“Indra 2017” India-Russia Conduct Massive Military Exercise Near China

India and Russia all set to conduct a 10-day joint military exercise “Indra 2017”. Even though defense experts explain that the drill “Indra 2017” does not target any country, in particular, it has still caught tremendous attention because it involves the armies, navies and air forces of India and Russia for the first time at such a large and extensive scale. The drill “Indra 2017” is being conducted near Vladivostok, which is close to China.

India is a vital and one of largest defense partners of Russia. Almost 60% of weapons that India imports are from Russia. As the bilateral ties strengthen, India and Russia have also been jointly working on developing aerospace, nuclear and satellite technologies.

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Various defense experts believe that Russia endeavors to demonstrate its new weapons apparatus to India during joint exercise “Indra 2017”, in order to consolidate this massive Indian defense market which has seen US and Israel taking a big chunk of the pie.

According to Chinese Media, Global Times, India wants to balance its defense relations with both the US and Russia. In recent years, India has inched closer to the US and Japan. India has dramatically augmented the ratio of arms imported from the US to almost replace Russia with the US as its largest arms supplier. Some in India have even questioned if New Delhi-Washington ties were jeopardizing New Delhi-Moscow relations.

With the US-Russia strategic competition swelling, India has established a closer relationship with the US, thus frustrating Russia, which in retaliation started to cooperate with Pakistan (the arch-rival of India). The joint drill “Indra 2017”, is sending a signal to Russia that it is still a vital defense partner for India.

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Second, the involvement of the armies, navies and air forces will augment the strategic cooperation between India and Russia. In December 2010, then Russian president Dmitry Medvedev visited India for the 11th Annual Summit and bilateral relations were raised to a special and privileged strategic relationship.  In October 2016, President Putin visited India where the two sides released a joint statement of Partnership for Global Peace and Stability. Strikingly, both nations saw military and security collaboration as an important means to boost their strategic relationship.

Although some Russian experts say that the latest joint drill is not targeted at a third country, India does not believe so, especially as China-Indian relations deteriorated due to border standoff. Since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power, India has taken a hard-line approach toward China and regards China as a strategic rival, according to Chinese defense experts.

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Indian strategists believe that China and Russia view each other as potential adversaries. They believe Russia hopes to postpone its potential discord with China until it gets ready for it. Thus, India can join hands with Russia to counterbalance China. Russia may have no plans to target China, but India is scheming on using Russia to hold China at bay, reported Global Times.

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