The Delhi Declaration hosted by Bharat and the Troika Plus chaired by Pakistan had one commo thread running between them and that was Russia. Both meet on Afghanistan post Taliban had Russia in attendance signifying that the former superpower was giving equal weightage to the two adversaries unlike in the past when the erstwhile Soviet Union and Bharat were inseparable.
However, much water has flown down the Moskva and the Yamuna rivers since then and the two countries have had a roller-coaster relationship particularly during the past 7 years of the Modi government.
As President Putin disembarks from his llyushin ll -96 at New Delhi it would be foolhardy to imagine that the two countries will once again bond together like yesteryears barring the optics.
Russian supply of the 5.4 billion dollar S-400 surface to air defense system to Bharat and the looming threat of (CAATSA) countering American adversaries through sanctions act of 2017 by the latter’s new ally America could be the new bond that holds together an old relationship between Russia and Bharat.
As New Delhi lays out the red carpet for Putin it would be worthwhile to go back in 2014 when Modi dethroned Manmohan and took over as the PM of the largest democracy in the world.
As a part of his foreign policy initiatives, everyone expected that Russia would be on top of his list but instead Modi cozied up to China inviting Xi jinping to Bharat instead of Vladimir Putin who was a natural and a tested ally.
What followed was not even expected by the foreign policy mandarins as the red army ingresses into Bharat even as Modi and Xi were sauntering on the Sabarmati banks. That foreign policy goof up not only exposed the chinks in Bharat’s foreign policy but also spooked a time tested friend like Russia.
Since then the relationship between the two countries has never been the same irrespective of the bonhomie and camaraderie between the two powerful leaders.
The timing of Putin’s visit to coincide with the delivery of the S-400 surface to air defense system cannot be coincidental as Bharat would have weighed the risks attached with the purchase given that Turkey a NATO ally of the US has already been sanctioned under (CAATSA).
So is Bharat testing its new ally America and daring it to sanction Bharat or is it going all out too woo Russia and rectifying on its earlier blunder. The Afghanistan conundrum post US’ abrupt withdrawal and Taliban’s takeover has instability written all over the region with terrorist outfits operating from their favored havens which are now controlled by their kin.
Bharat was set to bear the brunt of this sudden American exit with forces trying to destabilize Bharat having a free run to infiltrate armed and trained terrorists into Bharat across Pakistan as already seen in the sudden spurt of terrorism in Kashmir recently.
So the bottom line is that America while exiting Afghanistan had no one’s interest in mind except its own just as when it entered the landlocked country 2 decades back. Biden’s foreign policy does not instill confidence in the NATO allies let alone Bharat as was seen in its Afghan exit where even countries like Great Britain and Germany were not kept in the loop.
Bharat’s biggest threat emanates from China and to a lesser extent from Pakistan which is piggybacking on the dragon to wage a proxy war on Bharat. The quad of which the US is a member will do little to safeguard Bharat if it came to a two pronged war with both China and Pakistan.
Both Australia and Japan are in no position to help Bharat because of their geographical distance and America’s help if at all it happens will come via the sea route by deploying an aircraft carrier.
As things stand the quad is not a military alliance unlike the AUKUS (Australia, UK, US) which is a military alliance so the other member countries of the quad namely Australia, America and Japan are not bound to help Bharat in case the latter were to be attacked by any country.
On the contrary, Russia with its leverage with China, can act as a deterrent and thus deescalate any explosive situation in South Asia. America does not have that leverage as both the US and China are at loggerheads irrespective of the virtual meet between Biden and Xi recently.
Putin like Xi Jinping has immensely strengthened his position domestically. By amending the constitution in July he has ensured two more six year terms after 2024 when his current term ends. Thus, he can be in the saddle till 2036 if he so desires.
This augers well for Bharat as any rebuilding and subsequent strengthening of relations between the two countries will be long lasting and Bharat will be able to count on the support of Russia – unlike the US which is in the habit of dumping its allies – particularly when it is faced with two hostile neighbors.
President Putin’s visit gives Bharat another chance to cement ties with its old friend who has stood the test of time. Let’s hope this opportunity is grabbed with both hands by the incumbent government.