Amid gradual weakening of the world's biggest economy following an abrupt pullback in Afghanistan, the US is facing its biggest reliability challenges since the second world war. The ties with India in recent times have further sunk after the newly elected US Prez Joe Biden took office early this year.
Serving fresh ground to deepen ties with long-standing allies, India while shrugging off the US reservations is set to host the Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is just on his second overseas trip since the pandemic.
The visit is likely to mark fresh military and energy ties with the ‘traditional' ally further straining India's ties with Washington. The ongoing tussle with China seems to have emerged as a catalyst for India to get closer with Russia to address its military demands.
The rising China is seen as a global threat for not just India but for the region that continues to witness aggressive policy towards hostile nations. In its efforts to address a rising China, Washington has set up the QUAD security dialogue with India, Japan, and Australia, raising concerns in both Beijing and Moscow.
India was close to the Soviet Union during the Cold War, a relationship that has endured, with New Delhi calling it a “special and privileged strategic partnership.”
“The friendship between India and Russia has stood the test of time,” Modi told Putin at a virtual summit in September. “You have always been a great friend of India.”
It is only the Russian leader's second trip abroad since the coronavirus pandemic began — he skipped both the G20 and COP26 summits this year — after a June summit with US President Joe Biden in Geneva.
Nonetheless, Putin has to contend with complex regional dynamics, with tensions mounting between New Delhi and Beijing, traditionally an ally of Moscow, following deadly clashes in a disputed Himalayan region.
Russia has long been a key arms supplier to India, which is looking to modernise its armed forces, and one of their most high-profile current contracts is for the long-range S-400 ground-to-air missile defence system.
The deal, worth over $5 billion, was signed in 2018 and deliveries have reportedly begun, but it threatens to upend the burgeoning relationship between New Delhi and Washington.
The United States has threatened sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which is aimed at reining in Russia, and the state department said last week that no decisions had been made on any waivers for India.
India is also keen to increase domestic production and has launched a joint venture with Russia to manufacture AK-203 assault rifles. India and Russia normally hold annual summits, but the leaders' last in-person meeting was on the sidelines of the 2019 BRICS Summit in Brazil.
“The leaders will review the state and prospects of bilateral relations and discuss ways to further strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries,” India's ministry of external affairs said in a statement last month.
The two countries' foreign and defence ministers held talks Monday ahead of Putin's arrival. A number of agreements and contracts were signed on small arms and military cooperation, India's defence minister Rajnath Singh tweeted.