Moscow tries to find a balance between Beijing and Delhi

Relations with the two giants of Asia – China, and India is for Russia one of the main foreign policy plots of the year. Beijing and Delhi, which are part of the Russia-India-China (RIC) alliance. As well as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and other organizations. It is a serious challenge to Russia’s strategy of turning to the East. Moscow is forced to balance the two centers of power in Asia. It must not allow their conflict to complicate strategic partnership with each side.

The intrigue in Russia’s relations with two strategic partners and implacable opponents in Asia, who are zealously following each other’s steps, reached a climax at the end of the year, when, with an interval of one and a half weeks, on December 6 and 15, the Russian-Indian, and then the Russian -Chinese Summit.

At the same time, in the short interval between them, on December 9, a Russian-American summit was also held in the format of a videoconference. It was already the second this year.

Vladimir Putin’s second foreign trip during the pandemic, who had previously flown from Moscow only once – to the summit with US President Joe Biden in Geneva in June this year, was intended not only to reaffirm the importance that Moscow attaches to relations with Delhi, which has an official status ” especially privileged strategic partnership ”.

Throughout the year, there were numerous signals that relations between Russia and India, despite their strength, are developing in an environment of heightened geopolitical turbulence and a risk zone created by both the confrontation between Russia and the United States and the aggravation of India’s relations with China.

India entering the QUAD alliance

So, this year, India entered the new Indo-Pacific alliance QUAD (USA, Japan, India, Australia), which openly aims to contain the growing influence of China. The emergence of QUAD was bad news not only for Beijing but also for Moscow. Moreover, India, which actively supported this American geopolitical project QUAD, together with China, is included in the RIC triangle (Russia-India-China). In addition, India and China are partners in the SCO, BRICS, and other organizations.

Even before the creation of QUAD, at the very beginning of the year, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made a resonant statement that, in its confrontation with China, the United States is increasingly trying to make Beijing and Delhi quarrel, increasing pressure on India.

Despite the absence of an official reaction from the Indian side, this assessment caused bewilderment among many in Delhi: numerous interlocutors of Kommersant, including experts and former ambassadors to the Russian Federation, insisted that the conflict between India and China has purely internal roots and is associated with increasingly active Beijing’s attempts to change the status quo on the demarcation line with India in East Ladakh.

The ambiguity that arose, apparently, was to be eliminated by the Russian-Indian summit, the holding of which acquired special significance for each of the parties.

Drawing attention to the importance of a personal meeting between the leaders of the two countries, the aide to the Russian president, Yuri Ushakov, who accompanied him on his trip to Delhi, recalled that one of the mechanisms of their dialogue was informal one-on-one communication.

India – Russia summit

According to Mr. Ushakov, this allows Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi to discuss “the most difficult, most delicate issues of the international situation.”

The main result of the meeting between Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi was the signing of a joint statement “Russia – India: partnership for peace, progress and prosperity.”

This document lists in detail the most promising areas of bilateral cooperation designed to give a new acceleration to the specially privileged strategic partnership between Russia and India.

After his trip to Delhi, Vladimir Putin held the second summit this year with US President Joe Biden.

Against this background, a certain pause in the Russian-Chinese dialogue at the highest level became more and more noticeable. The previous talks between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, held in the format of a video conference, took place on June 28 and were timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Russian-Chinese Treaty on Good Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation, which was extended for another five years this year.

Apparently, the fears of the Chinese side that Moscow will reach some separate agreements with Washington behind Beijing’s back, and will also begin to take into account the Indian position in the region to the detriment of China’s interests, and predetermined the decision to hold the second Russian-Chinese summit. 

Video Conference between Xi Jinping and Putin

Like the first meeting of the two leaders, it was held in the format of a video conference, given that Chinese President Xi Jinping has never left the country in the two years of the pandemic. In addition, in September, he turned down an offer by US President Joe Biden to hold a face-to-face US-China summit to begin the process of de-escalation in relations between Washington and Beijing.

Thus, after the Russian-Indian and Russian-American summits held in the first ten days of December, Beijing still managed to retain the final say.

The “Chinese ending” of Moscow’s diplomatic year turned out to be very effective on the outside, despite the distance communication between the two leaders, which lasted an hour and a half (the summits of Vladimir Putin with Narendra Modi and Joe Biden were longer). So, with Narendra Modi, Vladimir Putin talked face-to-face for three and a half hours, and with Joe Biden, he had a two-hour conversation.

Not limiting themselves to summing up the results of 2021 and demonstrating personal friendship, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping made it clear that Moscow and Beijing, which have not entered into formal allied relations, are already acting as allies.

Speaking with his Chinese counterpart, Vladimir Putin confirmed his plans to attend the 2022 Winter Olympics, which will be held in Beijing in February.

