The relationship between the Soviet Union and India was a hallmark of the Cold War. Over nearly forty years, Soviet-Indian relations passed through three distinct periods, coinciding with the ascendance of three extraordinary pairs of leaders, each extraordinary for different reasons—Jawaharlal Nehru and Nikita Khrushchev, Indira Gandhi and Leonid Brezhnev, and Rajiv Gandhi and Mikhail Gorbachev. The rise and decline of a political dynasty in India paralleled the trajectory seen in the Soviet Union. None of the periods ended well—the first in debacles with China, the second with Indira Gandhi's assassination, the third with the demise of the Soviet Union. The relationship in its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s was the product of a unique set of circumstances during the early Cold War. In the end, however, the relationship proved to be little more than a sideshow in the larger drama of the Cold War.

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