A brief on Indo-Russia relations

By Ashish Singh & Akash Singh

india russia

  • Both countries have extremely close relations since 1947, despite India being a member of the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM)
  • India followed a five year planning. In the 2nd Five Year Plan of India 8 out of 16 heavy industries were set up with the assistance of USSR.
  • In 1971 the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace and Friendship was signed.
  • It is marked as an important event in the history of the Indo-USSR relations, as due to the assistance of USSR, USA & China could not do any misadventures during the Indo-Pak war of 1971 (also known as the Bangladesh Liberation War)
  • 1991- USSR was disintegrated. The world order changed.
  • In 2000- Putin visited India and the “Declaration on the India-Russia Strategic Partnership” was signed
  • In 2010- Special and Privileged Partnership agreement
  • USSR has soft corner in its foreign policy for India.
  • USSR helps India by Veto in UN on matter of Kashmir.
  • USSR also helped to set up IIT Mumbai, Bhilai steel plant and much more industrial development
  • USSR mediated during the Indo-Pak war 1965 and helped in Tashkent agreement.
  • Estimates say that between 1955 and 1970 Indian imports from the Soviet Union increased more than 100 times, and exports to the Soviet Union more than 50 times. Also, 70,000 skilled workers were trained at joint Indo-Soviet centers in India.
  • In 1971 India and USSR has signed a treaty which is called Indo-Soviet pact 1971, it is more consequential international treaty since the independence of India and this change the map of South Asia.
  • This treaty was more focused on peace, friendship and cooperation between India and USSR. This treaty included 12 articles and ninth article emphasized on mutual consultation and cooperation if any one entered into a war. This helped a lot during the freedom war of Bangladesh in 1971.
  • The 1971 treaty contained a pledge of military assistance; it was a significant departure from India‘s stance of non-alignment.
  • ISRO built India’s first satellite, Aryabhata, which was launched by the Soviet Union on 19 April 1975.
  • Rakesh Sharma became the first Indian in space in 1984, when he flew aboard the Soviet spacecraft Soyuz T-11.
  • In 1991, about 70% of Indian army’s armaments, 80% of its air force systems, and 85% of its naval platforms were of Soviet origin.
  • In 1991, two watershed moments happened — economic liberalization was introduced in India, and the Soviet Union was dissolved.
  • Soviet disintegration was met with shock and disbelief in Indian foreign policy circles. In the early 1990s, discussions were about managing India‘s rupee-ruble debt that had accumulated over the years of the Soviet Union’s favorable trade policy.
  • When Vladimir Putin became Russia’s President in 2000, the bilateral ties were put on a solid foundation again after about a decade of post-Soviet confusion and stagnation.
  • Russia has been a longstanding time-tested partner of India. Both countries signed “Declaration on the India-Russia Strategic Partnership” in October 2000.Traditionally, the Indo-Russian strategic partnership has been built on five major components: politics, defense, civil nuclear energy, anti-terrorism co-operation and space
  • The manufacture and supply of tanks and missiles (T-90 and BrahMos), ships and submarines (the Talwar-class stealth frigates), the aircraft-carrier Vikramaditya and the nuclear submarine (Arihant), jetfighter and early airborne warning aircraft (Sukhoi 30MKI and IL-76) are all examples of such cooperation.
  • This may also help increase defense export and remuneration generation for both the countries.
  • Recently India has signed a defense deal with Philippines around 350 million dollar for supply of BrahMos missile system.
  • Indian PM Modi visited Russia in September 2019 for the Eastern Economic Forum held in Vladivostak
  • DM Rajnath Singh also visited Moscow in 2020 to attend the military parade
  • Despite Covid-19 related challenges, India-Russia relations have continued to deepen, with enhanced cooperation in all areas of the bilateral relationship, including political engagements, security, defence, trade & economy, science & technology and culture.
  • Cooperation was further strengthened through joint efforts in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic, including in the field of vaccine trials and production, supply of drugs and repatriation of citizens of both countries.
  • On April 12, 2019, President Putin signed the Executive Order On Awarding PM Russia’s highest state award, the Order of St Andrew the Apostle The First Called.
  • The order was presented to PM for his distinguished contribution to the development of Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership between India and Russia and friendly ties between the peoples of both countries.
  • Sripat Amrit Dange- an Indian Communist leader who had strongly endorsed pro-Soviet views- was a founding member of the Communist Party of India (CPI). He also worked as Chairman of Communist Party of India (CPI) for 19 years, was awarded the Order of Lenin in 1974.