A new page in Chinese-Russian relations

Thus, he struck a blow at the idea of ​​a political boycott of the Olympics, which the United States and its allies are calling for. “I look forward to our Olympic meeting with you. I am ready to go forward with you hand in hand, together to open a new page in Chinese-Russian relations in the post-pandemic period, “Xi Jinping reacted to this. “The world has entered a period of turbulence and great change. Sino-Russian relations, having withstood all kinds of tests, have shown strong vitality, acquired a new breath, ”he added, also thanking Vladimir Putin for not allowing the West to“ drive a wedge ”between Moscow and Beijing.

Analyzing the ambiguous situation in the Russia-India-China triangle, which is increasingly influenced by the activity of the United States, which is moving closer to Delhi and continuing to put pressure on Beijing and Moscow, Alexei Maslov, director of the Institute of Asian and African Studies at Moscow State University, notes: “We admit that India is much less interesting for American investors than China. Despite all the contradictions between Washington and Beijing, private American business relies on China, given the huge number of preferences, excellent logistics, and full vertical integration of the production of any product. In addition, many American investors choose Chinese government securities for investments as they are quite reliable, which cannot be said about Indian assets.

But the idea of ​​developing special, that is, free from one-sided bias, Russian-Indian relations can be quite productive for Moscow. India can support the idea of ​​a Greater Eurasian space, to which China is still skeptical, and integrate into a new political and economic sphere, where it can be one of the leaders outside the opinion of Washington or Beijing.”


Sergey Strokan

Russia and India signed documents on military cooperation

Russia and India have signed several documents on small arms and military cooperation, Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said on Twitter.

“I am glad that a number of agreements, contracts and protocols have been signed regarding small arms and military cooperation,” the Indian minister wrote.

However, he added that India “appreciates the strong support of Russia.” “We hope that our cooperation will bring peace, prosperity and stability to the entire region,” Singh said.

On December 6, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced the beginning in New Delhi of a meeting of the Russian-Indian intergovernmental commission on military and military-technical cooperation with the participation of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. During the meeting, he noted that India is one of the key partners of Russia in the defense sphere, and relations between the countries are of a “particularly privileged strategic nature.”

“The unprecedented level of trust between our countries is evidenced by the intensity and depth of military-technical cooperation, which is reaching a new qualitative level every year,” the Russian Defense Minister said.

On December 6, the Ministry of Defense announced the signing of an agreement between the governments of the two countries on a program of military-technical cooperation until 2030. The document implies cooperation of the branches and arms of the armed forces, and includes the supply and development of weapons and military equipment.

On November 14, the director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) of Russia, Dmitry Shugaev, announced the start of supplies to India of equipment for S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems. The contract for the supply of the complexes was signed in 2016. India became the third foreign buyer of these complexes after China and Turkey.

Why India and Russia need an alliance?

Before gaining independence, India was a colony of Great Britain. After World War II, when the Cold War broke out between the USSR and the United States, India chose neutrality. Along with Egypt and Cuba, she joined the Non-Aligned Movement.

At the same time, the Indians had rather close relations with the USSR. Soviet Union provided significant military assistance to India under Khrushchev during the Indo-Chinese conflict. And despite the fact that China was a communist country and Moscow’s ally in the Cold War. In the same 1960s, Moscow supported New Delhi in a dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir. Moreover, it was with the participation of Chairman of the Council of Ministers Kosygin that the Second Indo-Pakistani War was stopped. The declaration on January 10, 1966 on the cessation of fighting was signed in Tashkent.

India is trying to pursue the same course of non-alignment today. 

However, just as then, geopolitical realities – lingering rivalries with China and Pakistan – are forcing Indians to seek strong allies. In this sense, India has little choice: the United States, the European Union and Russia. Europe could be a mainstay, but traditionally tries not to get involved in the battle of the titans. Even in the US-Russian confrontation, the Europeans are calling for a reduction in the intensity of passions, and by the way, they recently challenged the conclusions of the US intelligence about the alleged Russian invasion. The EU has close economic ties with China. Plus the EU is a very heterogeneous structure. France is now offended by the Anglo-Saxons because of the anti-Chinese AUKUS. Germany is very modest in foreign policy.

As for the United States itself, this would be a very convenient option for India. The United States is now actively opposing China. Both economically and through military alliances. India participates in the QUAD alliance and is conducting naval exercises in the Indian Ocean with the United States, Japan and Australia. The last of them, in October, became the largest in 40 years. Only the whole snag of the alliance with Washington for New Delhi is that the Americans demand complete submission . The United States literally prohibits India from buying S-400 air defense systems from Russia. It is threatening it with sanctions, as was the case with Turkey.

Unique partners

Russia is for India, if not the only, then at least a unique partner. Unlike the United States, it will not oppose China. But at the same time the Russian Federation is selling weapons to India. That helps maintain the balance of power in Asia. It is thanks to Russian efforts that India and China are now full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Can you imagine joint military exercises between Indians and Chinese under the auspices of the Pentagon? Of course not. But almost such exercises took place this year! In September, 200 Indian military personnel, as well as Chinese and Pakistani observers, took part in the Russian-Belarusian maneuvers “West-2021”.

