Missing pitchmen in Moscow, and price India will pay

The foreign and military establishments in major countries are vast bureaucracies where policies get made by the outcome of clashing interpretations of the national interest, of course, but also by the influentials with access to the powers that be who shape and tilt policies one way or the other. Until some time back India had a very strong lobby in Moscow. As a small number of the well informed in New Delhi who are Russian-speaking and try to keep up with developments in Moscow attest, the one time large crew of well-placed officials — old India hands — who understood and empathized with India, and backed its initiatives, is fast disappearing as much because of natural attrition as the Indian government’s approach that is increasingly tilting US-wards and alienating well-wishers in the Kremlin. Soon New Delhi will find there is no one to pitch India’s case there.

Perhaps, this doesn’t matter much to the bulk of the MEA and GOI establishment who feel little need to have a close relationship with Russia to counterbalance the United States and cultivate leverage in both Washington and Moscow as a means of enlarging India’s policy choices and options, and the freedom to maneuver for best results. This was, until not too long ago, one of the drivers of Indian foreign and defence policies, and made for certain stability and equipoise.

With the death of the Hindustani-speaking Russian Ambassador Alexander Kadakin, ironically, on 26th January, India has lost the most powerful voice on its behalf, a man who was carefully listened to in Moscow and who, for years, sculpted the Russian government’s attitude toward this country. This is a big void that will be hard to fill.

As important, two other influentials who pleaded India’s case are turning away. Consider the other regional specialist Zumair Kabulov, an Uzbek, who until 2009 was the Russian Ambassador in Afghanistan and since has been President Vladimir Putin’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan. While earlier he was understood to have wanted an Indian role in that country, now doesn’t even mention India when Afghanistan comes up. (Refer his December 2016 interview at http://aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/exclusive-interview-with-russian-diplomat-zamir-kabulov/717573) Why is this important? Because this means Moscow has written off India as an independent actor even within the region with the standing and  ability to play a larger role in Asia, seeing it, rather, as essentially an American hanger-on. This was reflected in the original Russia-China-Pakistan conclave called to discuss Afghanistan that did not envisage Indian participation. New Delhi was finally accommodated but found itself isolated on this forum.

But when troubles come, as Shakespeare ventured, they come in battalions, another high Russian official, retired Major General Vladimir Dvorkin, possibly the most experienced of the strategic forces adviser to Putin, too has become less sympathetic to India’s fairly precarious position where its nuclear forces are concerned. Dvorkin, who in times past, argued for Russian support for a credible Indian thermonuclear arsenal and, by inference, for resumed testing if an Indian government got up the guts to initiate this time open-ended series of underground fusion weapons test explosions, too has cooled. With Kadakin gone, Kabulov and Dvorkin caring less, Kremlin will be left to make its decisions without the benefit of advice from the once India-friendlies.  This will mean that that little bit of extra consideration and warmth Moscow traditionally showed New Delhi will be missing.

In fact, there is evidence already of the hardening of the Russian position. The Indian government, one is given to understand, has already been told that Moscow will feel free to craft its Pakistan policy as it sees fit, including the sale to Pakistan Air Force of the MiG-35. The transfer of a few Mi-35 attack helicopters was to only whet the appetite. Russia’s pulling away will begin affecting strategically sensitive programs as well, starting with the Aridhaman — the second Arihant-class SSBN in the final stages of production in Vizag. Especially because Russia’s technologically far-reaching offers in the military technology sphere have met with tepid response. (More on this in a future post.)

Given the Indian government’s fairly pronounced West-ward slant, Russia has few takers in New Delhi, even fewer in the MEA which, top to bottom, functions like all but an arm of the US government. Indeed, President Donald Trump and America will lose nothing from closing down the US Embassy in New Delhi, and saving lots of money. Between Carnegie’s and Brookings’ active presence in Delhi, their ranks filled with former NSA and the like, and pliant media, commentariat, and MEA-MOD officialdom, it is virtually Washington on the Jamuna anyway.

