Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin make statements to the press following Russian-Indian talks in Saint Petersburg.

As China and Russia Unite, Look to India

Rapprochement between Russia and China has dramatically accelerated since the former suspended its participation in the New START treaty.

Chinese senior diplomat Wang Yi met with Russian President Vladimir Putin to affirm the flourishing relations between the two countries and their mutual desire to see a multipolar international order. The Communist Party of China’s new foreign minister, Qin Gang, followed up by saying that today’s global instability has increased “the need for the sustainable development of Russian-Chinese relations.”

More distressingly, American intelligence suggests that Beijing is considering supplying weapons to Moscow to aid its war effort in Ukraine.

How should Washington respond to this series of diplomatic moves? It should direct more attention to India.

While penetrating Russian and Chinese communications should remain the United States’ strategic priority, the urgency of detaching India from the Kremlin’s influence has heightened in the past few weeks. This is because of the nature of the relationship between Moscow and Beijing.

Russian politicians and economists are aware that unilateral rapprochement with China would signify accepting a secondary, inferior status. This violates one of the key historical principles of Russian foreign policy: exploitation of the country’s unique Eurasian geography to remain a regional superpower that maintains its distance from both Europe and Asia.

Russia will thus want to ally with India to diversify its exports and ensure that it does not restrict itself to merely being a factory for Chinese profit.

Some Russians have already expressed alarm at the implications of unequivocal unity with China. Moscow’s dependence on Beijing’s purchase of energy and natural resources is turning it into a “vassal” or “colony” of China, worries economist Leonid Paidiev.

Vasily Astrov, an economist at the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies, explains that cooperation with China “was considered as an alternative, a ‘plan B’ – it was not the subject of a conscious and thoughtful choice … because the alternative is isolation.”

On the one hand, Russia knows it cannot do without China because this would leave it abandoned on the global stage. On the other hand, it is afraid of becoming a vassal state. To escape this dilemma, Moscow is looking to India.

Read the rest at Asia Times.

Axel de Vernou is a research assistant at Yorktown Institute.

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