India Caught between US-China-Russia-Pakistan
STORIES, ANALYSES, EXPERT VIEWS
The Russia, China friendship could have an adverse impact on India. There’s plenty of evidence, writes Shekar Gupta (founder and the current editor-in-chief of ThePrint) “in the public domain that Russia cannot last more than a few weeks in its war with the West (via Ukraine) without China’s help. The latest trade data available from the Chinese customs department shows that business between the two has boomed in a year when China’s economy has slowed down and overall trade declined.
“Much of the growth is contributed by Russian exports. There’s a popular view — particularly in self-congratulatory India — that it is our purchase of Russian oil that’s driving their economy and war effort. The Chinese contribution to the Russian economy is several times greater….”
China dominating Russia: issues for India
India’s oldest ally, therefore, “is truly dependent economically, politically and — ultimately — militarily only on one country, our most formidable long-term adversary.” China thus is the closest friend of India’s friend, Russia. And India’s adversary, China, is best friends with Pakistan.
This underlines the complexities for India. “Our military,” writes Gupta “dependence on Russia is deep, and will likely remain so for at least five more years. Nobody can replace 95 per cent of the tanks, 70 per cent of the combat aircraft, the flagship and a majority of the flying assets of the Navy overnight.”
Thus, in a scenario of impossible border conflict, it would be a small mercy “if the Russians at least remain as neutral and disinterested as they seemed in 1962. At least in 1962, the Soviet Union was a much bigger power, an ideological elder brother to China. Now, the equation has reversed. Putin’s wartime Russia is a courtier of China.”
In this complex scenario, the formulation of India’s strategic universe is as follows: “Russia, an inalienable friend dependent on China, and Pakistan, a permanent adversary that has no other source of strength — or money. And the US, an essential strategic ally….
“It is this complex strategic world that India is navigating. Behind the talk of the Global South, equidistance, strategic autonomy, however, the business end of the strategic stuff is going on fine. A NATO team met its Indian counterparts to explore more cooperation in the Indo-Pacific….”
Meanwhile, US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo was in Delhi. “On the agenda is a partnership on semiconductors. This follows the progress made earlier on high-tech areas during National Security Advisor Ajit Doval’s Washington visit.”
At a larger level, Gupta concludes the “contradictions are unsustainable.”