Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will begin his visit to India on Monday and set the ball rolling for a possible visit by President Vladimir Putin for the India-Russia summit

NEW DELHI: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will begin his visit to India on Monday and set the ball rolling for a possible visit by President Vladimir Putin for the India-Russia summit. Moscow-based American political analyst Andrew Korybko discusses the possible outcomes of Lavrov’s visit and its implications in the context of India-Russia- US ties.

What is the importance of the Russian Foreign Minister’s visit?

Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming visit provides the perfect moment to reflect on the importance of the traditional Russian-Indian strategic partnership, especially in comparison to the new Indian-American one. India has the sovereign right to develop relations, which is the thinking that lies at the heart of its multi-alignment policy.

But it can be argued that its ties with Russia are much fairer and more mutually beneficial than the ones it has recently cultivated with the US. The intention in pointing this out isn’t to influence the course of its careful balancing act between both, but simply to encourage a deeper appreciation of Russia’s importance for Indian grand strategy.

Russia and India enjoy historical ties while ties with the US are relatively new. What are the differences between the two sets of relationships?

Russia is a historically trusted partner that has proven its loyalty to India over decades. The US is a new partner whose trust has not yet been earned and is at risk of faltering. The closest Russia ever came to offending India was Lavrov’s well-intended international observations about the Quad, while the US increasingly offends India with its suspicious criticisms of domestic issues, the latest being the US State Department report on human rights issues in India. Russia respects India’s right to develop relations with other countries that it chooses, while the US is imposing an ultimatum on India to pull out of its planned S-400 air defence deal or face CAATSA sanctions.

Speaking of the S-400 air defence systems, why do you think the US is threatening sanctions under CAATSA?

India wants Russia’s S-400s air defence systems because they are the best in the world, but the US is against their procurement as Washington makes its own military-industrial complex and analogous wares look bad by comparison.

Russia is believed to have played a key part in diffusing tensions between India and China. Does a India-Russian relationship mean better India-China ties as well and what are the implications of this with regard to ties with the US?

Russia hopes to improve trilateral cooperation between itself, India, and China while the US aims to exacerbate the conflict potential between India and China as part of its regional divide-and-rule strategy. The US’ so-called military diplomacy sees the Pentagon taking charge of America’s relations with India.

Despite historical ties, what challenges do you see in India-Russia relations?

Indian-Russian trade constantly disappoints and serious work must urgently be undertaken to improve it. That said, PM Narendra Modi and Russian President Putin jointly unveiled their plans for the Vladivistok-Chennai Maritime Corridor during the Indian leader’s visit at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok in 2019. Hence, hopes are high that this initiative can help diversify their economic relations and that the issue will be discussed during Lavrov’s visit.