As the standoff between China and India goes on in the Doklam area and neither country shows intention to back down, Russia seems to not only hedge its bets on both sides, but also benefit from the tensions.
Multiple Indian and Russian media outlets have reported that India and Russia are going to hold a joint war game from October 19 to 29 in Russia. The army, navy and air force from both countries will engage in the drill dubbed Indra (India + Russia). According to The Asian Age, the exercise will involve live firing drills, air defense and anti-submarine operations and other tri-services integrated exercises.
Russia and India have held annual Indra exercises since 2003, but what is different this time is that it’s the first ever combined force drill. In addition, it will also be the first time for India to have a joint tri-services exercise.
Based on a TASS report, at a meeting of the Russian-Indian inter-governmental commission for military-technical cooperation on military-technical cooperation in June, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu claimed that the joint exercises would “enhance the status and reputation of the two countries’ armed forces and show the defense ministries’ readiness for effective counteraction against modern challenges and threats.”
In addition, Indian media revealed that the exercise will take place in three locations in Russia, including in the mountainous far east, which borders China.
Other than the mega military exercises, India is going to purchase Russian weapons worth $10 billion and the negotiation has come to the final stage after the meeting mentioned above. The weapons projects include the purchase of S-400 air defense systems, the acquisition of four Admiral Grigorovich-class frigates and the acquisition of 200 Kamov 226T light utility helicopters, or LUH,according to Defense News.
Meanwhile, as The Diplomat has been following, Russia has been constantly enhancing diplomatic relations and military cooperation with China recently.
In early May, during the Belt and Road Forum held in Beijing, China and Russia agreed to maintain a high level comprehensive strategic partnership and to reinforce all-round cooperation.
In early June, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin met during the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) held in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, and vowed to strengthen ties between the two nations.
On June 29, the Chinese Defense Ministry confirmed that China and Russia signed a roadmap on military cooperation for 2017-2020.(By the way, just two weeks after China and Russia signed the military roadmap, Russia signed another military roadmap with India on June 23.)
Putin and Xi repeated expressed extremely friendly remarks toward each other. For example, Xi once said China and Russia are “good neighbors, good friends, and good partners,” and the bilateral relations “are now the best ever.”