May I briefly play the role of the devil's advocate?
You are more than welcomed.
The British do not need to kill the russo-indian trade by sheer force. I sincerely doubt that any trade in reasonable quantities may develop at all.
“At all” is too strong but I don’t remember saying anything about it growing into something significant. In OTL in Bukhara there were 20 - 40 Indian merchants (or families?) living permanently which gives some idea about the volume of trade and strongly hints to its nomenclature: “luxury items” as opposite to the big volume commodities. This would not go to change. AFAIK, before the British conquest the European trade with India was mostly European import of these “luxury items” because the Indian state had a very limited interest to the European goods.
Importing indian textiles to Europe will be incredibly cheaper by ship than by caravans.
Here we are getting to the point. In its Asiatic trade Russia was interested in exporting
its goods and, with the exception of the small volume “luxury” fabrics (like silk), was importing the wool-based cloth while exporting
its own flax-based textiles. In other words, India as a supplier of the commonly used fabrics would be of no interest (IIRC, the Brits killed the Indian textile production forcing purchase of their own textiles).
So India is of interest mostly as a source of the spices and some luxury items and consumer of the same stuff which Bukhara was selling in OTL, not a major perspective trade partner. The potential consumers of the Russian
production can be an Inner Asia but I’m not sure that the Afghan tribes could become a major and reliable
consumer of anything.
The technology of the time dictates it and not geopolitics. Well, to be honest geopolitics as well: what are the chances of Russians pacifying the tribes of northern Pakistan and Afganistan? So, overall, I doubt there can be any profit from sending caravans to India.
The caravans had been going in OTL so the trade was profitable. Which is not the same as saying that it could be turned into something profitable on the state level,
aka big enough in its volume to make a noticeable percentage of the Russian exports. OTOH, an idea that the trade is possible only after the “pacification” of the area sounds a little bit too “British”: the trade between the CA, Inner Asia and India did exist before the Russians got into the picture, which means that everybody involved had certain interest in it. This would not going to change until and unless the Brits will stop it on the territories which they conquer.
Even in OTL with multiple russo-ottoman wars, the Straits were closed only in times of war despite the inter-state hostility. So, even with multiple wars, the wheat trade flourished. I would also like to make a thesis that the Ottoman Empire would be a more valuable trade partner in 1720 than e.g. 1770. It serves as a trade partner to kickstart the wheat trade, but it won't be a major wheat importer compared to (as in OTL) the urbanized West. Feeding Constantinople partially with russian grains will be profitable, but the more Ukraine develops as a wheat exporter, the less important this trade becomes.
As far as I can tell, a big volume Russian grain trade through the Med is the late XIX century phenomena. In the XVIII it was going through the Baltics to the Netherlands and Britain.
Grain exports to France were rather sporadic and the same goes for Spain.
Constantinople was not the only place in the Ottoman Empire which needed grain so I assume that at least Levant also could be a market. What about Greece and Northern Africa, except Egypt?
But the Ottoman Empire as a partner could be a valuable source of the “Eastern goods”.
The other major russian exports (naval supplies, iron and iron products) would be more in demand to the more developed Western European markets rather than the Ottoman Empire.
They always were. Which does not mean that the Ottomans would not be buying a considerable amount of the manufactured products. In OTL, for example, they were buying the knives from Austria and, while we are on the subject, the knives made in the Crimean Khanate had been in a high demand.
Iron is tricky. In OTL after the GNW the iron exports (peg and sheet iron and cast iron) constituted a large percentage of the Russian iron production at the expense of the domestic manufacturing of the finished goods and development of the domestic manufacturing of the high quality steel (which by the late XIX resulted in a big “Oops!” ). This is going to change IITL. The same goes for the naval supplies: Russia was selling predominantly the raw materials instead of the finished products (hemp instead of the cables, etc.).
And when it comes to textiles, any russian exports will have to compete with british and french textiles in the ottoman markets.
Actually, not too much because the French were importing silk and the woolens and Russians the flax-based fabrics (not sure what the Brits were selling in the XVIII, probably woolens).
I would also argue that an earlier conquest of the CA khanates, increases the importance of the Caspian Sea and its security. I wonder whether John Elton was active in the Caspian Sea ITTL. A european-built persian flotilla might trigger russian expansionism in the area. The best port of the western coast is Baku.
In the XVIII the trade was mostly going through Derbent but a greater naval trade was a clear possibility.
Last but not least, I think it is difficult to butterfly away imperial competition in the Caucasus. The very nature of the caucasian polities, being small statelets and tribes at the fridge of empires make the system very unstable.
Yes, it does. But it also limits instability to the small-scale raids across the border done by both
sides (the Kuban Cossacks on the Russian side were a match to the opponents on other side). Between the raids the same people had been trading with each other.
It would have been much more stable if there a few well organized states that could act as buffers between the three empires (Russia, OE, Persia).
Well-organized states in the XVIII-XIX century Caucasus is a pure ASB. Anyway, taking into an account that the Caucasus was split between Persia and the Ottomans why would any of them voluntarily give away its territory to create a meaningful state which it would not be able to loot at will?
Such an example would be the security of the rich chernozem agricultural zone
by tribal raiders. The raids of poor mountaineers against rich agricultural plains and valleys are as old as agriculture itself and won't easily go away.
Errrr… Actually, a big chunk of these good agricultural lands was/is to the South of the Kuban river so there is no need to feel too sorry about the “poor mountaineers” who lived well to the South and did not have any contact with the Russians until they started conquest of the Caucasus.
There are few chances for a reasonably well-organized state to encompass Transcaucasia or the Ottomans to completely control the mountain tribes.
Many of which were Persian subjects…
The security concerns are similar to those that led to the destruction of the Crimean Khanate.
Not at all because the Circassians, Chechens, etc. rarely got far beyond the “natural borders”. Unlike the Crimean Khanate, they were not unified and could not cause any noticeable harm. The whole charade, as was very well explained by @Hastings
was about the initial idiotic decision to get into the Southern Caucasus (treaty with Karli-Kahetia) with a resulting need to subdue the whole space in between to secure a reliable communication. Well, and getting a better trade arrangement with Persia by conquering a big chunk