Russia is trying to bring China and India closer together economically. Within the BRICS format, there is a joint pool of reserve currencies, which helps to strengthen the financial sovereignty of the five countries. Russia is strengthening India’s defenses and working to reduce its conflict with China. Separately, it is also worth mentioning the North-South project, leading from Russia to India and vice versa. That will enhance trade opportunities and macro-regional significance of both countries.

For Russia lations with India must be strengthened. This enhances its role in Asia. It strengthens its cards in front of the United States. And, in a good sense of the word, allows it to balance the growing China. After all, an alliance with India is good money. For 30 years, the supply of aircraft, tanks and Kalashnikovs alone increased the Russian budget by $ 60 billion.

India does not hide interest in the Arctic

Often, when referring to the Northern Sea Route (NSR), one can hear the definition that this is the “Russian way to India.” Indeed, the NSR is the shortest and safest access to the powerful, developing market of this vast country.

No pipe, even the widest in diameter, can meet India’s oil and gas needs. But shipping by sea is a different matter. It seems that India has been eyeing alternative routes for a long time to ensure its energy security. For Russian gas and oil companies, a partner such as India will help diversify the markets for minerals.

The development of the Arctic for New Delhi is also a matter of constant competition with another global player in the region. With China, which has already laid the foundation for the third icebreaker in the “Snow Dragons” series. India is trying to keep up. It is known that she has been eyeing the Russian project 21180 (M) icebreakers for a long time. These auxiliary diesel-electric icebreakers of a new type with a powerful energy complex and a modern propeller electric installation of Russian production are assessed by the Indians as ships with enhanced functionality. They are able to mill ice up to 1.5 meters.

In terms of displacement, they correspond to the Norwegian patrol icebreaker Svalbard. However, the practice of military-technical cooperation between India and Russia shows that New Delhi trusts more Russian developers and shipbuilders. That is more than once expressed in mutually beneficial and long-term contracts. The project 21180 icebreaker “Ilya Muromets” became the first icebreaker in 45 years, created exclusively for the needs of the Russian Navy. It is part of the Northern Fleet.

Proven partnership over the years

The reincarnation of the aircraft-carrying cruiser Admiral Gorshkov took place in Severodvinsk. With the active participation of the Nevsky Design Bureau, thanks to India. Russian shipbuilders have gained unique experience in the implementation of such global tasks. The Indian order made it possible to actually upgrade the Russian MiG-29K carrier-based fighter to the 4 ++ level.

Today MIG-29K meets all modern requirements for carrier-based aircraft. It is unobtrusive – 20% of the aircraft are assembled from non-metallic composite materials. To reduce visibility in the infrared range, the “cooled wing” technology has been implemented.

The fighter is equipped with the latest avionics, infrared target finder, guidance of close air-to-air missiles by turning the pilot’s head. The new radar “Zhuk-ME”, installed on board, finds targets at a distance of 200 km. With its help, guidance is carried out with corrected bombs and medium-range missiles.

Although the MiG-29K has a shorter range and payload than the Su-33, it is more compact. Thanks to the money of the Indians, is deeply modernized relative to the original Soviet projects MiG-29K and Su-33.

MiG-29KUB. 
Photo: Rulexip / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Military cooperation is being transformed into the Arctic Cooperation between Moscow and New Delhi. It continues not only in the military, but also in the oil and gas sector. This may allow India to become the first non-Arctic state to extract resources in the Arctic. 

Russian-Indian cooperation in geological exploration and joint development of oil and gas fields, including offshore projects, is rapidly developing. Indian companies are involved in the development of oil and gas fields within the Sakhalin-1 project and the Vankor oil and gas condensate field. It is worth noting that Rosneft is a shareholder in the large Indian oil refinery Vadinar.

Is China jealous?

Improving the delivery of Russian energy resources to Indian partners is also a priority. China is very jealous of India’s admission to the region. At the same time, the economic potentials of India and China differ.

China, in addition to having ice-class ships, has long been active in investing in infrastructure energy projects in the Arctic. India in this sense lags far behind. And it’s not just New Delhi’s caution. There are players who constantly distract India from projects that are profitable for it.

India has a clearly positive image in the Arctic G8. In addition, India has lobbying opportunities for a representative diaspora in the Arctic countries. Especially in the United States and Canada. Weak investment activity of Indian business structures is a profitable business.

Chasing two hares

India has long surpassed Japan and has become the third largest economy in the world, calculated in purchasing power parity terms. The consumption of hydrocarbons is growing every year.

According to the forecasts of the International Energy Agency, India will become the third country in the world in terms of energy consumption by 2030. Due to the lack of its own sources of primary energy, the country will increase their imports. And she is going to do this, taking the most active part in the development of polar resources. In any case, there is such a desire.

In this sense, Russia for India is a guarantee of colossal investments. The only problem is the inconsistency of the concepts of the development of the civil and military navy. It’s like chasing two birds with one stone. On the one hand, India does not want to lag behind China in the Arctic. But on the other hand, it is implementing an ambitious maritime strategy. The goal of which is to turn the country into the main power in the Indian Ocean.

