards enhancing its regional significance. In the same vein, as India aspires to become a dominant global power, such a pact would likely serve the purpose of India’s enhanced footprint at the global level. The recent domestic and regional conflicts -precisely the Indo-China Border dispute along LAC- have reasonably drawn India towards regional isolation. This agreement once materialized would provide India with a chance to reassure its regional significance vis-à-vis China and its reach as far as the Arctic. Indian Navy will be able to smoothly transit through for exercises while the Indian Air Force would find it easier to deploy its aircrafts for joint exercises. Furthermore, access to Russian air bases and ports would ensure India access to the Arctic, which would likely expand its political and strategic reach. For the same purpose, India has been an observing member of the Arctic Council since 2013. In this regard, the ‘Indo-Arctic’ initiative, would likely provide India with an opportunity to reserve its future hold of the polar region via Indo-Pacific coasts.
The above-debated agreement predicts regional security and stability implications in the coming years. More than the United States, this pact would alarm the Sino-Russia and Pak-Russia relations in the future. The Indo-US strategic partnership would not be affected as far as India does not roll back from the US under any political pressure posed by Russia to get the agreement signed. Although, India already has similar logistics sharing pacts with the US, France, and Australia, yet the nature and timing of this agreement depict a strategic and defense support from Russia to India amid the latter’s LAC skirmishes with China. Similarly, China might consider it as interference by Russia, which would likely provoke China to ensure the ‘no-interference’ vis-à-vis LAC’s on-going conflict.
The United States aims to expand its collaboration with India as its forefront ally in the region to compete in China. Likewise, Russia also sees India as an equally strong market for its huge defense industry. Aspired to regional domination, India continues to expand its defence posture while following an offensive strategy. The Russo-Indian strategic relationship would likely put Pakistan in another dilemma for a competition of regional strategic relations with major powers vis-à-vis India. The United States and Russia, almost equally engaged with India in the defense sector while having bilateral disagreements on future arms control, are surely putting unintentional pressure on India to take either side in the long run while securing its defense modernization and regional hegemonic design. While Russia pretends to retain its neutrality approach towards China, India, and Pakistan to enhance its strong and unopposed regional presence; India would likely dismantle the regional peace with its offensive approach. Meanwhile, Pak-China strategic partnership is likely to strengthen with the passage of time and development in Indian strategy. Though the implications of this pact are yet to be analyzed once it is materialized South Asia would be pushed towards instability and conflicts. Such developments would likely challenge the threshold of provocative war in South Asia in the foreseeable future.