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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : Gorbachev and India

 

Source: Indian Express, Indian Express

 

      • Prelims: Current events of international importance, India-Russia relations,
      • Mains GS Paper II: Significance of Russia for India, International organizations, India-Russia relations.etc

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

      • Mikhail Gorbachev, who died at the age of 92, came to the helm in the Soviet Union just a few months after a forced leadership change in India.
      • The relationship between Mikhail Gorbachev and Rajiv Gandhi, two leaders whose fortunes rose and fell almost in tandem, inaugurated a five-year waltz between India and the erstwhile Soviet Union.

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

Mikhail Gorbachev:

      • He was the last leader of the United USSR.
      • Dynamic soviet leader who wanted to reform communist regime on the lines of democratic principles by giving some freedom to citizens.

 

Measures taken by him:

      • Policy of Glasnost: He recognised the policy of Glasnost or freedom of speech which was severely curtailed during the earlier regime.
      • Perestroika: He began a program of economic reform called Perestroika or Restructuring which was necessary as Soviet economy was suffering from both hidden inflation and supply shortages
      • Brezhnev Doctrine: It was a Soviet foreign policy that proclaimed any threat to socialist rule in any state of the Soviet bloc in Central and Eastern Europe was a threat to them all, and therefore justified the intervention of fellow socialist states.
      • Cultural freedoms: It was granted to the press and the artistic community during Gorbachev’s time
      • Reduced party control: He launched radical reforms meant to reduce party control of the government apparatus.
      • Nuclear disarmament: He is accredited with the success of the nuclear disarmament agreement with the USA which won him the Nobel Peace Prize.

 

Criticism:

      • Simultaneous political and economic reforms: He attempted political and economic reforms simultaneously and on too ambitious a scale, unleashing forces he could not control.
      • Nationalist feelings: He failed to anticipate the strength of nationalist feelings.
        • Initially in the Baltic republics of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, and spreading to others like Georgia and Ukraine.
      • Defeated in Afghanistan: Between May 1988 and February 1989, Gorbachev had pulled the Red Army out of Afghanistan.

 

Was the disintegration of the Soviet ‘Seed of his downfall’?

      • Falling further and further behind: Some historians believe Gorbachev was right to conclude from the start that the system he inherited was falling further and further behind the West and nothing short of bold reform could save it.
      • Critics: The seed of his downfall was that essentially he didn’t really understand the Soviet Union, Soviet society and how it worked,” said Alexander Titov.
      • Reforms: He thought removing some of the essential elements of the Soviet system such as the fear, the repression, the command economy and so forth would still preserve the system.
        • But they turned out to be the actual essential elements of the Soviet system – having removed them, the system unraveled as well.”
      • Vladimir Putin: Soviet fall was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.

 

India And Gorbachev:

      • Hardware to India: From the mid-1980s, the USSR was supplying more sophisticated hardware to India than earlier.
      • Defense agreements: P V Narasimha Rao, defense minister in the Rajiv Gandhi cabinet, took a military delegation to Moscow for defense and signed several agreements.
      • Disarmament talks: Gorbachev wanted to get an Indian PM’s assessment of Ronald Reagan before he met the US President in Geneva for disarmament talks scheduled for the following month.
      • Gorbachev visited India twice, in 1986 and 1988: His objective was to extend his disarmament initiatives in Europe to Asia, and to secure Indian cooperation in this task.
        • It was Gorbachev’s first visit to a non-Warsaw Pact country after taking over as leader of the Soviet Union.
        • He also addressed the Indian Parliament during the visit.
      • Delhi Declaration: New positioning of security as the development of the individual, and of the threats to security as food scarcity, illiteracy, and communalism, and also mentioning environmental security.
      • Cultural exchanges: Between the two countries, with the Festival of India in the Soviet Union in July 1987 the centerpiece.
      • Scientific and economic cooperation: An agreement was signed for scientific and economic cooperation and both sides held talks about the deteriorating security situation in the region, a reference to Pakistan without mentioning it by name.

 

India-Russia Relations:

 

Areas of Cooperation:

 

Way Forward

      • Reset in foreign policy: The collapse of the Soviet Union saw India reset its foreign policy, and helped by the liberalization of the economy and repairing of ties with the US.
      • Nuclear testing in 1998: In 1998, when India tested nuclear devices, Russia, under President Vladimir Putin, was among the countries that did not censure it or impose sanctions.
      • Alignment with US: Still, bilateral relations did not thrive through the first decade of this century as India aligned its strategic objectives with the US and other Western nations, and importantly, diversified its arms purchases.
      • Shift in geopolitics: In 2022, a year that has seen Russia go to war against Ukraine, creating massive shifts in geopolitical choices across the world.
      • Neutral stand of India: India is among the few countries that has remained “neutral”, calling for a ceasefire and diplomacy for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
        • India has broken US-led western sanctions to trade for oil with Russia.

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

Q. What is the significance of Indo-US deals over Indo-Russian defense deals? Discuss with reference to stability in the Indo-Pacific region (UPSC 2020) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)