Does India have enough finance, especially considering that the United States is increasingly engaging India in a clash with China through a four-sided military bloc, the so-called Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD), which also includes Japan and Australia. Will India have time for the Arctic if it is drawn into the war?

The US is indeed purposefully luring India into a trap from which the Asian giant simply cannot emerge victorious. Indeed, Pakistan will take the side of China in the event of an escalation of the regional conflict. And a conflict between nuclear-weapon states can easily escalate into a nuclear catastrophe. This is already fraught with stability on the planet, but do such little things worry the hawks in Washington …

Divide and conquer

The development of the Arctic by India is postponed every time the word “Aksaychin” appears on the world agenda. A region of confrontation between India and China. Two powers that more than others can influence the radical redistribution of world resources. Can the United States allow such “gluttonous” countries, in the opinion of the Yankees, to approach the division of Arctic resources? The question is rhetorical.

The United States can say whatever it wants in the Congress, but the Americans will not allow the strengthening of the influence of China and the supposedly allied India in the Arctic. Their true desire is for India and China to moderate their ambitions. For this, Washington is making every effort to play off Beijing and New Delhi in a senseless duel. That is obviously disadvantageous for both countries.

India on the side of Armenia against Turkey, Azerbaijan and Pakistan

The warnings of some political scientists about the importance of a small piece of land in Armenia called Syunik for the geopolitical coordinates of the countries of the region and large countries – economic and political giants, were ignored by practicing politicians. Russia, in fact, which allowed the 44-day Karabakh war to begin, stood up as a peacemaker and coordinator before the difficult and controversial elections. On both sides of the dividing line, there are countries with which Russia has the closest economic ties.

Having won the war, Azerbaijan set out to break through the so-called “Zangezur corridor” under the pretext of opening communications. He is fully supported by Turkey. In turn, “breaking through” the corridor is accompanied by infringement of the rights of Iranian carriers, since Azerbaijani checkpoints have been erected on the section of the Goris-Kapan road connecting Armenia and Artsakh with Iran, in the territories that came under the control of Azerbaijan.

They are clearly being cunning, since the road has never passed through the territory of Azerbaijan. Simply taking advantage of the defeat of Armenia, Azerbaijani troops advanced a couple of extra kilometers and took control of an almost 20-kilometer section of the road. In response to decisive protests, and then actions to transfer military units and heavy weapons to the Iranian-Azerbaijani border, Iran warned Azerbaijan that it would not allow the redrawing of borders and would not allow obstacles to its trade with Armenia, through which Iran has the ability to bypass tough US and Western sanctions have been dominating Iran for several decades.

Joint military exercises by Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan

In response, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan held joint military exercises, demonstrating the readiness of these countries to resolutely rebuff Iran. Having stood on the side of Azerbaijan during the Karabakh war and provided assistance in the form of weapons and a special forces detachment that reportedly participated in the capture of Shushi, Pakistan, as an ally of Azerbaijan, somewhat changed the alignment of forces, since it possesses nuclear weapons. And if Azerbaijan achieved victory thanks to active Turkish participation, which cannot but irritate Iran, Turkey’s competitor for the right to be a regional leader, Pakistan’s participation caused an immediate reaction in India, which is working with Iran on the North-South project.

For more than 30 years, Indian officials, who had not visited Armenia, unexpectedly visited Armenia in the person of Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on October 12-13. This was the first visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of India to the Republic of Armenia.

“India as the largest democracy in the world, a large, fast-growing economy, as well as a peace-loving state can contribute to stability, development and peace in the South Caucasus,” Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan said at a press conference.

India stepping in

In this context, the Foreign Minister again recalled the position of Armenia regarding the fact that the use of force cannot be the basis for resolving the conflict, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should be resolved through peaceful negotiations within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, based on well-known principles.

Ararat Mirzoyan stressed that Armenia highly appreciates the statement of the Indian Foreign Ministry made in May this year on the need to withdraw the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan from the sovereign territory of Armenia. In turn, Armenia confirms its position on assisting India in the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, which are under Pakistani control.

If until recently India was ready to be content with a highway running through Azerbaijan, then in the new realities only the Armenian transit is seen by the Indian side as promising and profitable from a political point of view.

North-South Transport Corridor

Subramaniam Jaishankar fueled Yerevan’s optimism by proposing to make the port of Chabahar a part of the North-South transport corridor and take part in its construction and further operation.

It should be noted that the Pakistani port of Gwadara is located 200 kilometers from the Iranian Chabahar, which, as part of the Chinese Belt and Road initiative, is reaching its design capacity.

Since the visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of India was rather unexpected, let us inform you that Armenia, or rather Armenians with India, have long-standing ties, the Armenians controlled the market of precious stones and metals, enjoyed the right of duty-free trade, as during the time of Catherine II in Russia. Today in Yerevan one can meet a large number of Indian students studying at Armenian universities, mainly at the medical university. Indian students come to study in Armenia with pleasure, because for them the ratio of “quality education” and an acceptable price is ideal here.

