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On A Trident Of Diplomatic Relations

The Indian Foreign Policy-makers are trying their best to solve a three-pronged puzzle that is called a Diplomatic Triangle by the experts. After several meetings between Europe and the US in recent times, India has realised the relevance of this crisis! The South Asian nation’s interests are closely linked with the ups and downs of the relationships between three powerful states: Russia, China and the US. Their relationships have a profound impact on different aspects of the Indian Foreign Policy, including Strategic, Trade, Economic and Defence-related issues.

The US-Russia Relations have been going through a turmoil for the past few years. The June 16 meeting between US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Geneva failed to break the ice. Secondly, Moscow is gradually coming closer to Beijing, with Europe branding Russia as a Militant Military State. Thirdly, the US’ ties with both Russia and China are deteriorating.

India is at the centre of this strange geopolitical situation. It is quite evident in recent G-7 Summit, US-EU Summit and US-NATO meetings that the Western Nations consider India as their partner in their endeavours to counter China’s influence in different parts of the globe. One of its finest examples is QUAD or Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD), an informal strategic dialogue between the US, Japan, Australia and India that is maintained by talks between member countries. Meanwhile, it is still not clear to the Indian diplomats how realistic it would be to back the US’ strong anti-China policies. Perhaps, it would not be a wise decision to rely on the US in case Washington triggers a fresh tension with Beijing. Rather, it would be better for India to prepare a clear, strong and independent China Policy in order to properly deal with the Asian Giant at bilateral and regional levels.

On the other hand, Russia, from the time of erstwhile Soviet Union, is considered India’s oldest ally as far as arms imports and supply of defence technology are concerned. However, the Kremlin is not at all happy with India’s proximity with the US. Moscow recently criticised the formation of QUAD, indicating that the Kremlin has its own strategy for the Indo-Pacific Region.

The Global Situation

The US-led Western World on the one hand, and the China-Russia alliance on the other… there is a clear bifurcation in the Global Geopolitics. Experts believe that the scenario offers India limited options for diplomatic bargaining. Furthermore, China and Pakistan might like to take full advantage of this situation.

The most favourable situation for India would be if some understanding could be reached between the US and Russia. It would certainly reduce Russia’s dependence on China. The biggest way in which Russia is dependent on China is that the latter provides the former a fully independent alternative trading partner, and the best available opportunity to diversify Russia’s foreign commerce. There are two fundamental reasons for this: Firstly, Russia’s international trade is excessively dependent on Europe. Its economy is heavily dependent on oil and gas exports; as Europe buys 70% of Russia’s oil exports and 90% of its natural gas exports. Europe is also the biggest source of Russia’s imports, be it industrial machinery, luxury goods, or agricultural products. Secondly, Russia’s economic dependence on Europe is a source of strategic vulnerability. Ever since the Cold War, the US and its NATO partners have been actively and systematically diminishing Russia’s strategic influence, via NATO’s eastward expansion, as well as coloured revolutions that install anti-Russian regimes through coups (e.g. Ukraine, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, etc.). Russia’s efforts to counter these moves (e.g. staging its own counter movements in Eastern Ukraine) came with a heavy economic price – US imposed sanctions, with which Europe is forced to comply. As long as the Europeans remain subservient to US foreign policy, Russia’s economic dependence on Europe will be an ever growing source of danger and vulnerability, especially as the US grows ever more hostile to Russia (despite former President Donald Trump’s futile efforts).

In the face of these harsh geopolitical circumstances, diversifying trade so as to reduce crippling dependence on Europe is an economic and strategic necessity for Russia. In this regard, China offers the best opportunity for Russia to diversify its trade. China, even after the structural slow down in 2008-09, remains a rapidly growing economy that has ever growing energy needs (particularly oil and gas). It is the largest single consumer of oil and gas in the world due to its status as the world’s biggest manufacturing hub. It is also the biggest and most interconnected economy in the most dynamic emerging market in the world – the Indo-Pacific Region. Better yet, China conducts an independent foreign policy that’s not subject to the whims of the US (at least not to European levels of subservience). China has consistently refused to comply with US sanctions against Russia (and against other partners, such as Iran).

Enmity with both Russia and China is also not desirable for the US. Rather, it would be more effective for the US foreign policy-makers to aim only at China, as Russia is no longer a big power to put the US under pressure, alone. However, the fact is there is no possibility of normalisation of ties between Russia and the US in near future for various factors. Hence, India shall be under tremendous diplomatic pressure because of the Bermuda Triangle of World Politics.

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