Wednesday, June 24, 2015

West drives Russia...

US, EU  and NATO drives Russia to China and India is oblivious to the consequences
Russia has been a strategic friend and ally of India for the past few decades. However, Russia's policy maneuvers in the last 5 years seems to show an increasing trend towards China and Pakistan. While many Indian analysts term these moves a mistake, I think that these are strategic moves with multiple messages. This article views some of the policy maneuvers of Russia and the context in which they are made.

Sino-Russian Relations in the context:

Russia and China have been gradually building relations since the 1990s. However, the following policy maneuvers by Russia seems more of a consequences of geo-politics than of friendship...

2004 Complementary Agreement

Since the 1990s the Sino-Russia border situations has been steadily improving, which culminated in the transfer of land by Russia to China in 2004, with the complementary agreement. With the transfer of the islands, the border dispute between the two countries was resolved. This could enable them to pursue common strategic goals and deepen their economic ties.

Though, from the surface, it may seem like Russia capitulating to China, it is not the case when this act is viewed from a global perspective. During 2004, the West and Russia were trying to assert their influence in Ukraine. The joining of some former Soviet States in EU might have not gone well with Russia. In this context, by ceding some land that is disputed to China, Russia turned a potential foe into a friend. This is also a signal by Russia for a multi-polar world. US should have noted the signal, as such moves not only rises China's stature but also its aspirations, potentially making the Asia-pacific open to Chinese brinkmanship and adventurism.

India, should also have noted this Russian move as it has ominous warnings to India. Though China's military and economic capabilities are awesome, China is still far behind Russia in military technologies. The alliance would mean that China is now capable of acquiring more advanced weaponry for potential use against India and other nations with which it has hostilities over territories. China, being a "blood brother" of Pakistan is likely to influence Russia to end its arms embargo against Pakistan. Further, the boost in China's economy is likely to increase its defense spending. None of the mentioned situations bode well for India but I'm not sure how India chose to be blind to the developments. 

30 Year Gas deal

The long meddling of  West and Russia in Ukraine led to the break up of Crimea, which was successfully annexed to Russia on 18 March, 2014. Following which, the West (NATO and EU) were up in arms with a slew of economic sanctions against Russia. I believe the 30 year Gas deal with China is a consequence of these sanctions, as the deal followed the first two rounds of economic sanctions against Russia - its enterprises and individuals. In other words, the West's activities not only split Ukraine and pushed it into a civil war but also helped China to diversify its energy routes. With the supply of Russian oil, China is less dependent on its oil routes through Malacca strait, a strategic choke point. Further, the boost to China's economy is likely to affect the security and territorial interests of countries in the Asia pacific.

In this context, it should also be noted that Russia's proposal to bypass Ukraine as its main oil transit hub, which is likely to affect Ukraine's economy adversely and have far flung implications.

Personally, I think India missed an opportunity both in terms of strategy and solidarity. India could have struck a similar deal with Russia which would have provided a boost to Indian economy. However, India has been increasingly showing timidity and ineptitude in such affairs for quite some time (as in the case of Iran). I believe, the reason behind India's reluctance to make use of the opportunity is due to its intentions to purchase "not so much needed" nuclear reactors from Western nations. Please don't mistake me. India very much needs power but India, over the years, have developed capabilities to build its own nuclear reactors. At this juncture, what India needed most is to further develop its capabilities - which could be through attracting Indian diaspora as well as help from friends, as Chinese did. However, the 'turf-dom' politics, corruption, nepotism, etc., is a turn-away for most of the talents. India is also not serious in making its own facilities efficient. India also forgot that it was Russia which helped build its first capabilities. Hence, it is wonderful opportunity wasted. 

End of Arms Embargo to Pakistan

As I had mentioned earlier, China's close association with Russia is likely to influence the latter to end its arms embargo against Pakistan, a country which uses terrorism as its state-policy. However, the tipping point, I believe is the MMRCA deal to France in which Russia was one of the contender. In this context, the action of Russia seems like a punitive action for India's decision to give the deal to the West with which it is in conflict. Further, it is also a demonstration that Russia is not solely dependent on Indian market for its defense products. Though MiG-35 was cheaper considerably than Rafale, it was also inferior to Rafale in range and combat radius. However MiG-35 is faster than Rafale and had a better climb rate. Rafale is also consider among the top 10 dog-fighters. In addition, Rafale is tested and found to suit army needs based on other non-combative factors too. So, though it is in Indian interest to choose Rafale, it is likely that Russia had felt betrayed.

The economic prospect in the MMRCA deal is likely to make any country, rich or poor, drool. In this context, it may be a human nature to feel betrayed. However, India was both inept and myopic here. It could have gradually tried to acquire the crafts, instead of giving the total number of acquisitions in a "winner-takes-all" fashion. If at all, the 1998 sanctions against India, should have served as a warning. Further, by gradual increase, India is at a better position to acquire the latest and best. In any case, the deal is literally dead now, after many delays and cost overruns, portraying India's indecisiveness and ineptitude in strategic acquisitions.  This is much ado about nothing...

West drives East

In this context, some believe that Russia has diminished its stature and strategic sheen by "bear-hugging" with China. However, I believe that Russia's actions are more of its response to International events that has direct bearing to its security and economy.

Some times it is hard for me to shake the feeling whether the West (US, EU and NATO) is more intent on erasing Russia from the map instead of achieving world peace. If such is the case, it wouldn't surprise me given the cold-war attitude of the politicians in US and NATO. This attitude is against the very democratic principles, that the West supposedly champion (Isn't tolerance a core principle of democracy?). However, with the world dynamics changing, EU is no more the sole power wielder next to US. China is rising, belligerently. Unlike the erstwhile Soviet Union, it is more calculative and vicious. The world economy is suffering and the terrorism, ISIS, is at large. In this context, I believe the entire Ukraine episode could (should) have been avoided, had the West been a bit more sensitive to Russian sentiments (US was not particularly accommodative to communist ideals in its backyard, so why should Russia?!). With the events on the contrary, I believe the West drove Russia into China's embrace, a more aggressive opponent.

India would do well to have its interests as priority and develop ability to identify its friends from foes. As the rise of China would have a immediate bearing on its security and territorial integrity. Mr. Modi, should realize that boasting and Hindutva, is not going to make India rise to a super-power status if it makes a habit of missing strategic opportunities and continues show immaturity and inefficiently in building its capabilities.

It is not late for India and the West to realign their strategic priorities with a view on the future. 

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