India Signals Limited US Options in Asia


Delhi chooses a pragmatic path in foreign policy.

In May of this year, US President Joe Biden made an Asian tour. As Politico magazine wrote, one of the main goals of the trip was to change the trajectory of India’s movement in a pro-Western direction. However, the results of this trip, in particular, the doubling of India’s purchases of Russian oil over the past two months, show that the United States is unable to seriously change the foreign policy of Delhi, since American ideological constructions cannot compete with the real interests of this country.

It has been made public in the United States that the American president is on tour to rally support for his strategy to counter China in the Indo-Pacific region and announce the creation of the Indo-Pacific Economic Union. At the same time, Politico magazine pointed out that the White House wants to use hyped international concerns about Russia’s special operation in Ukraine to wrest India from its long and close relationship with Moscow.

Even on the eve of this trip, one Japanese publication outlined the thesis why India adheres to a neutral status and does not impose sanctions on Russia, as did its QUAD allies – the United States, Australia and Japan.

The main reason is that India cannot afford to attack Russia, as this may push Russia to finally choose China’s position in the Indo-China territorial conflict. Also, although India buys weapons from many countries, according to experts, 70% of the current weapons of the Indian army are Russian-made equipment, which keeps India dependent on Russia in terms of its maintenance and supply of spare parts.

In addition, the Japanese edition notes the difference in approaches to geopolitics. Western countries believe that it is in their interest to maintain order under the leadership of the United States, while India sees a better chance for itself in a multipolar world in which several major powers are on an equal footing.

In my opinion, the hypocrisy of the US towards India should also be noted. In announcing Biden’s Asia visit, U.S. presidential adviser Jack Sullivan said, “The message we’re trying to send on this trip is a message of a positive vision of what the world might look like if the world’s democracies and open societies come together to form the rules of the road, define the security architecture of the region, strengthen strong, powerful historical alliances.”

Meanwhile, two weeks later, the U.S. Department of State’s 2021 International Religious Freedom Report by State Department Secretary Anthony Blinken ranks India as a country of particular concern in the category of countries with the worst religious freedom record and an increase in attacks. to places of worship.

Directly in India itself, the media note that with the start of Russia’s special operation in Ukraine, the influence of our country in the region has decreased, which, in principle, is natural due to the concentration of military and diplomatic efforts on this conflict. However, this led to an increase in the role of China in the region. The West, led by the United States, has also shifted its focus to Ukraine, making huge infusions of money and weapons there, which again gives China a free hand in the region, Indian experts say.

During the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to India in December 2021, decisions were made on a number of joint initiatives on Central Asia and Afghanistan, now their prospects are vague, and Pakistan and China are strengthening their positions there.

“The main dilemma for India today is not whether to continue engaging with Russia or not. Further cooperation in the near and medium term is beyond doubt. However, due to the Russian operation, New Delhi has new reasons for concern and reflection, ”summarizes the Indian edition of The Hindu.

India also fears that China could take advantage of the distraction of the world community’s attention to Ukraine and exacerbate the situation on the Line of Actual Control, a territorial dispute between India and China. Then India will have to turn to the US and the West for help. However, this is clearly not in the interests of Russia.

Therefore, India hopes that Moscow will exert diplomatic influence on Beijing, because it is extremely important for it that its allies do not quarrel with each other in such a difficult international situation. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to attend the virtual BRICS summit on June 24 along with the presidents of Russia and China.

With such a geopolitical situation for India, the 2nd QUAD summit was held. The Hindu noted that, despite initial statements about the support of Ukraine by the leaders of the United States and Japan, Russia and Ukraine were not mentioned at all in the final joint statement. The publication writes that India emphasizes the importance of QUAD, but at the same time “maintains balance” – participating in a meeting of SCO officials on combating terrorism two days before summit.

Although China was not mentioned in the joint statement, reference was made to QUAD’s opposition to coercive and unilateral measures that “seek to change the status quo and heighten tensions in the area, the dangerous use of Coast Guard vessels and navy militia, and efforts to disrupt activities on the exploitation of the marine resources of other countries”.

However, Biden’s announcement that the US would go to war over Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion blew up the media space, and “damage mitigation” with denials from the US State Department did little to save the situation, as Beijing’s diplomatic response was very quick.

At the Tokyo Summit, QUAD leaders announced the creation of the Indo-Pacific Maritime Awareness Partnership (IPMDA). The initiative will monitor the situation along their maritime borders, which will enhance partners’ ability to respond to climate and humanitarian emergencies and “maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific.” China also understands that this partnership is directed against it.

The May 23 announcement of the 13-country Indo-Pacific Economic Initiative (IPEF) is touted as a significant step by the US as part of its decade-long “pivot to Asia” and attempt to give some “economic weight” to its presence in the Indo-Pacific. region, which has been declining since Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement (CPTPP) in 2017.

