India’s deep strategic relationship with Russia and its considerable dependence on that country for its own military preparedness has been well understood by the west and despite its condemnation of Russia, western nations have been muted in voicing their opinion on India’s stand, except for the odd voice, largely insignificant, now and then. Since the commencement of the Russia -Ukraine conflict, India has abstained thrice from voting in the UN either in favour or against, though its statements, despite being couched in diplomatese have perhaps conveyed a subtle message as the Russian aggression has intensified. “It is now reflecting a despot’s megalomaniac desperation rather than a political outcome, opines Commodore Anil Jai Singh, Indian Navy veteran.
While the conflict plays out in distant Europe, its ripples are already being felt in this part of the world. The fallout of the sanctions imposed on Russia and the economic destruction of Ukraine on the global economy are yet to take full effect. This is perhaps the time for like minded nations in the Indo-Pacific to synergise their considerable economic capacity to offset these and consolidate their strengths.
In his opinion, “The recent visit of the Japanese Prime Minister to India, the virtual interaction between Prime Minister Modi and Australian PM Scott Morrison and visits by senior officials of the US administration signify India’s significance in the region as an Indian Ocean power while the rest are largely resident Pacific powers.”
India’s priority remains the Indo-Pacific and more specifically the Indian Ocean
According to Commodore Anil Jai Singh, Vice President and Head-Delhi branch Indian Maritime Foundation, “Two nuclear armed neighbours constantly sniping at India’s heels preclude India from lowering its guard even for an instant. India is also committed to the Quad and now subtly endorses its criticism of China’ actions and belligerence, something it was loath to do till recently. The stand-off along the LAC over the past two years and China’s reluctance to resolve the border issue as part of its larger design to contain India has led to this shift in India’s position.”
“India is the resident Indian Ocean power and its distinct strategic advantage of a favourable maritime geography could be a challenge to China’s great power ambitions. China has been steadily increasing its economic and military footprint and is slowly but surely gaining a foothold in this region,” former Indian Navy submariner observes.
In his view, “The forthcoming visit by Wang Yi, the Chinese Foreign Minister also assumes significance as does Prime Minister Imran Khan’s appreciation of India’s autonomy in its foreign policy. It is indeed ironic that India now finds itself on the same side as China and Pakistan in not voting against Russia or naming it in its statements.”
Us Vs Them
This conflict has the potential to shape future geopolitics in an ‘us versus them’ scenario reminiscent of the Cold war though with less ideological baggage. The global economy is also too closely intertwined to break away into fragmented portions.
Sharing his views with Financial Express Online, Commodore Singh says, “India’s position is unlikely to be affected adversely by these developments but some of its choices may require a carefully calibrated approach. Its national interest must take primacy, as indeed it has done so far and India must leverage its strategic and geographical advantage in the Indian Ocean region to consolidate and assert its considerable power to influence future outcomes in this region.”