Defence Cooperation

  • India and Russia have an institutionalized structure to oversee the complete range of issues of military technical cooperation.
  • The India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC), set up in 2000, is at the apex of this structure.
  • The two Defence Ministers meet annually, alternately in Russia and India, to discuss and review the status of ongoing projects and other  issues of military technical cooperation.
  • Joint exercises
  • Various Joint Projects
    1) BrahMos Missiles
    2) INS Vikramaditya
    3) Ilyushin-78 transport aircraft
    4) Akula class submarine
    5) S-400 Missile defence system
    6) Fakhor Air base in Tajikistan
  • Russia is India’s one the most preferred defense partner. India is currently focused on indigenous technology development in defense arm & ammunitions and wants to manufacture in own region.
  • Russia played a major role in technology transfer and setup many company jointly to start manufacturing in India like as BrahMos, AK203 etc.
  • Bilateral projects currently underway include indigenous production of T-90 tanks and Su-30-MKI aircraft, supply of MiG-29-K aircraft and Kamov-31 and Mi-17 helicopters, upgrade of MiG-29 aircraft and supply of Multi-Barrel Rocket Launcher Smerch.
  • Over the years, cooperation in the military technical sphere has evolved from a purely buyer-seller relationship to joint research, design development and production of state of the art military platforms.
  • Joint exercises between the two Armed Forces are held under the title “INDRA”.
2018 S-400 missile defense system $5.2 billion
2018 Project 11356 class frigates (2) $950 million
2019 Akula class nuclear-powered submarine $3 billion
2019 T-90 tanks $2 billion
2019 Igla-S Very Short-Range Air Defense Systems $1.47 billion
2019 JV to manufacture of AK-203/103 rifles $ 1 billion




Energy Cooperation

  • Kundlkulom Nuclear Power Plant, Tamil Nadu
  • ONGC and other Indian companies are exploring opportunities in Russia’s far east and Arctic region
  • Cheaper oil deals during the ongoing crisis

Economic Cooperation

  • Far below its potential
  • Bilateral trade is on an average 10 billion USD annually
Year India’s Import
from Russia
India’s export
to Russia
Total trade Percentage
Increase YOY
2010 6.39 2.14 8.53 14.4
2011 6.09 2.79 8.89 4.19
2012 7.91 3.04 10.95 23.8
2013 7.01 3.10 10.11 -7.34
2014 6.34 3.17 9.51 -5.6
2015 5.58 2.26 7.83 -17.67
2016 5.23 2.36 7.59 -3.07
2017 6.46 2.90 9.36 23.32
2018 7.75 3.23 10.98 17.31
2019 7.24 3.92 11.16 1.64
2020 5.83 3.48 9.31 -17
2021(Jan-June) 3.22 2.01 5.23 +31.4% (corresponding to same period in 2020)



  • Both the Governments have undertaken initiatives to promote bilateral investments, primarily through facilitating high-level Government to Business and Business to Business contacts apart from the on-going investment process in strategic sectors in both the countries.
  • Investment cooperation has been envisaged in some priority sectors such as hydrocarbons, power, coal, nuclear power, fertilizers, IT, mineral and metallurgy, steel, pharmaceuticals, infrastructure projects amongst others.
  • Russian investment in India in 2017 has reached 18bn USD and India’s total investment in Russia so far is 13 billion USD.
  • The overall investment target of 30 billion USD that was set for 2025 has been already crossed.
  • The cumulative Indian investments in Russia, (bulk of which is in hydrocarbons sector) was about US $ 8 billion for the period 2000-2014, while the cumulative Russian investments in India over the same period were about US $ 4 billion, mainly in automotive (KAMAZ) and telecommunications (AFK Sistema) sectors.
  • In 2015-2017, there was a renewed emphasis on increasing the bilateral investment, especially in the hydrocarbon sector.

