Two Nations, One Friendship: The India-Russia Story

From Nehru to Modi, India's leaders have maintained a robust relationship with Russia, backed by historical camaraderie. Nehru was highly impressed with the Soviet Union and Indira Gandhi gave it a new height. We all know how the Americans and Brits created a hostile environment in 1971 and it was the Soviet Union that came in open support of India during the War with Pakistan and the result was the creation of Bangladesh. Despite Western pressures, this trust and collaboration have only grown stronger

The grand welcome given to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modis’ in Russia has not been taken kindly in the Western capitals because of various reasons. Many in India too are commenting on it in contempt without knowing the warm relationship between the two countries. Indian leaders always received a rousing reception in the Soviet Union. Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi are highly popular names in Russia and all the CIS countries even today. One is the timing of it when NATO allies were meeting in Washington to celebrate 75 years of its formation. The question is why should India bother about it and why is the Western world expecting too much from India. India has been a traditional ally of Russia for a long and it is not a government-imposed thing but the people of both countries understand it. The fact of the matter is that India’s right wing was never comfortable with our ties with Russia. The Gujarat lobby particularly the business one felt that their interests were well built in maintaining relationships with the Western world. Then some liberals are promoted by various American ‘policy organizations’ to promote their interests in the name of ‘democracy’. Just think of a time when Indira Gandhi was taking Indo Russia’s friendship to a new level in 1971, she nationalised the banks and insurance companies, withdrew all the privy purses given to former crowns of different Riyasats and imposed Land Ceiling laws, redistributed land, strengthened Public sector undertakings and implemented reservation for scheduled castes and tribes. Who opposed all these measures? The corporate lobby is supported by Morarji Desai, Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy and others.

While Western liberals were crying foul against the Communist Soviet Union, the same governments were promoting China as a counterforce to the Soviets on one side and Taliban and Islamic fanatics in Pakistan on the other side. It is a fact that the entire global south opted to be part of the Non-Aligned Movement to save itself from the American bullying and standing with Soviet Russia.

The 1990s were the most crucial phase of world politics. In August 1991 there was a coup against Mikhail Gorbachev, the Secretary General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. That failed but soon there were revolts in many other republics that ceded from the Soviet Union. The Western world rejoiced that their bete noir was now crushed. They started promoting their interest in smaller countries and ignored all these so-called independent countries that were part of the former Soviet Union and were nursed by them. Still, the West wanted to make them hostile against Russia. The Russian Federation was still the world’s largest country and powerful but everyone enjoyed the ‘fall of the Communist Empire. Indian liberals too were happy as they felt the Indian establishment would be tilting more towards the United States and other Western countries. Most of them were speaking about Russia as if people were dying of hunger and malnutrition. Western commentators rejoice in mocking Russia when speaking about that country but those who have seen Moscow and other places can vouch that a metro in Moscow is far superior to that in New York. Moscow is truly a beautiful city.

Vladimir Putin may be termed as dictator and undemocratic but there is no doubt in saying that he has brought glory to Russia like a phoenix. It is a country full of confidence and prosperity. Russia’s actions against Ukraine were based on its national interest and to protect Russian-speaking people from what it alleged were the Nazis there. The fact that NATO has been trying to encircle Russia is a well-known fact. How can Indians forget that they did the same? Supporting China and then promoting Pakistan’s anti-India rhetoric was part of that attempt to encircle India too. Today, the West wants us to believe that Russia is a junior partner of China. In their hatred and contempt for Russia, they can go to any length even not asking for elections in Ukraine. How is Zelensky being allowed as leader of Ukraine when the man has arrested all the dissenters and political opponents? Russia tried to negotiate and withdrew its forces from Kiev but that was considered a weakness and now it seems NATO is preparing for a showdown with Russia which will be dangerous and only take us to World War III. The world can’t afford it but then you can not bring peace by humiliating Russia which is growing more powerful and has bigger acceptance globally right from Africa to Asia and Latin America.