Armenia-India relations in the international arena have been marked by serious support. In 2008, India for the first time openly took the position of Armenia, rejecting at a meeting of the UN General Assembly the resolution proposed by Azerbaijan, recognizing “NKR” as an Armenian-occupied territory. Indian diplomats do not avoid using the phrase “Armenian genocide” in official statements and documents. During the 44-day war, the Indian media supported Armenia. The India Today newspaper wrote; “If the Armenians fail to stop the pro-Turkish mercenaries who have arrived in Karabakh, tomorrow they may end up in arms in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.” In May of this year, India officially condemned Azerbaijan’s aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh ..

It is safe to say that India views Armenia as a strategic partner in the South Caucasus against the alliance of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Pakistan. And India is ready, together with Iran, to help her resist the pressure and threats of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Pakistan.

By joining efforts, Russia, India, Iran and Armenia can completely cancel out Turkey’s ambitious plans to reunite the Turkic states and create the Great Turan, on the way of which the Armenian region of Syunik stands.

By Edward Sakhinov

Russia & India have huge potential in energy sector

The potential for increased cooperation between Russia and India in the energy sphere is immense. Investors in both nations looking to expand mutually beneficial projects, India’s energy minister, Hardeep Singh Puri, told RT.

There’s a lot of ongoing cooperative work in the sector of petroleum and natural gas [between Russia and India]. It contains tremendous potential.”

He noted that Russia has many ongoing projects in the energy arena in India and is looking to further invest in the country. As it was expressed at a number of meetings with Russian companies at the EEF this week. According to Puri, India’s investments in Russia’s energy sector amount to some $16 billion. Russia has invested around $14 billion in India. 

Puri also stated that India’s import dependence on liquid hydrocarbons and gas is about 85%. Only about 1% of the country’s energy imports come from Russia. As India forecasts its economy to grow to $5 trillion in the next three to four years, he expects the country’s energy per capita consumption to grow “exponentially,” giving further ground for boosting energy cooperation between the two states.

We’ve got the roadmap in terms of the potential [in the energy sphere]. Both sides would want long-term agreements which provide predictability, stability and prices,” Puri said.

Russia and India are strategic partners in energy secotr

He added that he expects a “fascinating dialogue” about expanding energy inflows to India in the near future, as the country’s energy demand makes it a rather attractive market. 

No matter where you find oil and gas, somebody has to consume it. Many existing markets have reached a point where they have their sources, they have imports. India is one country where you can’t go wrong on the demand assessment. So potentially it’s a fascinating dialogue to have,” Puri said.

India is in need of energy and energy sources are here [in Russia]. Russia and India are strategic partners in energy and nobody has a second opinion on that,” he concluded.

During the EEF plenary session on Friday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also spoke positively about energy cooperation between India and Russia. He said it can bring stability to the global energy market, calling it a “major pillar of our strategic partnership.”

In his virtual address, Modi said Indian workers were taking part in gas projects in the “Amur region, from Yamal to Vladivostok and onward to Chennai.” He added that Indian authorities “envisage an energy and trade bridge.”

I am happy that the Chennai-Vladivostok maritime corridor is making headway. This connectivity project, along with the International North-South [Transport] Corridor will bring India and Russia physically closer to each other,” Modi stated.

For India Emperor has no clothes

India’ top diplomat S Jaishankar urges Western foreign-policy elites to engage in serious dialogue and compromise

By JAVIER M. PIEDRA

India has been sending a consistent message to the West over the past several years – apparently to no avail. The US may think in terms of a (conceptually problematic) Indo-Pacific region, but India is part of the Eurasian landmass; it sees itself more as a land/sea power than a maritime one. 

India, as a member of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), seeks a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific within the greater Eurasian context. This means that India will continue to deal with Russia, Iran, China and Myanmar (and anyone else) as it sees fit.

India perceived the changing dynamics in international relations long before Western foreign-policy elites caught on. It will decide matters of national security and external affairs according to its own perception of its interests.  

Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, in recent public appearances, has been trying to drill some sense into the ossified heads of Western foreign-policy elites.

One sometimes feels he has taken a leaf from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes. The one in which two tailors convince the Emperor they can weave him a wardrobe that is invisible to fools or incompetent servants of the realm when in fact they make no clothes at all. They persuade onlookers to believe that the Emperor is wearing invisible clothes. 

Jaishankar’s message is that the policies of Western intellectuals have not been working, and unbeknownst to themselves, they are walking around buck-naked. Afghanistan, of course, has drawn devastating attention to their nakedness. 

Global politics have changed

If the West wishes to engage India meaningfully, it should pay attention to Jaishankar. As former foreign secretary of India and ambassador to the US and China, he has repeatedly counseled the West’s foreign-policy elites to ditch their post-1989 obsession with geopolitical gamesmanship – not his words – and engage in serious dialogue and compromise with other countries. 

In other words, Jaishankar is saying that just as the East India Company (1697-1857) and the British Raj (1858-1947) are things of the past, so is the post-1989 unipolar world. Global politics have changed. 