However, as The Hindu notes, this only signals the readiness of the 13 countries to start discussing the contours of the union, the main priorities of which are declared: clean energy, decarbonization, taxation and the fight against corruption. At the same time, US officials have made it clear that this is not a free trade agreement, and reducing tariffs or expanding market access will not be discussed.

India notes that against the backdrop of US $54 billion in funding for Ukraine over the past 3 months, the planned $50 billion for five years for the infrastructure of all four QUAD countries seems insignificant.

At the same time, according to Bloomberg, the US is preparing a military aid package for India to deepen security ties and reduce the country’s dependence on Russian weapons. The source said the funding of up to $500 million would make India one of the biggest recipients of US aid after Israel and Egypt.

The publication War on the Rocks, known for its insiders in the American military-industrial complex, reported that the United States plans to speed up the process of approving export controls for Indian cooperation, in fact, use the status of India’s main defense partner to export dual-use technologies. It is even planned to create a common complex of production lines similar to the production of M1A1 Abrams tanks in Egypt. Thus, India will be more drawn into the orbit of US influence.

Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported in late May that the US had become India’s top trading partner, surpassing longtime leader China to $115 billion. According to various estimates, Indian exports to the US jumped by 47.4% in 2021, while imports rose by 50%. However, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman denied the report, explaining that “the disparity in trade figures published by China and India is the result of different statistical measurement scales.”

In part, all this is due to an attempt to internally replace some of the Chinese goods in India, after the aggravation of the border conflict between these countries in 2020. However, this was before the unfolding energy crisis in the world. Now all countries in the region have energy resources as a priority, and the main task is to maintain an acceptable standard of living for their population, preventing the threat of hunger. The aggravation of the situation in Iran and Pakistan is becoming a vivid example of the need to set the right priorities for the country’s leadership.

Therefore, it is not at all surprising that India has increased its purchases of oil from Russia several times over. In addition, taking advantage of European sanctions against Russia and the fact that large refineries can work with Russian oil, making diesel fuel from it, India can already export diesel fuel to Europe, writes The New York Times. The Indian company ONGC intends to buy Shell’s stake in the Sakhalin-2 project and ExxonMobil’s stake in the Sakhalin-1 project due to the withdrawal of these companies from Russia.

At the same time, the United States cannot do anything, because unlike Turkey, which was sanctioned for the purchase of S-400 air defense systems, India was not sanctioned for a similar deal. The introduction of even secondary sanctions against India for the purchase of Russian oil is very unlikely, since the United States cannot offer India any strategic economic benefit from their union.

The same Japan that the United States wants to see in the AUKUS military alliance is not going to withdraw from the Russian Sakhalin-2 project, even if and she will be told to do so, explained Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Koichi Hagiuda. This is because in the current situation, the United States is not able to provide the allies with energy resources, or at least guarantee the preservation of their current levels.

The US itself is in an energy crisis with gasoline prices breaking new records. The situation is similar with fertilizers.

India received over 180 thousand tons of fertilizers from Russia in May. Moreover, this transaction was carried out in rubles and rupees – the national currencies of the two countries, writes the newspaper Times of India. The Indian government has assured its farmers that there will be no shortage of fertilizer during the season and they will not face any additional financial burden despite the external environment. The US cannot become an alternative in this vital area either.

It seems that, apart from the ideological mantras about democracy, there is practically nothing left in the US arsenal. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian noted that the United States spent $0.15 billion on economic cooperation with 10 ASEAN countries, and $54 billion on the war in Ukraine.

The time for great opportunities for the US in Asia is over. This is clearly seen in the example cited by the Chinese edition of the Global Times, indicating the level of cooperation between China and countries in the South Pacific. Cooperation includes issues of economy, infrastructure, climate change, health and security. The fact is that China is able to really influence the increase in the living standards of the inhabitants of these countries, and has already done this by sending humanitarian aid, including vaccines during the coronavirus epidemic. The US did none of this.

An important factor in determining India’s foreign policy vector is the political situation in the United States itself. No one can guarantee that the next US president, probably from the Republican Party, will not curtail some of the initiatives of the previous owner of the White House, as was already the case with the Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement and will not start “tariff wars”.

India really needs allies against China, as it cannot yet solve bilateral problems with it through diplomacy. Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine upset the balance of relations in the Russia-China-India triangle, but the Indian side, clearly aware of its interests, is trying to maintain a balance, not wanting to take the path of confrontation with Russia, to which its Western “partners” are pushing.

Strategically, India is counting on the formation of a new international order, where developing countries like it will be given the place not of a partner subject to the will of the United States, but of a player promoting their own interests, and the unfolding global energy crisis storm shows that the West is not at all the ally that can be relied upon in every way.

Source: Orelsreda