Unfortunately in India, we all suffer from amnesia of the Western media propaganda about the word left and socialism and its relation with Russia. Even when the tide is turning in a different direction in Europe after the recent elections in France. In Britain too, left socialist forces will be strengthened in future. In India, we somehow have become victims of Western Propaganda as far as Russia is concerned. Narendra Modi just finished his trip to Russia. As usual, Russia gave him a huge welcome. Both the countries are playing their politics. Some are for their domestic constituency while for Russia it is addressing the global elite that Russia or Vladimir Putin is not a pariah. Frankly speaking, many of the comments in India about Russia suffer from hatred towards the left. Some of these experts feel as if Russia is suffering after the Americans and Europeans have put their sanctions on them. Well, these sanctions don’t even work for a country like North Korea. Every country has its strategy and North Korea too may be a matter of joke for us but look at their capital city Pyongyang which is beautiful and only shows that we should not make our opinion based on the Western media narrative.

The Western World defines communities, societies and people as per its conveniences and we have just been following it. Russia has been a global power and the world owes to them to defeat the Nazi forces of Hitler during the second world war.

The election of President Putin became a butt of jokes for everyone including political leaders. They forgot that Russia, even when it was the Soviet Union, never had the governance structure followed by the West. China too had a similar pattern for their governance structure. They have their critique about Western democracy, which is a fast-turning right controlled by the big-bag corporations. Democracy or not is an internal matter of Russia and they will deal with it but the fact is that Russia is the fastest growing economy and the World Bank itself has put it among the High Income Countries.

The fact is that Russia is a powerful country with enormous energy resources. It has no issue about land mass. It knows what is good for us. Most importantly, it has stood with India through thick and thin. The India-Russia friendship started immediately after our independence. Even during independence, a large number of freedom fighters got support from Russia.

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was highly impressed with the Soviet Union and Indira Gandhi gave it a new height. We all know how the Americans and Brits created a hostile environment in 1971 and it was the Soviet Union that came in open support of India during the War with Pakistan and the result was the creation of Bangladesh.

What I wish to state here is that the Indo-Russia relationship is time-tested. Of course, after the 1990s event when many republics broke away from Russia, the Western world and much of India felt that Russia was a gone case but Vladimir Putin has brought it back to new heights. Today, Russia is not isolated but helping create a multipolar world. With Mali-Niger-Burkina Faso throwing the French American forces out of their soil, we are witnessing a new wave of anti-colonial movement in Africa and Latin America. One can not ignore how the people’s résistance in Bolivia foiled a coup attempt by the military there against the President.

People of the global south now realise how in the name of democracy, the Western world created unrest in various countries and intervened. The issues of India will be resolved by the people of India and those trying to find its solution in Brussels or Washington will not succeed as it is the people in our states, in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Bengal, Tamilnadu elsewhere will decide what is good or bad for India. Let us not mock Russia and its support to India which is based on a historic relationship with two people. Don’t forget Raj Kapoor’s immortal ‘Mera Juta Hai Jaapani, Ye Patloon Englistani, Sar Pe Laal Topi RusiPhir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani‘ still reverberating in the air in Russia. Awara Hoon is one of the most popular songs there. Russian literature has been hugely popular in India. So, this relationship is not merely based on military alliance but also cultural one. Except for the Western-dependent Indian urban elite, Russia remains in the heart of the rest of the working-class Indians who enjoyed the pro-people policies and programmes of the government.

Countries have the right to decide about their foreign policies. India is as much independent as Russia and both countries today are redefining their relationship. I am sure even if the governments change here and there this relationship will remain the same and grow further. It is similar to the Western World. The first visit of a British Prime Minister, normally, is to visit the White House, whether she is a Tory or a Labour. Let India and Russia celebrate their historic relationship which stands on rock solid foundations. Let us not mock it for our petty political considerations.

Celebrate the Indo-Russian friendship.

Vidya Bhushan Rawat

The author is an activist and is currently working on Impact of Ganga and its tributaries in the Himalayas and the plains of India

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