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India concludes joint naval exercise with Russia

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India concludes joint naval exercise with Russia

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Photo: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

The biennial India-Russia Exercise 2020 (INDRA-2020) will conclude today in the Andaman Sea, on the heels of Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s visit to Moscow this week.

Despite India’s withdrawal from the separate Kavkaz multilateral military exercise in Russia due to the participation of Chinese forces, the strictly bilateral INDRA-2020 is expected to reinvigorate relations with Moscow as New Delhi seeks to augment its Indo-Pacific security strategy. This year’s iteration of the exercise was conducted as a “non-contact, at sea only” passage exercise (PASSEX) due to COVID-19, to ensure continuity of engagement between the two navies.

India hopes to enhance the interoperability of its protocol to accommodate strategic and non-traditional threats, having learned a harsh lesson in its recent fatal border clash with China. Recent Chinese belligerence has pushed India to its traditional Russian security partner, from which it acquired the S-400 air defence systems that are expected to redefine the contemporary balance of regional power. Russia likewise seeks to leverage this partnership by boosting its own regional maritime infrastructure, in a bid to extend its influence from Lisbon to Jakarta. India’s intention to straddle multiple strategic partnerships—such as the upcoming Malabar exercise with US, Japanese and Australian forces—will likely leverage extra-regional players to provide an =counterbalance to growing Chinese hegemony in the Indo-Pacific.

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