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Where's the Bear?

January 25, 2007

Part I: Ties that bind

Rajiv Gandhi journeyed to the Soviet Union in 1985, 1986, 1987, and 1989. Soviet leader Mikhail S Gorbachev traveled to India in 1986 and 1988.

But the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War in 1991 put India in a serious bind. The newly elected government of P V Narasimha Rao was struggling with its first tentative steps towards market reforms.

Suddenly, a huge market for Indian produce was in disarray. The Indian Army, Navy and Air Force were almost entirely dependent on Soviet equipment and spares, and now there was no Soviet Union. Several military and public joint ventures went into limbo.

Strategically, India had lost a trusted big power. The US, which had resented New Delhi's ties with Moscow, was in no hurry to mend fences.

Boris Yeltsin, who took over in Moscow as the first Russian President, visited India in 1993 and signed a fresh treaty on friendship and cooperation. Unlike the earlier one with the Soviets, there was no security agreement this time. A year later, Narasimha Rao visited Moscow.

Text: Ramananda Sengupta

Photograph: Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and his wife Sonia greet Mikhail Gorbachev in New Delhi, November 1986. Photograph: Courtesy and copyright the Russian News and Information Agency, RIA Novosti. Used with permission.

Also see: Why Russia and India matter to each other


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