May 8, 1945, saw the end of World War II in Europe. The Great Patriotic War commemorated in Russia as Victory Day in its War of Liberation from the Nazi regime. A Mahabharat-like saga of national fortitude was projected to the Russians on the Victory Day parade of a strong Mother Russia who has eternally triumphed over all invaders — from Emperor Napoleon and his defeat at Borodino in 1812, to Hitler and the Germans defeated at Leningrad and Stalingrad in 1942.
The Victory Day parade is a super-colossal military event. This year reportedly 80,000 troops participated, along with approximately 150 armoured vehicles, featuring the latest additions to the Russian arsenal.
To the West, and the rest of the world at large, including fractious former republics of the Soviet Union, Russia’s Victory Day parade could also be interpreted as a warning — that Russia might be somewhat down on its luck at present, but was by no means knocked out of the ring. It would rise again.
This year’s parade witnessed the unveiling of Russia’s latest main battle tank, the T-14 “Armata” and the T-15 Infantry Combat Vehicle (ICV). Reportedly T-14 is an extremely sophisticated tank.
Literature on both these armoured vehicles is being minutely examined and commented on by defence experts. India, too, would benefit from such study and examination, particularly in the context of “Make in India” and the future “Arjun Main Battle Tank (MBT)”.
The Moscow parade was also attended by President Pranab Mukherjee. This underlined a political message — Russia continues to be regarded by India as a friend of long standing.
Meanwhile, what can perhaps be described as the “Second Russian Civil War” rages sporadically between Ukrainian government forces and local Russian-speaking separatists in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
General reactions to the conflict in India are naturally of distress and concern for Russia. However, for Nato and its allies, Ukraine and Crimea are proxy conflicts between Russia and the West to whom the former has always remained an unvanquished Cold War adversary even after fall of the Berlin Wall and the disappearance of communism.
It is for this reason that the Russian intervention in Ukraine is seen by some as a “payback” to Ukraine for its surrogate advocacy of the United States in the Baltic region.
Such full power paramilitary interventions have now become almost acceptable as Track III “grey options” in support of strategic national interests. This is supported by almost all countries, which are otherwise respectable, law-abiding UN members of the international community — the US in Afghanistan, China in the Korean War or Saudi Arabia presently in the Yemen conflict.
The Third Crimean War in Ukraine is following the same Cold War playbook to which the US-Russia Cold War has relocated from faraway Third World countries — something that was hitherto sought to be avoided by them.
But now that Ukraine and the other Baltic states are firmly in the Nato bloc, Nato-Russia confrontations can take place on their territories, which are likely to intensify if Nato attempts to push its zone of influence aggressively eastwards into Russian strategic space in Eastern Europe.
The traditional Victory Day parade in the Red Square in Moscow is now part of this strategic dimension. Mr Mukherjee’s presence signals India’s involvement, however peripheral, in this new European Great Game. It also needs to be assessed in the context of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s more recent visit to Beijing.
At the heart of both relationships is India’s own national interest, based primarily on economic opportunity for “Make in India” as well as “Made in India” (export).
Both are powerful compulsions, motivational philosophies that need to be implemented while safeguarding India’s own corporate interests. India’s experience shows that corporate interaction with China requires a different level of expertise and perhaps even different ethical standards, especially in the case of Chinese manufactures, which have often flooded the Indian market and elbowed out domestically produced goods. Notwithstanding the welcome mat laid out by Mr Modi during his Beijing visit, incoming Chinese investments for “Make in India” should only be on a quid pro quo basis.
With Russia, the Indo-Russian BrahMos missile has been a success story, but not the proposed Sukhoi/HAL Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) Project for joint development and production.
This is unfortunate. Ties between the two countries still need to be fine-tuned. Much of the responsibility rests with India, because even with technology transfer, the standards of production, supervision management and, above all, quality control, especially in government and public sector defence undertakings still remain substandard and unacceptable to Mr Modi’s vision of “Make in India”.