Regional Agreements

  • Collaboration between States of India and Regions of Russia in the trade and economic sphere is an important pillar of overall bilateral relations.
  • In 2019, with the view to enhance such engagement with the Russian Far East Region, India led a huge business delegation with Shri Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry along with Chief Ministers of Indian states of Gujarat, Goa, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. Five MoUs were signed between the Indian States and Russian Regions.
  • For the Far East, in continuation of the Act-Far East focus, several rounds of discussions were held to finalize the mechanism to operationalize the USD 1 billion Line of Credit.
  • During the 6th EEF in 2021, a virtual meeting between Gujarat and Yakutia region was organized in presence of Shri Vijay Rupani, Chief Minister of Gujarat and Mr. Aysen Nikolaev, Head of Republic of Yakutia region.
  • The dialogue focused on sectors including diamond and jewellery, pharmaceuticals and ceramics.
  • Virtual meetings were held between various far-east regions with Indian states, e.g., Haryana and Sakhalin region, Uttar Pradesh and Zabaikalsky Region to implement the MoUs
  • Mission-led business delegations went to Mordovia, Irkutsk, Astrakhan, Samara, Kaluga, Ufa, Ryazan, and many other regions to discuss trade and economic cooperation.
  • Other such recent engagements with Russian regions include that with St Petersburg, Yenisei-Siberian belt in Krasnoyarsk, Buryatia, etc., South Russia including Astrakhan, Krasnodar, Chechnya, Volgograd, and Kalmykia, etc., in the north in Murmansk, in the Urals in Khanty-Mansyisk, Kurgan, etc., and as mentioned earlier, the entire Russian Far East.

Banking Links

  • Development of banking links between India and Russia has witnessed some concrete progress.
  • Several Russian banks have opened their Representative Offices/Branches in India. These include VTB, Sberbank, Vnesheconombank, Promsvazbank and Gazprombank.
  • Similarly, the Commercial Bank of India LLC (JV of two major Indian banks: SBI & Canara Bank) is providing banking services in Russia.

Connectivity Projects

  • International North-South Transport Corridor
  • Chennai-Vladivostok Connectivity Project
  • International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is a multi modal transportation established in 2000 for the purpose of promoting transportation cooperation among the Member States.
  • This 2700 km long corridor connects India Ocean and Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea via Iran, Islamic Rep., and is then connected to Saint Petersburg and North Europe via Russia.



(Chennai-Vladivostok connectivity project)

  • India and Russia in 2019 announced their intent to establish maritime connectivity between the ports of their respective cities, Chennai and Vladivostok– projecting it as both an economic and a geopolitical project.
  • The Chennai-Vladivostok  link, which did operate for a few years during the Soviet period, is now once again being considered for revival.
  • Aiming to increase bilateral trade to US$30 billion by 2025, the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission-TEC in 2019 focused more on sectors of transport, energy, agriculture, industry, and space

Cultural ties

  • There is a strong tradition of Indian studies in Russia.
  • Apart from Hindi, languages such as Tamil, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, Urdu, Sanskrit and Pali are taught in Russian Institutions.
  • There is general interest among Russians in Indian dance, music, yoga and Ayurveda.
  • There are regular cultural initiatives to promote people-to-people contacts between India and Russia.
  • The President of India inaugurated the Year of Indian Culture ‘Namaste Russia’ in Moscow on 10 May 2015.

India-Russia relations remain vital for both countries amid a changing regional and global security environment. More will need to be done if the relationship is to play the role both countries clearly expect.

(Ashish Singh has given a lecture on this topic at the Kalmyk State University, Russia on March 18, 2022.)


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