What this means for India’s prospects is becoming clearer. With Delhi formally sliding over to America’s side in global power politics, it was only a matter of time before the effects became evident. One of Washington’s India policy weather vanes, Ashley Tellis, of Carnegie Washington, for example, has downgraded India from  an “indispensable” power to the US in Asia, to now, a merely “leading power” in the region. India will soon become, and be treated as, a client state — a lowly and contemptible status, sourcing for the US an endless stream of low-cost IT and other tech coolies. A client state is what Pakistan was. Except with some characteristically deft diplomacy, Islamabad has become fairly central to Chinese and Russian calculations in extended Central and southern Asia, even as it has held on to its prime slot as a”front line” state in US’s reckoning. Meanwhile, Indian emissaries, beginning with Foreign Secretary K Jaishankar in  the next week, followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his Washington visit scheduled for May, will beg for more H1B visas to “drain” India’s “brain” bank. Great going.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Afghanistan, Central Asia, China, civil-military relations, Culture, Decision-making, Defence Industry, domestic politics, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's Pakistan Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian democracy, Indian ecobomic situation, MEA/foreign policy, Military Acquisitions, Military/military advice, Nuclear Policy & Strategy, Nuclear Weapons, Pakistan, Pakistan military, Relations with Russia, Russia, russian assistance, South Asia, Strategic Forces Command, Strategic Relations with the US & West, United States, US., Weapons. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Missing pitchmen in Moscow, and price India will pay

  1. Interesting point!

    I would however urge you to consider these points, too!

    1.India’s geo-political dependence on USSR (in the 1970s-1980s) was in a different time and place. India managed in the 1960s without the Russian crutch.

    2.After the 1965 War with Pakistan, Kosygin was more interested in Pakistan, than India. The Russian delegation at Tashkent, to please Pakistan, put so much pressure on Shastri that he returned home in a coffin.

    3.India in 2017 is not quite the India of the 1960s. Russia of 2017 is not quite the USSR of 1960s. But opportunistic Pakistan remains the same.

    4.If Russia wants to equivocate between Pakistan and India like in the 1960s, we can equivocate between Georgia, Ukraine and Russia, too!

    5.If Russia wants to dilute its India relationship for Pakistan, is it worthwhile for India to invest more in the Russia relationship?

    6.You keep diluting your sound arguments with this ‘Russia will get angry’ idea! Drop it, I suggest!

    7.If Russia cannot see the India-opportunity, and wants to run with the Pakistani hounds, we must re-assess Russia’s value as an ally!

    • Be very careful what you wish for. If you believe the US, for love or money, is going to part with sensitive technologies beyond the vintage F-16 level then I can safely say you are being overly optimistic. Just so you know what we are talking about, the US wouldn’t transfer the SSBN technology to UK, America’s bosom pal, and compelled London to go it alone. It also forced the Royal Navy to buy first the Polaris and later the Trident sub-launched missiles whole from the US, its assistance restricted to integrating these missiles with the vertical launch system on board the British boats. And UK as you perhaps are aware is a really advanced shipbuilding nation. It is simple geopolitics and realpolitik (not Cold War stuff here), really. It is precisely because Russia needs the money that it will sell sensitive technology. Either that, or prepare to kowtow to the Yellow Emperor. Or, may be to America. One or the other, hey, every one else is.

      • Respected Bharat Sir,
        Why even after all the great Russian tech help in the field nuclear Submarine that India has got that India is not even able to make a conventional Submarine ?

        2 How do you plan to make India self-independent in the field of submarine design ?

        Maybe you may suggest India should license manufacture Russian crap which was originally rejected by Russian navy itself.

        Now India has been license manufacturing Russian T-series tanks for the past half-century.But How did India make Arjun Tank ?

        Arjun tank is basically a German design with loads of Israeli tech.This is How India became self-reliant in designing Tanks, and not by license manufacturing Russian T-Series.

        THe only way India can become self-reliant in Submarine design is by collaborating with Sweden, SPain or Italy.Maybe India should outrightly buy Kockums, Navantia if possible!!!!

      • Veer pratap@ — Have been advocating for an entirely indigenous P-75i submarine based on built-up capabilities in-country for SSBN design and manufacture. In this business, it does not matter where you borrow design ideas from, and buy foreign technologies for, as long as the design is ours, which is what LCA and Arjun MBT are, and why we need to go with them no matter what.

  2. 1. Of course, USA couldn’t replace either USSR earlier or now Russia!

    2. My point is in no way related India’s alleged closeness to USA!

    3. My point is that Russia as a weapons (technology) supplier relationship, can be managed as a commercial relationship! They need the money and the Indian perspective!

    4. After all, their bestseller Su-30MKI, MiG-29 and T90 are based on Indian specs! It is Indian perspective that gets them business now!

