The Russian invasion of Ukraine has kick-started the old fight-for-global-big-brother power between the US & Russia. Call it the colder War now, with both of them aggressively courting or even trying to intimidate India and China to take their side. On March 2nd, 141 countries voted in favour of a U.N. General Assembly resolution against the Russian invasion. 35 nations, including China and India, abstained. With all other follow-on resolutions about the war, both these nations have maintained their neutral stance. And yet both of them have worked with Russia and Ukraine in their efforts to secure their strategic relationships with them. India, for example, has its students in both countries and had to use its friendship to even create a no-war time zone to airlift its students from the war zone. Russia on the other hand has also offered oil at cheaper prices to India.
Earlier last week, the foreign ministers of Russia and the U.K were in New Delhi for ‘bilateral engagement,' in other words, they were presenting their version of the current happenings to the Indian government to secure comfort in the continuation of bilateral trade and commerce. The talks did result in the usual diplomatic statements that hide more than they reveal. Around the same time, the visiting US Deputy National Security Advisor - said that India should not expect Russia to come to its defence in case China violates the Line of Actual Control (LAC). This statement has been one of the most open threats that a nation has made against India recently. And coming from a socalled friendly State is no less than an act of aggression against another sovereign. This reflects the US stand for decades that it needs to be the Big Brother and wants other nations to toe its line.
This statement is nothing different from what the US has used time and again, whenever it has invaded any country globally over the past so many decades. If it were so concerned about humane causes and the need to intervene or even back off in the interests of safeguarding human lives, nearly 40 wars that it has initiated and engaged in the past one hundred years, could have been avoided. The US has taken such a stand to justify its intent, even if it had been in the name of safeguarding its own national interests or in name of any other regional coalition. Time and again it has even gotten away by aggressively entering another sovereign’s land in the name of ‘securing or protecting American interests or assets’. The other nations, including India, have not intervened in those, but surely have learnt a lesson for their own sovereign intent, and hopefully about the US’s hunger for power supremacy and greed for economic might.
The US capitalist ideology has been well oiled and works in conjunction with its official State policies. Be it the involvement of proactive policy lobbying in the formal system, or its quest for consumption markets globally - to ensure growth for its enterprises - be it in as mundane as food or clothing, to as worrisome as selling more volumes of arms and ammunition. So it is no wonder that the US would worry about losing its influence over dollar-based global financial systems and markets. And it continues to diplomatic-airbrush the fact that the US does not want to lose its influence or control over the global trade volumes. For it has to keep its coffers growing.
A look at the genesis of the past few decades of the US & Russian (then USSR) relationships with China and India would provide a reason for the current stand taken by these nations. The anti-USSR jihad in Afghanistan brought China and US into the same boat. Despite the Chinese aggression internally with the Tiananmen incident, the opening up of its consumer markets made the US cozy up to it; for the US companies could not lose out on volumes of the Chinese domestic market, as well as its lowercost-high-volume manufacturing capability. In fact, it is also critical to remember that both of these nations had passed strictures against India when its nuclear testing happened in 1998; this was done using both their Permanent membership in the Security Council, a role for which India has been consistently kept out under various pretext. The erstwhile Soviet Union and India have shared a warm camaraderie for a long time. There have been bilateral relationships, despite their political ideologies being different. Contemporary Russia has continued to be a friend of India and stood with it by providing political support for regional strategies as well as providing regular and consistent military supplies on a bilateral trade partnership basis.
India has been the regional power in waiting for many years now.It has not flexed its strategic muscle so far but has always lifted much above its heft for any important cause. It has managed to maintain its rapport with multiple global actors despite various political and ideological differences.India needs to balance the US rapport to counter the rising Chinese heft and it can do so only by keeping the US on tenterhooks. In parallel, it continues to smartly engage the Chinese, despite various skirmishes. Here is where the Russian context becomes important - it needs to maintain military and trade ties with it, to push the US and China to any bargaining table. India also needs foreign capital investments for the time being to catalyse its industrial growth, and critically for its Net Zero 2070 goals.
India rightfully has decided on its stand about the Russia-Ukraine war, for this century could see the shift in regional and global power blocs, just as the Indian economic backbone strengthens, as well as its youth-based-demographics stay as its soft power. In the past few years, it is precisely this that the Indian policies have started empowering and scaling up. India’s historic perspective and philosophies will make it stay rooted when it becomes a global powerhouse role. For it has never shied away from owning up to responsibilities and standing up to bullying.
The writer is a Corporate Advisor and Independent Markets Commentator. He tweets at @ssmumbai
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