Jaishankar is calling on the West to reflect on many of its failed approaches to problem-solving in foreign affairs and accept that a rebalancing is taking place in the world. In his view, genuine dialogue and teamwork are more appropriate to current world affairs than the one-sided unilateralism, whining and zero-sum vision of Western foreign-policy elites of recent years. 

‘Good diplomacy’

Multipolarity is more than a weighted distribution of power among states – however that might be calculated – in which several groupings of states have roughly equal diplomatic, military, cultural, and economic influence. There’s more to it than that. A foreign policy viable over the long term, he insists, must be based on the inherent rights of sovereign nation-states. It does not matter however strong or weak, to engage, co-exist and have independent voices despite power asymmetries. 

Addressing the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington shortly after being appointed external affairs minister, Jaishankar stated that “a country keeps [its] relationships well-oiled with all the major power centers. And the country which does that best actually has a political positioning in the world which may be superior to its actual structural strengths.

“Good diplomacy,” he continued, “means more today than it did a few years ago.” He was urging the West to re-examine its current approach to foreign policy or risk irrelevance by alienating otherwise potentially friendly nation-states and disrupting the international system. 

An Indian proverb captures this nicely: “When the direction of the wind changes, adjust the sails on the boat.” That’s what India expects of the West. Namely, to institute a course correction lest sticky situations that could be resolved diplomatically descend into chaos. Afghanistan today is a good example, and there are many others.  

The West must not forget that history weighs heavily on India, which played no important role in the post-World War II order, and which had only a limited say in the Partition of British India in 1947.

The days of the British East India Company are over

Because of this, and given India’s undeniable rise in the 21st century, the West must be careful not to exclude India from the “high table,” as Jaishankar has said. The West must neither be seen in India as using the country to underwrite its own geo-strategic objectives nor as a toll road or platform for its own commercial interests. 

The days of the British East India Company are oer. Its motto, “By Command of the King and Parliament of England,” no longer applies to India. And much less to Eurasia. 

India is a forgiving nation but has a long memory. At the Atlantic Council in 2019, Jaishankar reminded the West of India’s “two centuries of humiliation” at the hands of the British.

He would never have said that in an open forum with the cameras rolling unless he wanted to remind his audience that Britain extracted from India the equivalent of some US$45 trillion during the colonial period. He wanted to convey a message: It’s high time the West rethinks its approach to international engagement, and especially to India. 

The West must come to grips with the fact that “there is a very radical change underway in the world. A radical change in the sense that this time around, really, the 1945 world order is running out of gas.” 

At the India Economic Conclave this March, Jaishankar said that China “has strategically ‘out-thought’ the West over successive generations. That explains why they are where they are. I’ve always seen lessons in China’s growth. In China’s importance, salience, centrality, call it what you want. To me, yes, China is a neighbor. And in many ways a challenging neighbor. It should inspire us.”

India sees the use of military as a last resort

One might infer Jaishankar thinks that if the West picks a fight with China, it must be the right fight. If it bites off more than it can chew, the outcome could well be far from pleasant. India sees the use of the military as a last resort. It was evident when India, in 2020, deployed reinforcements to Ladakh’s Galwan Valley. 

The joint press conference of US Secretary of State Anton Blinken and Indian EAM Jaishankar on July 28 in Delhi further confirms that India lost patience with Western sermons about India’s violations of human rights, which India does not deny. But when similar violations are leveled against the West, somehow the “Emperor” is fully decked out in new clothes.

Jaishankar was nothing if not diplomatic when reacting to Blinken’s criticism of Indian democracy. Jaishankar made three pointed observations: “Number one, the quest for a more perfect union applies as much to Indian democracy as it does to the American one – indeed, to all democracies. 

“Number two, it is the moral obligation of all – of all polities to right wrongs when they have been done, including historically. And many of the decisions and policies you’ve seen in the last few years fall in that category.

“Number three, freedoms are important, we value them, but never equate freedom with non-governance or lack of governance or poor governance. They are two completely different things.” 

To criticize the United States at a press conference is not an everyday event. India is telling the West that diplomacy comprises many views, opinions, and approaches. No single country holds a monopoly on virtuous political views and economic leadership. 

Dealing with China

India knows that the West has the habit of switching sides. There are many examples. Jaishankar reminds his Western counterparts that “when India was defeated in 1962, the West actually came to the assistance of India. But in less than a decade in 1971, when it seemed to the West that India was seeking primacy in the subcontinent, the West opposed India.”

There are certain red lines that should not be crossed; the West must be more consistent in its policies and show greater loyalty to its friends. It is a reasonable assumption that, here, Jaishankar is thinking of Pakistan’s historically close ties to the US. 

With respect to China, Jaishankar continues to meet with his Chinese counterpart, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. As reported on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC, “China-India relations still remain at a low level, which is not in the interest of either side.” Nevertheless, expect the two sides to continue to engage in smart and tough diplomacy, making every effort to refrain from military encounters. 