    5. India’s robust (time consuming) process is now a stamp of approval! See how Rafale, Scorpene, K9-Thunder sales took off after winning winning in India!

    6. On Britain’s shipbuilding technology, it is all in the past. Their new Daring Class is a huge embarrassment! Their attack subs are all in the harbor – and cant go out to sea! Will their aircraft carriers float?

    7. My point is that India is now entering a new age – where India is in good position (demographics, economics, security) with the P5. We cant be boorish or overconfident like China but more realistic!

    8. If Russia wants to run with the Indian hare and hunt with the Chi-Pak hounds, we must address that and be prepared!

    That is all!

  3. Shaurya says:

    @Anurag Sanghi To understand Bharat’s post you will have to vector the post with Indian aspirations as held by some as a pole of power, independent, sovereign with all the strategic levers to be great power.

    The US is a great power but also a competing one in the region. Russia is a great power but does not compete in the region. Russia as a result is a more natural ally to fill in the holes that India needs until catch up. The US OTOH will first never part with some advanced technilogies and is in their interest for India to NOT be an independent pole of power.

  4. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    So you noticed the H1B conundrum. A man who chases the US president around 10 times in 2 years is reduced to begging for H1Bs, that too for a yesterday’s industry. An industry which provided the largest number of party supporters. Just loved the Obama’s good cop to Trump’s bad cop routine.

    That too after signing on the LEMOA and publicly committing (for all intents and purposes) to 300 single engine Lockheed planes. The uphill cycling has just begun. Lets just see how much blood their feeble hearts can pump into their spindly legs and back.

    And all this after having ground India to a halt. The same India that gave this shadow state the mandate they are so proud of.

    The future industry of weapons production is already undermined by now. I don’t expect to see anything more than a token support for LCA. And none whatsoever for Arjun, ATAGS etc. Any order that will come will come in only because they would be short of funds for foreign masala and the ally will ask them to contribute in kind to the alliance. Trump has already said he would like to get paid for providing protection.

    That and much more is the evidence of the stupidity with which our establishment is blessed. They will end up isolating India in the Asian super continent. And India in future will treat these people with the right sort of ‘respect’ they deserve. Is it any wonder that a man on the streets sees these netas and babus as a problem creator.

    It could have been done better but then our pissus would have remained with us and sucked our blood for generations. If you want India to live healthy in future then the establishment must be allowed to run its full course. Beyond the pomp and show, there is nothing. Just sit back and relax.

  5. andy says:

    Wow…been a bit tied up so missed all the action from the last post..just one question to all the nice people who launch into an anti Bharat tirade at the drop of a hat,why on earth do you guys keep lapping up what the man writes if you find it so unpalatable?

    The problem with such critcs is they, like the corrupt bureaucracy,corrupt politicians,some corrupt elements in the armed forces (especially the top brass),want to maintain the status quo regarding Indias dependency on other countries for its weapons systems or they want India to remain in a pseudo comfort zone,hanging on to the coat tails of one or the other leading power,USSR in the past and now the USA.Both these facts are asked to be changed on a regular basis here by the author much to the distaste of the above elements,making them more and more frustrated.The fact that these elements keep reading whats written here, inspite of being so negative about it ,signifies that deep down in their hearts they know whats being written is what needs to be done in order for India to become a true super power a few decades down the road and not land up as a dependant (as with the USSR) or a client state of the USA or worst of all a vassal of the Chinese dragon.

    The author does well to brush off the criticism plus raving and ranting (or is it howls of protest)from such elements,who inspite of being aware of what is the right thing for India,conviniently choose to look the other way.

  6. In the coming imminent, inevitable Chinese Invasion of India, we can count only on Russia, France, Israel and Vietnam perhaps Japan.
    Australia New Zealand South Africa, South Korea and Brazil will back China. USA, UK and West will preach India Ahimsa

  7. Respected Bharat Sir,
    Now Arihant SSBN is a vintage late 1960s era design.Well theoretically yes India can make P-75i submarines based on Arihant ssbn double hull design.Nobody really wants that obsolete conventional subs.
    Only Russia makes double hull submarines.All Europeans make only single hull subs.Now it is common sense to go in with single hull design.
    More the competition better the deal customer gets.

    • &^%$#@! says:

      From where did you get this piece of information: “Now Arihant SSBN is a vintage late 1960s era design…”?

      • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

        What I fail to understand is that the crowd that does not want to dive in a 1960s vintage SSBN is more than willing to fly a 1960s vintage F-16 merely because the F-16 not made by Russians. 😀

  8. Venkat says:

    I think this is a simplistic view.
    We have bought almost 300+ heavy fighters after funding their development.
    We want to buy their Light helicopters after over ruling the test process.
    We are buyng another few hundred tanks , a few more destroyers. Have bought the MiGs for navy
    The are buying so Mi-17 helicopters.
    .Then there are reports of buying S400 systems !
    A few more nuclear reactors for power generation .
    All these after paying hard cash, right ?
    Is there anything left ? Does Russia we buy all that their factories produce ?
    They must be more mature than this.
    Yes, people change, but there is always a depth, an institutional relationship , maybe we cannot see.

    • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

      Does not matter what India is buying from Russians. Even these should not have been bought. For the simple reason that competitors like China do not have to, having started from the same base as ours.

      Look around you the ratio of Indian to Foreign is deteriorating in favour of the foreign. And this is supposed to be good for the future of India.

      Russian relationship is important for the reason of past good experience. Whatever we count as indigenous was to some extent or the other helped by the Russians. But at some point we have to learn to let go of the papa ki ungli. Instead we are re-inventing a new papa to catch hold of a new ungli.

      Given the trend, what are the chances that this very establishment will not go and hold the Chinese ungli sometime in future?

  9. Socho says:

    Pakistan was the blue-eyed boy of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger having brokered peace between US and China. As the US-deployed Task Force 74 — led by aircraft carrier USS Enterprise — to the Bay of Bengal to threaten India, and the British task force — led by aircraft carrier HMS Eagle — approached Indian waters, Soviet battleships tracked Eagle while additional cruisers, destroyers and nuclear submarines were dispatched from Vladivostok.
    The Royal Navy retreated, but news came of USS Tripoli advancing on India. The Soviets encircled them, aimed missiles at Enterprise and surfaced their nuclear submarines to be viewed by US satellites, preventing any US interference. The Soviets reportedly also threatened China that if it ever opened a front against India on its border, it would face a tough response from the North

    • Socho says:

      US/UK combo has been trying to invade Russia since 1991. They first tricked Yeltsin into allowing britush and US Atlanticists and neocons in forming Russian government then they installed their ‘boys’ into offices of influence. Then along came Putin who spoiled everything for them, hence the anti Putin movement and demonization. Putin is in a class of his own and when Yeltsin handed over his power to Putin he stated “take care of Russia”, which Putin has done.
      All of these False Flags like the Olympics doping scandal, Russian bombing civilians, hacking, MH17, Crimea and “Russian Aggression


      It is so presumptous of anglosaxon pirates to compare themselves with Roman empire. They always try to promote their low status to higher level through lies and deception.
      Anglos are descendents of Phoenicians from carriage bred with Neanderthals in boglands of North Holland. And they have same characteristic as pirate turned shopkeepers.


  10. Socho says:

    Another plot by English to destabilise arctic through so called green peace .


    So called special relationship is a fraud by england to pretend to be some power based on American strength.
    America needs to get out of English chalice poison of slavish embrace.
    Anglosaxon really are in minority in usa _they have kept power by dividing the others into black and white and then other whites into Irish German Italian ethnicities -so that anglosaxon and their back room handlers from England still kerp their influence intact in American government and Hollywood.


    Quote – tentacles of british sponsored terrorism.
    The OSS/CIA bought the running of the Muslim Brotherhood networks from the British after WW2.
    The CIA ran an operation with the MB through the Mosque in Munich to subvert Muslims in Central Asia against the USSR.
    When Nasser started the crackdown on the MB in Egypt the CIA helped the MB escape to Saudi Arabia.
    The CIA activated its MB networks in Saudi Arabia coordinating with its asset Osama bin Laden to subvert Afghanistan to draw in the USSR.
    In the early 1990s a CIA front company was set up in Azerbaijan to move jihadis from Afghanistan to Azerbaijan then relocate them to one of three areas: to the Balkans to fight the Serbs, to Chechnya to fight Russia, and to fight the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.
    Osama bin Laden traveled under CIA protection to Bosnia to organize jihadi assets.
    The MB, Al Qaeda, ISIS, all are run by and in the pocket of the british / CIA.
    The US is in a war on terror? It should therefore bomb itself

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