As the contours of the regional maritime security architecture may evolve in the future, Russia may strengthen its presence with its navy calling in India and increasing navy-to-navy cooperation and joint exercises. India is the net security provider in the IOR and the first 2 +2 (Ministerial Meeting of Foreign Affairs and Defense) in New Delhi on December 6 explored the possibility of a bilateral partnership in the IOR. The regional maritime security architecture involving India and Russia should focus on creating a balance amid the fluidity of the region’s geopolitics.
It should be recalled that India supported Russia’s candidacy to become IORA’s dialogue partner and pushed Moscow to play a role in the IOR. India and Russia will sign the Reciprocal Logistics Exchange Agreement (RELOS) in the near future. The two countries could sign a memorandum of understanding between the navy and the navy in 2022.
In a recent article titled “India-Russia Cooperation in the Indian Ocean, Arctic and Russian Far East”, Anurag Bisen (Associate Researcher) of the Institute of Defense Studies Analyzes wrote: “The India’s central position in the north of the IOR gives it a role. Several extra-regional nations see India as the first responder to a calamity, a net provider of security to the region, and seek collaborative partnerships with India in the maritime domain… Russia is the only great power without a permanent presence in the IOR. Although few observers see Russia as an active player in the Indian Ocean, it has long sought to establish permanent bases in the region. Recently, on November 17, 2021, the inclusion of Russia as a dialogue partner of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) suggests the implicit acceptance of its important role in the geopolitical evolution of the Indian Ocean.
Russia’s national security strategy, updated in July 2021, described its relations with India and China as one of its foreign policy priorities. In its 2015 National Maritime Doctrine, Russia highlighted “development of friendly relations with India” as the most important goal in the Indian Ocean region.
Russia now plays an active role in anti-piracy operations off the Somali coast and has also become a major partner for Mozambique and Madagascar in addition to announcing the establishment of a naval installation in Sudan (this increases the access of the Russian Navy to the region of Western Asia).
It is interesting to note that Bisen noted in his article: “… With Russia, India does not have a white maritime transport agreement, which is why there is no Russian ILO stationed at the IFC-IOR. The two countries may consider signing a white maritime transport agreement in the future as the Vladivostok-Chennai sea route is reactivated.
It is interesting to note that Moscow has increased its contacts with India’s neighbors in the IOR. “Russia and Sri Lanka have increased their defense and military cooperation in recent years. There are also reports that Russia is aiming to acquire a naval base in Myanmar … Russia also held its first ever military exercise with ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) in Indonesian territorial waters off North Sumatra from December 1 to 3, 2021. All of these commitments reflect Russia’s desire for greater engagement in the IOR, ”Bisen stressed.
Bisen suggested the two countries could consider institutionalized interaction between the Indian Navy’s Eastern Command / Fleet in Vishakhapatnam and the Russian Navy’s Pacific Fleet in Vladivostok, including the reciprocal deployment of liaison officers. The two can strengthen cooperation and improve regional security as well as the security of their transport / interests, India and Russia could consider organizing trilateral maritime security exercises… ”Vietnam and Iran could be two of these partners. Some Gulf States could also be partners, as could Singapore and Indonesia. The visit of the Russian NSA to Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia is an important step to strengthen Moscow’s presence in the region.
Russia recently adopted a five-year roadmap focusing on trade and investment cooperation, digital economy and sustainable development with ASEAN.
Russia-developed Sputnik Covid vaccine provides further incentive for ASEAN states to expand ties with Moscow. Recently, a detachment of ships and submarines had sailed in the Indian Ocean en route to permanent deployment as part of the Russian Pacific Fleet. Russia’s vision from Lisbon to Jakarta complements India’s reach in Southeast Asia and the Far East and reinforces India’s Act Far East policy which involves New Delhi’s role and investment in the Far East. -Russian east rich in resources.