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The Story Of India-Russia Relationship Since Independence

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Continuity, mutual trust and confidence are the major pillars of India-Russia relations or the basis of solid background of Indo-Soviet ties. The bilateral relationship has developed into a strong “strategic partnership” in recent years. One important point of the old Indo-Soviet friendship was a special bilateral trade and economic relationship. Although this arrangement had the usual weaknesses of corruption, patronage, transactions in low quality products, it helped many small and medium size private companies to become exporters. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, this relationship has been badly damaged. Economic transformation in Russia from a centrally planned economy to a market economy in 1992 – coined as the policy of economic liberalization in India. These developments changed the nature and character of foreign economic relations in both the countries. Therefore, despite having solid economic and trade relations in the past, a large part of the 1990s was a period of difficult adjustments for both Indian as well as Russian business.

Indo- USSR Relations During The Cold War

When India attained independence, the Cold War had already begun; the world had almost become bi-polar. The United States and the former Soviet Union had emerged as super powers who led the two power blocs. India having decided to remain non-aligned, was looked upon with skepticism more by the Soviet Union than by the western bloc. However, pre-independence India had favorably disposed towards the Soviet Union ever since. Nehru was greatly impressed not only by the Russian Revolution of 1917, but also by the planned economic development brought about in the Soviet Union in accordance with the socialist ideology. Nehru had visited the USSR in 1927. He was head of the foreign department of congress. Indian leadership was quite appreciative of the Soviet support to the cause of India’s freedom. Nehru had tried, soon after independence, to develop friendly relationship had its roots: on the one hand in struggle against western imperialism and colonialism and on the other hand in India’s national interest. This growing friendship was also marked as the Soviet’s attempt to spread communist ideology in South Asia by the USA and its allies.

The Moments Of Ups And Downs Between Indo-Soviet Relations

After India’s independence, the relations between India and the Soviet Union could not develop along the lines envisaged by Nehru. Certain tensions appeared in the ties largely because of Stalin’s rigid approach implying that all those who were not communists were against Soviet Russia just after India’s independence. India’s decision to remain a member of the Commonwealth Nations even after becoming a republic, created new irritation for the USSR. India’s decision to adopt the Non-Alignment policy, India’s opposition to pro-Soviet developments in Malaya, and India’s support to Greece against possible communist expansion also made Stalin unhappy. Therefore, India made consistent effort to clear the misunderstandings between two nations. However, India was among the first few nations to have recognized the People’s Republic of China on December 30, 1949 within the three months of the completion of communist revolution. After that, a trade agreement was concluded between India and Soviet Russia in 1949 itself. Again, the adoption of free and fearless policy by India in the Korean War led Stalin to praise and appreciate India’s position. Since then, improvement in Indo-Soviet relations were clearly visible.

After the death of Stalin, Nikita Khurschev became the head of the Soviet Union and in his tenure Indo-Soviet relations took a new turn. In April 1954, India-China took the famous five principles of Panchaseel as basis of their bilateral relations. The principles of peaceful co-existence highly appreciated all over the world and when Indian PM Nehru paid a visit to USSR in June 1955 the USSR impressed with principles and appreciated India. It was the Soviet Russia which opposed sending foreign forces to Kashmir when the Kashmir issue came up. Afterwards, both the nations, India-USSR adopted the identical position on the Suez crisis in 1956 & condemned on the Anglo- French- Isreal aggression against Egypt. In 1956, some misunderstanding came up in the ties of both the nations on the question of Hungary & again in 1962, when China waged a war on India’s border, Soviet attitude was not very sympathetic to India.  But during the Indo-Pak war  of 1965 Soviet Russia was not only supported to India while US provided their support to Pakistan, also took the initiative to arranging ceasefire through security council & later sponsored an Indo-Pak submit in its own territory  at Tashkent in Jan 1966. After this, the Bangladesh crisis of 1971 was also brought India & USSR to closer by signing a treaty of Peace, Friendship & Cooperation was signed by the both the nations on Aug 9 of 1971, while India left with no alternative but to seek the help of the USSR when Pakistan to wage a war, was preparing for it.   But many critiques put the remarks as India had given up its non-alignment policy &  moved into Soviet bloc.

