Russia-India-China Triangle Amid Stormy Geopolitics – Community News
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Russia-India-China Triangle Amid Stormy Geopolitics

India-China relations are at one of the lowest points, India-Russia defense engagement is striving to maintain its strategic rationale, Russia-China alliance is emerging, while India-United States strategic partnership is a positive arc continues to radiate.

As the virtual meeting of foreign ministers of the grouping of Russia, India and China (RIC) concluded, its relevance in the new geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific begs a reassessment.

The international system faces an uncertain balance of power, with the United States no longer exhibiting the overwhelming influence it used to have, and China’s rise over military and economic dimensions is causing regional and global disruption.

While the global power configuration is certainly not bipolar, growing rivalry between the US and China threatens the prospect of a multipolar order. Moreover, the pandemic, which ideally should have brought countries together, has not produced much inspiring signs of effective multilateralism.

AFP/Representative Image

China is becoming more assertive

While multilateralism pays lip service, China’s behavior has become increasingly assertive and aggressively disdainful of any criticism of its foreign policy. Recently, China’s intransigence from the western Pacific to the Sino-Indian border has raised concerns among many countries.

The expanded Quadrilateral Dialogue (Quad) between India, US, Japan and Australia and the launch of the AUKUS between Australia, UK and US are clear responses to China’s reluctance to adhere to standard global standards and traffic regulations. As such, managing the strategic ramifications of China’s rise remains the key factor behind these new geostrategic moves.

The strategic reality of the Indo-Pacific versus the Sino-Russian push to cling to the older idea of ​​Asia-Pacific is a clear divergence within the RIC. While India and its like-minded partners view the Indo-Pacific and groups like the Quad as a means of ensuring a “free, open, inclusive and rules-based order”, Beijing and Moscow view them as opposed to their versions of peace, stability and inclusiveness.

The RIC meeting also comes close on the heels of the upcoming summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin.

Narendra Modi and Vladimir Putin

US expresses dissatisfaction with Indo-Russian defense deals

For Moscow and Delhi, defense trade is the key convergence, which has weathered the growing demand between India and the US for military interoperability. Despite Russia being a traditional defense supplier, the defense relationship between India and the US has taken on a new dimension in recent years with the signing of the Fundamental Agreements and the designation of India by Washington as a key defense partner.

The United States expresses its dismay over important defense deals between India and Russia, such as that of the S-400 missile defense system, which is subject to US sanctions under the Countering American Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). Nevertheless, Delhi has largely managed to maneuver its way between Moscow and Washington due to its central location in the US

Indo-Pacific strategy towards China. A number of US policymakers have urged President Biden to overlook the India-Russia S-400 deal and make an India-specific waiver, bearing in mind the importance of the India-US partnership.

Where is India?

Despite the new lows in India-China relations and the strategic ambiguity of India-Russia relations versus the strategic clarity of the India-US partnership, Delhi has the idea of ​​a formal alliance with Washington or the containment of China not quite bought.

So where are these dynamics leading, in terms of new directions in India’s foreign policy? At the same time, can Delhi hold these conflicting relations together and continue to pursue India’s national interest?

The growing rivalry between the US and China, the new low in the animosity between India and China, and the challenge of finding a greater strategic purpose in the India-Russia relationship amid the growing strategic congruence between India and the US, reflects a complex geopolitics.

india china border
AFP/Representative Image

This geopolitics is caught between a world order, which is not bipolar, but which merely strives to be multipolar without actually becoming one. India’s military and economic capabilities are considerable and undoubtedly make it one of the most powerful poles of the world order. However, the promotion and protection of the national interest makes it necessary to enter into multiple partnerships with a number of countries.

In this endeavour, it will have to involve the United States and other like-minded partners, while at the same time maintaining its defense partnership with Russia and maintaining a rather hostile relationship with a close power like China.

The new geopolitics is a strategic flow, requiring a level of diplomatic agility from Delhi that has never been seen before. India needs to find synergy in its strategies for the immediate and expansive environment, the Indo-Pacific and the larger global arena.

How India maximizes its gains and minimizes its losses while playing on multiple fronts, bilateral and multilateral, will be the test of fire for India’s foreign policy mandarins.

The author currently teaches at the Amity Institute of International Studies (AIIS), Amity University, Noida. He is a regular commentator on international affairs and India’s foreign policy. The views expressed in the article are those of the author.