A longstanding relationship with Russia has “served our interest well,” a top official said
Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has defended his country’s preference for Russian weaponry, saying New Delhi was forced to turn to Soviet hardware after the US and its Western allies sided with a “military dictatorship” in Pakistan during the Cold War.
During a joint press conference with his Australian counterpart Penny Wong on Monday, Jaishankar was asked whether India should reconsider its ties with Russia given the conflict in Ukraine, going on to outline the “longstanding relationship” between the two countries “that has certainly served our interest well,” including decades of security cooperation.
“We have a substantial inventory of Soviet and Russian-origin weapons. And that inventory actually grew for a variety of reasons. You know, the merits of the weapons systems themselves, but also because for multiple decades, Western countries did not supply weapons to India, and in fact, saw a military dictatorship next to us as the preferred partner,” the foreign minister said, making a veiled reference to Pakistan.
Jaishankar added that India, like any sovereign state, makes such decisions based on its own national interest, saying: “We all in international politics deal with what we have, we make judgements, judgements which are reflective of both our future interests as well as our current situation.”
Modi warns against India’s ‘addiction’
Though New Delhi has so far resisted pressure from the United States to scale back relations with Moscow – instead boosting its imports of Russian goods since fighting kicked off in Ukraine in February – the US State Department said American and Indian officials were in “deep” talks to alter the country’s ties with Russia in September.
Prior to that, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that his country was “addicted” to foreign products and must become more self-reliant, calling for “the development of the defense manufacturing ecosystem in the country itself.” It is unclear whether that goal entails any reduction in Russian arms purchases in the near-term, however.
Like many other non-Western nations, India called for peace and a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine conflict – but has refused to join the US-led campaign to punish Russia. While Western officials have voiced displeasure with the lack of support for their policies, they stopped short of targeting India with any retaliation.
The same was true before the conflict in Ukraine, as Washington threatened but stopped short of imposing sanctions against India for purchasing advanced Russian S-400 air defense systems. This contrasted with its treatment of China and even NATO ally Turkey, which were both hit with sanctions for buying the same weapons.