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Over the last few years, India has been getting closer with the US camp while also maintaining a relationship with Russia as to arms trade. According to a US report, India has been the largest importer of Russian arms since 2016.

The latest Indian arms deal that made headlines was the S400 air defense system. The USA was supposed to put sanctions on India through the CAATSA act. However, after assessing India's stubbornness and considering the Chinese threat, the USA backed out.

Over the past few years, China and Pakistan got closer to Russia. Also, because of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, India will probably not be able to import large-scale arms from Russia. On the other hand, if India doesn't maintain a healthy relationship with Russia, China and Pakistan would chip in.

How can India reconcile with this new reality as to the relationship with Russian Federation?

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    " India will surely not be able to import large-scale arms from Russia" This is pretty speculative, the EU haven't agreed to shut down swift, the US is "reluctant" to , why would India agree to stop buying things it wants from Russia?
    – Jontia
    Feb 25 at 10:35
  • It will tiptoe around. Forging alliances and foregoing some others. Maybe India can get these arms it wants to have from somewhere else? Since India isn't a friend of China and Pakistan the US camp sounds like a good alternative. So maybe just drop Russia or something else.
    – Trilarion
    Feb 25 at 10:42
  • @Trilarion, Sourcing arms is not an issue for India as it has a variety of vendors as long as India can spend. The real problem is the axis of Russia-China-Pakistan.
    – user366312
    Feb 25 at 10:49
  • India can try to find new friends there. What about Vietnam, South Korea, Indonesia, Singapore, ...? If getting other arms is not a problem, what exactly is the problem with Russia-China-Pakistan? Maybe that would be a good a good question on its own.
    – Trilarion
    Feb 25 at 11:07
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    That's what the diplomats get paid for - to balance relations with other countries. Already India has indicated it will follow middle path - no outright condemnation (as US wants), nor outright support (See readout of phone call between Indian PM and Putin). Given China's new found closeness to Russia, India can ill afford to lose Russian support if it wants to defend against China-Pakistan axis. As for bilateral payments, those will not be badly affected
    – RedBaron
    Feb 25 at 11:40

1 Answer 1

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Over the course of the past years, the Indian position on the conflict between Russia and Ukraine was to remain neutral. Now that Russia invaded Ukraine, many political leaders around the world condemned those actions, and many international cooperations with Russia were stopped (Like Germany stopping the permission process for NordStream 2).

However, India still tries to remain neutral in the ongoing conflict. In the recent (mostly symbolic) UN resolution to condemn Russia's actions they abstained . (just as well as China. The rest of the council voted in favor of the resolution. Russia used their veto power as expected). India stated their reasons for doing so as follows:

"India is deeply disturbed by recent turn of developments in Ukraine. No solution can ever be arrived at the cost of human lives. All member states need to honour these principles in finding a constructive way forward. Dialogue is the only answer to settling differences and disputes, however daunting that may appear at this moment. It is a matter of regret that the path of diplomacy was given up. We must return to it. For all these reasons, India has chosen to abstain on this resolution,"

(source: Times of India)

So while they spoke out against the war itself, they carefully avoided to name a perpetrator.

The next days will show if India will be able to maintain their policy of neutrality or if they will succumb to the pressure to take a side in the conflict. At the moment it is difficult to make any secured prognosis on the matter.

But should India decide to not condemn Russia and keep importing arms, then international sanctions are unlikely to be much of an obstacle. A global banking boycott of Russia would be a bureaucratic hindrance for private businesses, but not so much for state actors. Governments don't need SWIFT bank transfers to pay their bills. They have many other options. UN sanctions are very unlikely, considering that Russia is a veto-power in the UN security council. So any organized sanctions against Russia will be on a voluntary basis anyway, giving any government in the world the freedom to decide if they want to participate or not.

And how other governments would react in this still hypothetical scenario that India keeps buying arms from Russia is even more speculative. They could make a big deal out of it, or just as well ignore the matter if doing so is politically opportune. Time will tell.

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  • This answer reads a bit like a placeholder for a serious extension coming in a few months. That may be because the question is asking mostly about the future. In the meantime I wonder, what other options India may have now? Basically "what would be the strategic options for India" might be something that could be answered.
    – Trilarion
    Feb 25 at 12:40
  • @Trilarion I updated the answer after the recent UN security council vote.
    – Philipp
    Feb 26 at 10:53

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