I mentioned late last month the importance of China-Pakistan ties and their implications for India. So it’s worth also mentioning growing defence ties between India and Russia.
Asian Defence has an interesting post on an Indian delegation to Siberia that has been taking a look at the Sukhoi T-50, a fifth-generation fighter being built by Russia. The news follows reports like this one on Brahmand.com on the uptick in defence-related deals between the two last year:
‘This year top Indian powers visited Russia — President Pratibha Patil in September followed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in December — to concrete the association between the two nations after New Delhi’s pro-US tilt.
‘India has given a green signal to [keep] Russia as its key strategic partner after signing an umbrella civilian nuclear deal and inter-governmental agreement by another 10 years till 2020, as [reported by Prime Minister’s Office] sources.’
The idea that the US sees India as a counterweight to China is an oft-talked about one. But India-Russia ties could become very interesting in light of the likely growing tensions between China and Russia over China’s populating of Siberia. John Lee, who contributed one of our main APAC 2020 feature essays, covers exactly this issue, arguing:
‘China will be the only great power in Asia that remains dissatisfied with its land and maritime borders. To its north, new tensions are likely over oil, coal and timber rich Russian territories in its Far East and Siberian land mass. There’s already an estimated 100,000 Chinese illegally settling in these areas. By 2020, it’s likely that over 100 million Chinese will be living in the Chinese territories within several hundred kilometres of the porous Russian border with only 5 to 10 million Russians remaining in the region. Siberia’s fresh water supply would also be tempting, given that China already has severe shortages throughout the country.’