Soon after the Bangaladesh’s war of independence India faced the black days of emergency & after the emergency Indira Gandhi defeated in the election & first non-congress government Janata Party Government came into the power under the Prime Ministership of Moraraji Desai in 1977. During that period, Indian PM Desai & Soviet President Brezhnav emphasized Indo-Soviet cooperation on the basis of peace, internal security & peaceful co-existence & some agreement was also concluded between both the nations.

Meanwhile, the environment was suddenly changed & it affected by the new cold war as result Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979 brought back the threaten & question mark for India’s friendly relation with Soviet in the mean time Soviet intervention over Afghan regime was described as painful. However, after the fall of Janata Government, Indira Gandhi came back to power in Jan 1980. The soft line adopted by her was strongly criticized as compromise with the policy of non-alignment & clear shift towards to the Soviet Union.

Indo-Soviet relations were further consolidated during the period that the two nations were led by Rajiv Gandhi & Gorbachev. The two nations had more or less identical views on most of the international questions. Therefore, the Indo-Soviet friendship would be maintained at high level.

During 1990-91, India generally supported the position taken by the Soviet Union in the Gulf Crisis. Soon after, during the period of  crisis in the USSR, the Soviet was seen unhappy when India was commenting that overthrowing of Gorbachev government by the hardliners was the internal matter of that country. When the coup failed & Gorbachev came to power, India faced a very embarrassing situation. After that Soviet Union suddenly collapsed in Dec 1991 and as a result 15 new states emerged in world map. But India has maintained friendly & cooperation relations not only with Russian Federation but also the other newly emerged states.

Indo-Russia Relations: Post Cold War to Present

After the breakdown of Soviet Russia, Russia seeking friendship with the western bloc & as well as non-aligned group. Russia & India  pledged to cooperate with each other in political & economic fields & Russia agreed to continue with the supply of spare parts for Indian defense equipments. After the end of the cold war, India would need for a long time to come Russian Technology & machinery , & Russia would have to import several consumer goods from India. During the period of 1994-96 several high level visits were exchanged between the two countries & agreed to take necessary measures to remove the bottlenecks in the bilateral trade.

The relations between both the nations for the first time in the post-cold war period poised for the revival of the traditional Indo-soviet friendship, even as Russia would like to move closer to the US also. Again, the friendship was clearly evident during & after Kargil War, where since the beginning Russia firmly supported to India. Beside, strategic partnership, trade & cultural cooperation, the two nations also joined hand to fight against terrorism. In Dec 2002, the commitment to expand nuclear cooperation with India by selling additional nuclear reactors also marked as the Russian obligation in the nuclear field.

The main pillars of Indo-Russian relationship established under Dr. Monmohan Singh in between 2004 to 2014 are strategic congruence, defence ties, nuclear power, trade and hydrocarbons. The long-term geopolitical interests of both Moscow and New Delhi are also compatible. The former’s non-intrusive approach in sub-continental affairs, which acknowledges and respects India’s sovereignty, is especially valued in New Delhi.

Here it is important to put, after the Ukraine crisis in 2014, the Russia-China relationship has become stronger, with important implications for India & other rising powers. Both Russia & China are being challenged by the United States, politically, economically, & strategically. That also caused for some worries for India. Also, the policy to move towards USA was started way before Modi came into picture is brought some difficulties in the relation between the nations. Russia-India trade has not grown to great heights despite the encouragement of both states. India has been supportive of Russian positions & has a careful & calibrated response to all Russian actions — in Chechnya, Syria, Ukraine & elsewhere, India has supported Russia. To fight against terrorism is another area where Modi & Putin found a convergence of interest.

To conclude, the warmth in Indo-Russian relations has been maintained & sustained. Trade between two countries continued to grow. Russia stands firmly with India in its fights against terrorism. Both sides also emphasized the need for comprehensive reform in UN system. They are also good allies in BRICS nations submit. Somehow, at present time in the age of ease of doing business India’s changing narrative towards US makes some hazards but India-Russia relations have its roots, on the one hand in the struggle against western Imperialism & colonialism & other hand in India’s national interest. Where,  India’s relation with Russia is highly symbiotic.


  1. Khanna, VN- Foreign Policy of India, Sixth Edition, (2007) Vikas Publishing House Pvt Ltd, Noida(UP),
  2. Dutta, VP- India’s Foreign Policy Since Independence, (2015) National Book Trust, New Delhi
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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