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Old enemies make new friends: Caucasus and India-Pakistan rivalry

Article by Ilya Roubanis (PhD)

February 23, 2023

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Old enemies make new friends: Caucasus and India-Pakistan rivalry


Ukraine is changing the world. The fact that India and Pakistan are selling arms and military consulting services in the Caucasus is symptomatic of the withering of the Russian military-industrial complex. However, Russia’s loss is not straightforwardly a Western triumph.


Russia’s 16 per cent share of the global military procurement market has an uncertain future as the war in Ukraine depletes its arms inventory. This development has global strategic implications as arms trade has been fundamental to Moscow’s claim to global power status. From Myanmar to Venezuela, the draining of Russian arms supply strips the Kremlin of its claim to global power. Russia’s sphere of influence is in this sense up for grabs, including the Caucasus, a region formerly regarded as ‘the Near Abroad,’ where the Kremlin had exclusive rather than merely privileged strategic oversight. Symptomatic of Russia’s strategic retreat is the advent of India and Pakistan as new arms suppliers. 


India is in effect ‘stepping in’ for Russia in Armenia. Pursuing a post-colonial policy of self-reliance, New Delhi has insisted on co-production rights of the arms it buys. For decades, Russia has been India’s military-industrial partner, willing to share its most advanced weapons technology, offering good value for money as well as extending credit. As India’s economy grows, New Delhi accounts for ten per cent of the global military procurement market and Russia has claimed over 80 per cent of this Indian pie. The tables were turned as a result of the war in Ukraine. As Russia can no longer supply arms, Moscow’s clients have looked to India to fill the vacuum. India has obliged and post-Soviet Armenia is New Delhi’s first major customer. As Yerevan is transiting from its own reliance to Russia, Ukraine could turn ‘Made in India’ weapons into a global brand.


A reflection of this process can be seen in Baku. As Russia is losing the role of the preeminent arms supplier of post-Soviet Azerbaijan, Turkey is cementing its position, extending to its strategic partner arms, consulting, and training. Part of Ankara’s service package has been subcontracted to Pakistan, a key Turkish defence partner. Islamabad, in turn, is taking the chance to pitch jet fighters co-produced with China to Baku and, perhaps in time, Ankara. In sum, while we think of Ukraine as a polarising force that consolidates Western resolve, the withering of the Russian military-industrial complex is a crisis with disruptive consequences that cannot be fully contained. India, Turkey, France, Israel, and Pakistan are rushing to fill the Russian vacuum, snatch new lucrative contracts, and create partnerships that do not neatly fit our current diplomatic taxonomy of ‘East’ and ‘West.’ As value chains are disrupted, so is the global security system.


Read the full piece here.


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this piece are those of the individual author and do not reflect the views of The Foreign Policy Centre.


Ilya Roubanis (PhD, European University Institute) is a British-born International Relations analyst of Greek heritage. He is a fellow of the Observatory on Contemporary Crisis (Madrid) and the International Relations Institute in Athens (IDIS). For over a decade, he has worked in the South Caucasus as a government affairs consultant, risk analyst, and journalist.


Image by My Past under (CC).

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