A narrower path to strategic hedging – Analysis – Eurasia Review

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By Mark S. Cogan and Vivek Mishra*

Russian-Indian relations have historically been stable. A carryover from the Cold War era, a warm bilateral relationship has led to the development of a strategic partnership that has included defense deals, such as India’s purchase of Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets , Mil Mi-17 helicopters and, more recently, the S-400 Moscow missile defense system. The nature of the security relationship has elevated Russia in the eyes of Indian observers, but in light of recent developments, including India’s closer ties with the United States and the invasion of neighboring Ukraine by Russia on February 24, India’s ability to skillfully balance Moscow with the West could be tested like never before.

As the West – led by the US – and Russia talk to India to back up their positions politically and diplomatically, along with a direct appeal from the Ukrainian President for support, India’s international stance is closely examined. While India’s growing great power ambitions and geopolitical interests have catapulted it into Western orbit, Moscow’s latest aggressiveness with Kyv may have narrowed the way to strategically protect itself between competing great powers. In the long term, the choices India makes about Russia’s continued aggression against Ukraine may limit India’s choices in the future, put enormous pressure on its policy choices and make durable coverage an unviable option, particularly when the choices concern the direct or fundamental interests of the major powers. . These potential challenges can be faced by India bilaterally as well as multilaterally, across the full range of platforms it engages with the world today.

One of the first pressure points for India could be its political alignment with the Quad countries, where the other three members – the United States, Australia and Japan – are united in their position against Russia. While the United States led the chorus in sending support to Ukraine, Australia said it would provide ‘deadly’ aid to Ukraine through NATO and Japan joined the chorus of countries isolating Moscow via economic sanctions and export bans, India has remained silent. Even after a personal plea from the Biden administration, publicly suggesting that “any nation that condones Russia’s naked aggression against Ukraine will be stained by association,” India has sought to balance its delicate relationship with the United States. United and Russia. The rather disapproving language used in India’s explanation for abstaining from voting against Russia on a UNSC resolution deploring Russia’s actions may be a reflection of its difficult diplomatic situation, its tacit dissatisfaction with the actions of Russia on Ukraine and its continued caution vis-à-vis the West.

Going forward, collective actions against Russia spanning financial, commercial and military spheres risk increasingly trapping India in an intense era of confrontational and decisive geopolitics where critical decision-making on regional and global issues will be the most crucial factor in improving the global position. As India is a critical partner in US plans to counter China’s rise in the Indo-Pacific, a compelling challenge ahead of India could be the Biden administration’s planned policy to link the Euro- Atlantic to Indo-Pacific. The US State Department spokesman’s assertion that one of the central tenets of the Quad and the post-war international order is that “big countries cannot bully small countries” may be a preamble to the obstacles that reside in the political choices in the Indo-Pacific.

India’s balance can be seen through the recent United Nations Security Council resolution which would have condemned the Russian invasion, but was rejected after India joined China and the Arab Emirates. united to abstain. The resolution before the Security Council was co-sponsored by 80 countries and 11 Security Council members before being vetoed by Russia. Moscow has gone out of its way to single out India for its “independent and balanced position”. In a pinch, the United States has pledged to take Russia’s condemnation to the United Nations General Assembly, where no member state has the right of veto. However, this was not the first time that India has likely alienated itself from Western partners in the halls of the UN. In early February, India joined Kenya, China and Gabon in voting against a procedural vote in the Security Council. Putin himself thanked the four countries for being ‘brave’ in ‘[withstanding] The USA handmade twist.

In addition to causing frustration among Quad allies, an uneasy alliance with Russia has consequences. While India can easily argue that the fight between Russia and Ukraine is well outside its area of ​​concern, the backlash of economic sanctions on Russia’s energy sector is enough to cause short-term concern. India’s oil demands are rising and projections reach up to 10 million barrels per day by 2030. As it attempts to transition to cleaner energy sources, India could turn to Russian sources of natural gas. Moreover, as India’s Oil Minister Hardeep Singh Puri recently said at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, Indian companies have already invested more than $16 billion in Russia’s oil and gas sector. . Exposure to energy companies likely to be hit by Western sanctions could cloud the mood for India’s short-term economic outlook, which is expected to grow by around 9% in 2022.

Russian-Indian relations are based on a historical defense relationship. From the recent 2+2 dialogue, combined with a wave of recent investments largely benefiting Russian industry, from Indian investments in Russian oil to large purchases of military equipment, the India-Russia relationship has only grown to expand. However, India will have to consider its partnerships in terms of interests, strategic positioning and long-term gains. The emergence of the Sino-Russian axis and occasional signals from Moscow to New Delhi flirting with Pakistan warn of a relationship with Russia without buffers. Metaphorically, India’s deepening relationship with the United States is perhaps the strongest barrier in this pursuit. Failure to openly criticize Russia could lead the United States to apply CAATSA sanctions as a condition of policy alignment with the Euro-Atlantic stance on Russia.

Worse still, this could be just one of the emerging challenges for India in navigating the complex economic order that is emerging with Russia’s complete isolation from all existing global financial mechanisms, especially given the the extent of trade between the two countries. One of the most avoidable risks of high trade with Russia in the post-2022 sanctions regime would be the possibility of partnering with a Chinese-led alternative. With more than 100 countries using the renminbi for payments to China, the possibility of such a regime becoming stronger in the future is high.

For India, the road to strategic coverage is tight.

*About the authors:

  • Vivek Mishra is a member of the ORF Strategic Studies program. His research interests include America in the Indian Ocean and the Indo-Pacific and Asia-Pacific regions, in particular the role of the United States in South Asian security, Indo-American defense relations and the sector. Indian defence.
  • Mark S. Cogan is Associate Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka, Japan. He is a former United Nations communications specialist, serving in Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Geopoliticalmonitor.com or any institution with which the authors are associated.

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