The View from India | What a weakened Putin means for India-Russia relations

Understand international affairs from the Indian perspective with View from India

Updated - July 04, 2023 08:30 am IST

Published - July 03, 2023 11:39 am IST

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin | Photo Credit: REUTERS

(This article forms a part of the View From India newsletter curated by The Hindu’s foreign affairs experts. To get the newsletter in your inbox every Monday, subscribe here.)

The brief, apparent mutiny by Yevgeny Prigozhin and his Wagner forces, who seized a regional military headquarters in southern Russia and threatened to march on Moscow, may have ended before it began with a deal seeing the once-close Vladimir Putin ally heading to Belarus.

It has, however, shone the spotlight on Putin’s position, and how weakened the Russian leader may be.

This week, we assessed the implications for India-Russia relations. In the immediate aftermath of the dramatic events, India and Russia held two high-level phone calls. Days after his return from the United States, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to President Putin. During the conversation, which the Kremlin said had occurred “at the initiative of the Indian side”, PM Modi also spoke about upcoming contacts between both leaders at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) virtual summit on July 4 and the BRICS and G-20 summits.

Also, in the first such New Delhi-Moscow contact since the failed Wagner mutiny, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval spoke to his counterpart Nikolai Patrushev.

In this week’s World View, Suhasini Haidar looked at how India might assess the fallout of the failed mutiny. This past week, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar described the Russia relationship as “unique” and noted it had “held steady despite all the conflict in the world.” He added there was “a geopolitical logic” for the relationship. While it may be premature to assess the lasting impact of the mutiny until more is known on the Belarus deal, New Delhi will still be mindful that any problems for the Russian military and its supplies will mean further delays for Indian imports of Russian military hardware, spares and systems.

In Depth

Stanly Johny on Putin’s inner circle

The Top Five

1. On the state of India-U.S. relations following Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Washington, Suhasini Haidar writes that paradoxically the biggest challenges to this relationship which has been on an upward trajectory lie precisely in the mechanism used to strengthen it – the exceptions made for India by the U.S. which can be reversed at any time.

2. Dinakar Peri writes that India and the Philippines see an expanding scope for defence cooperation, especially in maritime security, including the potential for joint sales as well as joint patrols. The Philippines Secretary for Foreign Affairs Enrique A. Manalo was in India last week. During the visit, India notably called for adherence to the 2016 South China Sea arbitration decision in favour of the Philippines, which has been rejected by China. A joint statement issued after talks said the two leaders “underlined the need for peaceful settlement of disputes and for adherence to international law, especially the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea in this regard.”

3. China last week passed a new law on foreign relations. We assessed the likely impact on China’s foreign policy as well as on India-China relations, with the law reflecting the continued emphasis by Beijing on sovereignty and security underpinning its foreign policy.

4. Meera Srinivasan writes on Sri Lanka’s plans to restructure its debt. Sri Lanka last week shut down its banks and financial sector as part of the move, which comes a year after Sri Lanka decided to suspend servicing its foreign debt to combat a devastating economic meltdown. The government subsequently entered an agreement with the International Monetary Fund and secured a nearly $3 billion-dollar package while agreeing to restructure both its foreign and domestic debt.

5. Rajiv Bhatia on a new chapter in India-Africa relations.

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