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Saturday, January 22, 2022

Vladimir Putin’s New Delhi visit and its ramifications

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. 

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Aman Gupta
Political Editor, Samast Bharat magazine

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