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Soviet Union


A cordial relationship with India that began in the 1950s represented the most successful of the Soviet attempts to foster closer relations with Third World countries. The relationship began with a visit by Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru to the Soviet Union in June 1955 and Khrushchev's return trip to India in the fall of 1955. While in India, Khrushchev announced that the Soviet Union supported Indian sovereignty over the Kashmir region and over Portuguese coastal enclaves.

The Soviet relationship with India rankled the Chinese and contributed to Sino-Soviet enmity during the Khrushchev period. The Soviet Union declared its neutrality during the 1959 border dispute and the 1962 Sino-Indian war, although the Chinese strongly objected. The Soviet Union gave India substantial economic and military assistance during the Khrushchev period, and by 1960 India had received more Soviet assistance than China had. This disparity became another point of contention in Sino-Soviet relations. In 1962 the Soviet Union agreed to transfer technology to coproduce the MiG-21 jet fighter in India, which the Soviet Union had earlier denied to China.

In 1965 the Soviet Union served successfully as peace broker between India and Pakistan after an Indian-Pakistani border war. The Soviet chairman of the Council of Ministers, Aleksei N. Kosygin, met with representatives of India and Pakistan and helped them negotiate an end to the military conflict over Kashmir.

In 1971 East Pakistan initiated an effort to secede from its union with West Pakistan. India supported the secession and, as a guarantee against possible Chinese entrance into the conflict on the side of West Pakistan, signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation with the Soviet Union in August 1971. In December, India entered the conflict and ensured the victory of the secessionists and the establishment of the new state of Bangladesh.

Relations between the Soviet Union and India did not suffer much during the rightist Janata Party's coalition government in the late 1970s, although India did move to establish better economic and military relations with Western countries. To counter these efforts by India to diversify its relations, the Soviet Union proffered additional weaponry and economic assistance.

During the 1980s, despite the 1984 assassination by Sikh extremists of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the mainstay of cordial Indian-Soviet relations, India maintained a close relationship with the Soviet Union. Indicating the high priority of relations with the Soviet Union in Indian foreign policy, the new Indian prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, visited the Soviet Union on his first state visit abroad in May 1985 and signed two long-term economic agreements with the Soviet Union. In turn, Gorbachev's first visit to a Third World state was his meeting with Gandhi in New Delhi in late 1986. Gorbachev unsuccessfully urged Gandhi to help the Soviet Union set up an Asian collective security system. Gorbachev's advocacy of this proposal, which had also been made by Brezhnev, was an indication of continuing Soviet interest in using close relations with India as a means of containing China. With the improvement of Sino-Soviet relations in the late 1980s, containing China had less of a priority, but close relations with India remained important as an example of Gorbachev's new Third World policy.

Data as of May 1989