Russia has sent its missile cruiser, a destroyer, a large sea tanker, a tugboat and two naval helicopters to India to take part in joint naval drills with India, a major ally of the U.S. in Asia.
The drills are set to be held in early December at time when Washington is losing some of its allies in Asia.
“The exercise will be held from December 7 to 12 this year; the welcoming ceremony for the detachment of the Russian Navy ships is planned for December 6,” a source close to the Indian Ministry of Defense told ITAR-TASS on Tuesday.
Russia’s naval force will arrive at the port at Visakhapatnam on the southeastern coast of India on December 6 to participate in the Indra joint naval maneuvers. According to the source, India will use a multipurpose frigate, a Coast Guard plane, an anti-submarine plane, a helicopter, a destroyer, and two training planes in the training exercises.
“The maneuvers will focus on drilling antisubmarine defense of ships, gun practice on surface and air targets. Also, it is planned to conduct anti-terrorist operation drills to rescue a ship seized by hypothetical terrorists in which assault teams, supported by helicopters will be landed on board the ship,” the source added.
Earlier this month, Russia and India held Indra joint drills involving 500 ground troops from both sides in the northwestern Indian state of Rajasthan. In the course of the drills, Moscow and New Delhi focused on joint actions within a combined peacekeeping military unit, including the clearing and blocking of a hypothetical conflict area and neutralization of enemies. Both sides also practiced defusing bombs and various sophisticated explosive devices and providing first aid to the injured.
U.S.-Indian relations at risk
Relations between the United States and India have been focused mainly on deterring threats coming from China’s rising power in the region, according to The Telegraph. As a result of India’s warm relations with the U.S., it has been deepening its ties with America’s allies in the Asia Pacific region, such as Japan, South Korea, Australia and Vietnam. However, now that the Obama administration is seemingly unwilling to take a firm stance against Russia’s growing military involvement in the Middle East, America’s Asian allies seem to be turning away from Washington.
Russia has been India’s top military supplier for a long time, increasing defense sales worth over $45 billion since the 1960s. However, compared to the U.S.-Indian joint military exercises, Russia and India do not conduct many drills together. The Indra military drills have been held once a year between India and Russia since 2005, while the two nations’ naval forces now also carry out their Indra series of naval war games once a year. Meanwhile, the U.S. and India have held over 80 joint military exercises over the last decade.
Huge changes in geopolitics are coming
Moscow is often called New Delhi’s sole definitive “strategic” partner in its truest form, according to The Diplomat. And their bilateral ties, which work in a manner irrespective of who is in power in India or Russia, have been developed over decades. Despite the fact that over the past year, the two countries have lost some of their shared warmth due to Washington’s stepped-up efforts to strengthen ties with New Delhi, the joint military drills and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s scheduled first visit to Moscow early next month may completely change the geopolitical picture.
Today Russia is looking at China and India to compensate for oil revenues with defense revenues, and there has already been progress in that regard. But when Russia lost Indian helicopter deals and MMRCA fighter jet deals to the U.S. and France, it suddenly shifted its focus to Pakistan. In what appears to be an attempt to manipulate India, a Russian defense minister made a trip to Pakistan in August, during which the countries signed defense agreements, such as the sale of some Mi-35 Hind E attack helicopters, a variant of the type also operated by India. The move was seen as counterproductive for the warm relations between India and Russia.
Is Russia’s manipulation a geopolitical game?
Russia even tricked geopolitical experts into thinking that it has plans to shape up a formidable triangle with China and Pakistan on board. Such a superpower axis would create a bipolar world with China, Russia, Pakistan and a number of other authoritarian countries from Central Asia on one side and the U.S., EU, and Japan and their Asian allies on the other side.
With Pakistan being India’s traditional rival in the region, Russia was sending a clear message to India: do not grow friendly with Washington. Moscow does not enjoy the fact that a competing country won over India’s defense contracts. But with analysts being confident that Moscow has won in its manipulation geopolitical games, Russia will, in fact, not sell the Sukhoi 35s to Pakistan. Instead, it will focus on further strengthening its ties with India amid fears that Washington could offer New Delhi better deals and eventually steal Russia’s largest defense importer.
But a recent deal between Russia and India to sell the INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier and Indian Prime Minister’s visit next month indicate how important India is for Russia. And when Russia considers something important, it is known to hold onto it tightly.