The recent visit of Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov to Delhi and Islamabad is among multiple signs of India’s changing relations with the great powers. The others include the dramatic rise of China and Beijing’s new assertiveness. At the same time, Delhi’s growing strategic partnerships with the US and Europe have begun to end India’s prolonged alienation from the West. Meanwhile, New Delhi’s own relative weight in the international system continues to increase and give greater breadth and depth to India’s foreign policy.
Change is the only permanent feature of the world and Delhi has no reason to be sentimental about the past. Consider, for example, the shifts in the triangular relations between Russia, China and America. If you like to pick nits, you could argue with Lavrov’s claim in Delhi last week about relations between Moscow and Beijing being in their best-ever phase today. They were probably even better in the 1950s when Russia and China were ideological soulmates united by expansive economic and security cooperation.
The leaders of the two nations — Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong — signed a formal treaty of alliance in 1950. Russia not only invested massively in the economic modernisation of China, but also gave it technology that made it easier for Beijing to become a nuclear weapon power.