Opinion | It is not either-or1 min read . Updated: 28 Jun 2019, 05:42 PM IST
Staying on good terms with mutually adversarial countries is not easy, but high-level diplomacy never is
India is reportedly thinking of paying Russia in euros for imports, should the US block dollar payment channels as a punishment for dealing with its Cold War rival. Given the risk of US sanctions coming our way after New Delhi refused to pull out of its S-400 air defence system deal with Moscow, this seems sensible. Although India is still trying to obtain a waiver, it must be prepared for tough action by Washington DC. In general, however, New Delhi need not snap defence ties with Moscow under American pressure. India’s interests are long-term, after all, and would outlast White House whims.
Also, international neutrality on such matters could serve India well. India’s closeness to the US should not be at cost of relations with old partners. Russia has been a reliable arms supplier to us, especially in the post-Baghdad Pact decades of a pronounced US tilt towards Pakistan in South Asia. Russian equipment still constitutes the bulk of our military hardware, which will need to be regularly serviced and upgraded with Russia’s help. While India has sought to diversify its arms suppliers, the country must always be in a position to obtain the worthiest deal available—the best equipment at the lowest possible cost.
We must also remember that our ties with the US haven’t yet been fully tested. These have grown lately, but major differences remain—on trade and data storage arrangements, for instance—that could create rifts and affect India’s future. Staying on good terms with mutually adversarial countries is not easy, but high-level diplomacy never is.