Russian-Indian alliance imminent

Joint Russia-Indian military exercise “INDRA Navy-2015” started December 7th, 2015. It is the second part of traditional Russia-India military drills. The first part was held on the ground in November. The event like many others shows growing collaboration between India and Russia. This is based on a common view of the future world order, and a close political philosophy of the elites, rather than simple pragmatic interest. 

Joint exercise

The traditional biannual military exercises INDRA has been held since 2003 when the Russian Navy restored its presence in the Indian Ocean. For both countries, it was an important step to boost military and political cooperation. It coincided with growing sales of Russian arms including battle ships to India. Also, both countries simultaneously began to promote the doctrine of a multi-polar world as the main pillar of their foreign strategy.

The range and dimensions of joint exercises with the Indian participation will show the multi-vector course of the country. It follows the traditional Rimland policy. While it strengthens ties with BRICS countries, at the same time India does not stop joint exercises  as well as collaboration in other spheres with the US, UK, France, Australia. 

Joint worldview

However, actual Indian leadership doctrinally is more close to their BRICS counterparts, in particular to the Russian leadership, than to the Western establishment. While the majority of previous Indian leaders represented the Indian version of secular modern nationalism, current prime-minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party are faces of an opposite political ideology, based on traditional religious identity.

Russian-Indian Defence relations were rebounded under the previous Bharatiya Janata Party’s Prime Minister Vajpayee, at the start of the century. He oriented the party to a more realist stance rejecting the Cold War idealism and pro-American orientation, caused by the pro-Soviet stance of party’s main political and ideological rival- Indian National Congress. That policy is followed by the current India Prime Minister, who also demonstrated his charisma and personal interest in the promotion of the policies based on the Hindutva conception of Indian political philosopher, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.

Hindutva: geopolitical dimension

Despite the very difficult and ambiguous relations of his followers with the British Savarkar, they strongly rejected foreign rule. He reportedly supported the famous mission of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose to Russia; Germany and Japan supported the armed struggle of the Indian Army against the British during the World War II. Bharatiya Janata underpins efforts to include Bose and the legacy in a broader understanding of Hindutva. “Privatization” for a person like this, is also important for Indian nationalists, and socialism means privatization of his legacy, which includes a clear continental and ant-Atlanticist geopolitical strategy.

Like Putin’s “Russian World” concept, Modi’s “Hindutva” is founded on the religion, defense of traditional values and culture, and rejection of western globalism. It has both ideological and geopolitical dimensions closely interconnected. The first in is defense of Indian uniqueness, is its culture and traditional religions that are believed to be the basis of identity. Western and Muslim influence themselves are claimed to be dangerous for Indians.  Support for social justice is coincided with the support of traditional Hindu values and social structures, including reformed caste system.

The geopolitical dimension of Hindutva means the creation of Great Space (Grossraum) in South Asia which includes India, Shri-Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Butan and a projection of power towards South Asian countries greatly influenced by Indian culture and religious traditions in the past. The inclusion of Pakistan in this sphere is important from both ideological and realistic positions. Previously Bharatiya Janata Party strongly opposed the very existence of Pakistan, but from 2000 it behaves more realistically. If Pakistan cannot disappear it should become a part of an Indian-centric South Asia, they think.

Hindutva proponents seek to restore India's status as world power. Hindutva worldwide is both realistic and culturally based. It supports the state system based on the sovereignty and world powers, sees the war as an immanent part of world order, on the another side Hindutva assert more cultural, neo-Imperial than purely national approach.


Like in many other cases including Russian, Western scholars describe this strategy as perilous for world order, but the rising power and importance of India cannot be ignored. That is why they underpin the strategy of engagement rather than the strategy of deterrence. The growing collaboration between India and Russia will continue because they share the same attitude towards the world’s future: a multipolar world of new empires based on traditional systems of values and a dialogue of many civilizations.