India will hold its ground, especially on matters of territorial integrity. But in the first instance will negotiate to avoid unnecessary bloodshed. In this respect, Indian Army Chief General Manoj Naravane, like Jaishankar, understands the seriousness of the ongoing Sino-Indian border dispute along the Line of Actual Control. But rather than hurling bombs at the Chinese in public, he exudes a calm optimism. Showing no signs of paranoia or fear about China’s encroachment across the LAC.

“Trust but verify”

“China,” he says, “is trying to force its way and change the status quo with little regard for the interest of neighboring countries … trying to bulldoze its way. [Countries] need to take a stand and safeguard their interests…. [But] we must believe that China is serious this time [about finding a non-military solution to our northern border] and that [it] will abide by all clauses of this particular and previous agreements.”

The Indian army chief then calmly said that India’s approach to China is to “trust but verify.” It is ironic to hear a foreign statesman evoke Ronald Reagan’s “trust but verify” mantra at a time when Western leaders have veered so sharply from Reagan’s (wildly successful) approach to ending the Cold War.  

India and China recognize that the border issue is “visibly impacting the relationship in a negative manner.” But as reported in the Kashmir Observer in July, “India and China have once again agreed to resolve their border standoff in Ladakh as prolonging the existing situation ‘was not in the interest of either side.’” 

And as David Goldman predicted in his Asia Times article “Cardinal Richelieu and the ghosts of empires past,” “India will quietly make its accommodation with China.” That seems to be the direction of Sino-Indian relations, whether the West likes it or not. 

Those in the West who are trying to convert the Quad from a strategic dialogue to a NATO-like military alliance should think twice, because the Indians will oppose its militarization. 

No ‘Asian NATO’

“The idea that when we come together and there is some sort of a threat or messaging to others, I think people need to get over this.… Using words like ‘Asian NATO,’ etc, is a mind-game which people are playing,” said Jaishankar.

“I can’t have other people have a veto about what I’m going to discuss, with whom I’m going to discuss, how much I’m going to contribute to the world. That’s my national choice. That kind of NATO mentality has never been India’s. If it has been there in Asia before I think it’s in other countries and regions, not in mine.”

One hopes that “neo-Mackinderite” proponents of the “Great Game” in Eurasia are listening.  

As Jaishankar has said, the “Quad is an expression of convergence of interests of many countries. It’s in many ways a reflection of the contemporary nature of the world order. We have to put the Cold War behind us; only those who are stuck in the Cold War can’t understand the Quad.” Going one step further, Jaishankar sees South-South cooperation as further evidence of the rebalancing that is taking place.

The West’s double standards

Minister Jaishankar, on his second trip in two months to Tehran, was more than clear when speaking of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi: “A warm meeting with President Ebrahim Raisi after his assumption of office. Conveyed the personal greetings of PM Narenda Modi. [Raisi’s] commitment to strengthening our bilateral relationship was manifest. So too was convergence in our regional interests. Looking forward to working with his team.”

Another disheartening moment for “neo-Mackinderites.” Jaishankar is not taking issue with the West for holding Iran accountable for human-rights violations and the export of terrorism, but he is saying that India will hold talks with anyone it pleases; 1989 is so yesterday.  

Another point worth reflecting on: What must Eurasian countries think when the West condemns Communist China, as it should, but showers praise and taxpayers’ money on Communist Vietnam? Vietnam’s leadership, after all, are committed communists whose track record on human rights is less that brilliant. The West’s double standard at the ideological level is surely as clear to Jaishankar as it is to everyone else. 

Ties with Russia

India and Russia have just wrapped up joint anti-terrorist military exercises in the Volgograd region in southern Russia. On a three-day visit in July to Moscow to prepare for the India-Russia bilateral annual summit, Jaishankar tweeted, “A warm and productive meeting with FM Sergey Lavrov. Reviewed preparations for our bilateral Annual Summit. Wide-ranging discussion on regional issues: Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Libya and Caucasus; ASEAN and the Indo-Pacific. 

“Spoke about recent global developments including Russia-US relations. Satisfied with our cooperation in multilateral organizations including UNSC. The quality of conversation reflected our special and privileged strategic partnership.”

To fill in the gaps, ​it wouldn’t hurt to read Jaishankar’s speech “India-Russia Ties in a Changing World” that he recently delivered at the Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations in Moscow. 

And at the sixth Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok on September 3, Prime Minister Modi reiterated the special and privileged partnership between India and Russia.

“India and Russia will be partners in opening of the Northern Sea Route for international trade and Commerce.…. The friendship between India and Russia has stood the test of time.… India will be a reliable partner for Russia….

“I am happy that the Chennai-Vladivostok Maritime Corridor is making headway. This connectivity project along with the International North-South Corridor will bring India and Russia physically closer to each other.” Eurasian connectivity and Indo-Russian partnership is clear-cut.  

 

‘Mutual respect’

There is much for the West to reflect upon. Jaishankar is not spouting “talking points” when he says that “the West [at different times] didn’t want India to get too weak, and the West didn’t want to let India get too strong.”

