India will maintain its relationship with Russia “independent of the US” as Moscow is willing to provide in depth capabilities and technologies which America would not offer, a top US expert has said. “I think India will always have a relationship with Russia independent of the US for a very simple reason, that the Russians have been far more willing to providing in depth strategic capabilities and strategic technologies of the kind that we would not either for reasons of policy or law,” Ashley Tellis, a senior fellow of the Carnegie Endowment for International Relations told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday.
“Our objective with India has been more subtle than I think has been expressed often in the public commentary. The US has approached India with a view to building its own capabilities, rather than seeking to forge an alliance,” Tellis said in response to a question from Senator Elizabeth Warren.
“Some have recently suggested that India is playing the US and Russia against each other for its own benefit. Do you think that is true and do you believe that this is something the US should be concerned about?” she asked.
Warren said the US-India relationship has evolved over the past decade from one of distance to a close strategic partnership. “In just the past few years alone, the US Department of Defense has named India a major defence partner and established the Defense Technology Trade Initiative,” she said.
“But India famously values its non-alignment in foreign policy and it has a long-standing relationship with Russia. Even today, Russian is India’s primary arms supplier and whereas the US emphasises restrictions on the use of force, Russian arms come with very few strings attached,” Warren said.
Tellis said America’s calculation has been that if India can stand on its own feet, and if India can help balance China independently, then that’s a good thing for the US irrespective of what they do with the US bilaterally. “I think that policy is a sensible one and we ought to pursue it. Let me say one other thing about Russia,” he said.
According to Tellis, Indians have come around to the recognition that Russia today no longer has the kind of cutting-edge capabilities that it did during the days of the Soviet Union.
“And that the Russians are not particularly reliable with respect to providing advanced conventional technologies of the kind that the US has,” he said. “So while they want to keep the relationship with Russia in good repair, because they have a substantial, military hardware. They want to diversity and the US is number one on the diversification plan,” Tellis said.