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Venkat asked: As we are moving close with USA, how are we going to balance our friendship with Russia too. What is India's future foreign policy on this?

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  • Smita Purushottam replies: India’s relations with the United States and with Russia do not represent a Kierkegaardian choice, i.e., India is not being forced to choose between one or the other. The United States and Russia are rapidly improving bilateral relations, as can be seen from recent developments - for example the NATO-Russia Council meeting in which both sides agreed that they no longer constituted a threat to each other, and when the U.S. ratified the new START Treaty while leaving Russia’s superiority in tactical nuclear weapons intact. A leaked Russian foreign ministry policy document which people believe is genuine - clearly delineated that improving ties with the West is a priority for Russia, which seeks to modernize and upgrade its technology and economy in partnership with the West.

    Therefore there is no contradiction for India, which has excellent relations with both countries, and accordingly, no need for “balancing”.

    The only area where closer Indo-US relations could affect Russia is in the field of defence purchases. India needs to modernize its armed forces and equip them with the latest and best defence technologies available in the world so that it can meet modern day challenges. Recent encouraging statements from the United States which have indicated lifting of restrictions on high technology exports to India and also that India could participate in the joint strike fighter programme are huge departures from the traditional American stand and could make America a very attractive partner. Meanwhile, India also has to weigh the record in terms of its tried and tested cooperation with Russia. Russia has always been a steady and assured supplier in times of war and crisis and any decision that the government takes will obviously take all these elements into consideration. Moreover, India and Russia are taking steps to rejuvenate technological cooperation in their defence partnership. Elements of cooperation and competition will have to be handled maturely by all sides while India will have to take decisions based on its long term national interest.