He seems to be saying that it will not be easy for India and the West to build a lasting strategic relationship unless India is no longer viewed, as it was in the past, as a pawn in a much larger geo-strategic game that is still going on in the minds of foreign-policy elites. Post-1989 hubris must stop. 

Rarely heard in Western media, Gravitas, a Delhi-based Indian news channel, has produced a provocative commentary that captures, rightly or wrongly, the sentiments of many in Asia toward Western foreign-policy elites, especially considering the debacle now playing out in Afghanistan.

“The US needs India’s strategic partnership at this point to tackle China, to tackle climate change, to beat the pandemic. Tells you how flimsy their ideas really are. You see, every friendship has a red line, in this case, that red line is domestic interference.

“The US cannot waltz in and weigh in on Indian democracy. No country can. And that’s the whole point of mutual respect and sovereignty. The question is ‘how can India and the US find a balance?’ The United States has no permanent friends, just interests.” 

The West must work harder to convince India, through words and deeds, that it sees India as more than a strategic pawn, a customer for military equipment or a platform to secure supply lines from China. Climate change, infrastructure, connectivity, capital markets, digital, data and people exchanges are all well and good, but in the final analysis, India, as any nation-state, wants to be treated with respect and dignity. 

G20 has really replaced G7

Western elites must get used to the fact that, as Jaishankar says, a geo-strategic repositioning is taking place in Eurasia. “And if there is a single way by which to capture [the much larger strategic and cultural recalibration under way], it is the fact that today the G20 has really replaced the G7 as the primary body for global deliberations.”

Jaishankar might be on to something. The Group of 20’s broad membership and penchant for constructive diplomacy just might induce our “neo-Makinderites” to reassess the politics of confrontation, and the Quad to become more inclusive and a mechanism for constructive engagement. 

Speaking at a meeting of the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council on September 2 in Bled, Slovenia, Jaishankar observed: “Europe needs to know that it has friends in Asia, in the Indo-Pacific; that a lot of the principles and the outlook that Europe has, a lot of other countries share. I think that the binary – Western/non-Western – is a false binary.”

India will act as India wants

In other words, India rejects the thinking that justified the British Raj, and that still dominates the post-1989 reasoning of many Western foreign-policy circles. India will act as India wants; we can expect others to do the same.

And so, as the Emperor and his foreign-policy mandarins strut about in their “new clothes” (while in reality being buck-naked), pretending to hold the keys to the kingdom, the bringers of peace, prosperity, and stability, EAM Jaishankar, and others, have the temerity to point out, “But the Emperor has no clothes!” 

NATO’s botched Afghan policy and exit, the further unraveling of “neo-Mackinderite” foreign-policy thinking, the forward march of Eurasian economic and cultural ties, and the rebalancing that Jaishankar has been talking about for years, just might force the much-needed agonizing reappraisal of Western policy that was needed in 1989, and again in 2001, but never happened. Perhaps this time it will.  


Javier M Piedra is a financial consultant, specialist in international development and former deputy assistant administrator for South and Central Asia at USAID

India will help Russia turn Arctic into global trade route

New Delhi is planning to assist in developing Russia’s Northern Sea Route (NSR). And turning it into an international trade artery, according to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“India will help Russia in the development of the Northern Sea Route and opening this route for international trade the same way as Russia helps India to develop with the aim of space exploration and the preparation of the national manned Gaganyaan program,” Modi said, speaking via video link at a plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum.

The Indian prime minister also said Moscow and New Delhi had managed to make significant progress in developing commercial ties despite massive disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The friendship between India and Russia has stood up against the test of time,” he said.

“Most recently, it was seen in our robust cooperation during the Covid-19 pandemic, including in the area of vaccines. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of the health and pharma sectors in our bilateral cooperation.”

According to the Indian head of state, an energy partnership between the two nations would bring greater stability to the global energy market.

Modi also said that such joint projects as the Chennai-Vladivostok sea corridor, which is currently under development, provide greater connectivity along with the North-South transport corridor.


Major deal on developing Russia’s Big Northern Sea Route sealed at Eastern Economic Forum

A broad agreement aimed at providing stable growth of exports, cabotage and transit traffic along Russia’s Arctic sea route has been signed at the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok on Friday.

Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom and the Ministry for Development of the Far East and the Arctic agreed to closely cooperate on projects aimed at developing the transport artery stretching along Russia’s Arctic coast.

“The Big Northern Sea Route from Murmansk to Vladivostok plays an important role in transport security, and connects by sea the European part of Russia with the Far East,” Rosatom’s director general, Aleksey Likhachev, told the media on the sidelines of the EEF.

“We are interested in promoting cooperation under this project with both Russian and foreign counterparts,” he added.

The Northern Sea Route lies from the Kara Gate Strait in the west to Cape Dezhnev in Chukotka in the east. The Big Northern Sea Route includes the Arkhangelsk, Murmansk regions and St. Petersburg and the Far East from the Northern Sea Route’s border in Chukotka to Vladivostok. The 5,500-kilometer (3,417-mile) lane is the shortest sea passage between Europe and Asia.