The Russia-India-China (RIC) format is the most meaningful one in the world for accelerating the global systemic transition to multipolarity due to each country’s pivotal role in this process, with their combined potential capable of unprecedentedly speeding everything up if they closely cooperate to this end. Therein lies the challenge though since there’s a reluctance among some to candidly acknowledge their differences, which leads to false expectations about how far and fast they can work together.
By pretending that they’re each on the same page in all respects like wishful thinking influencers in the Alt-Media Community (AMC) are prone to do despite President Putin’s advice last summer not to indulge in such delusions, they inadvertently mislead the public about what to expect from RIC. Even worse are those conspiracy theorists among them who exploit their objectively existing differences to speculate that one of these countries is secretly plotting to sabotage their format at the US’ behest.
Taken together, these ideational-narrative shortcomings from the AMC indisputably work against the same multipolar cause that its members claim to support, hence the urgent need to clarify the dynamics within this triangle. By doing so, there’ll no longer be any excuse for influencers to continue sharing inaccurate reflections of RIC’s intra-group relations, with only the dishonest and agenda-driven among them clinging to their wishful thinking or conspiratorial interpretations of this sensitive subject.
Even though Russia, India, and China are the core of BRICS and the SCO, they’re definitely not on the same page in all respects. Russia dislikes the Quad within which India participates while disagreeing with China’s stance towards its disputes with Delhi and in the South China Sea, both of which were explained here and here. Nevertheless, it also doesn’t believe that India is colluding with NATO like Australia and Japan are in order to contain China, nor does it publicly condemn China’s position on those two disputes.
As for India, it doesn’t have any disagreements with Russia per se, but there’s still no denying the palpable concern among some in Delhi that Moscow might become disproportionately dependent on their Chinese rival. That worst-case scenario, however, has incentivized them to redouble the Eurasian dimension of their grand strategy in order to preemptively avert that from transpiring. By contrast, ties with China are tense due to their unresolved border dispute and suspicions that its apps are spyware.
Likewise, China also regards relations with India to be tense due to that aforesaid dispute, considers that country’s suspicions about its apps to be paranoia, and is convinced that all Quad members are closely working with the US to militarily contain it. With respect to Russia, China doesn’t support Moscow’s special operation in Ukraine, doesn’t recognize Crimea and Novorossiya’s reunification referenda, and doesn’t support Russian nukes in Belarus, but it won’t publicly criticize the Kremlin on these issues.
This state of triangular affairs shows that Russia’s relations with China and India are better than those two’s ties with one another, thus meaning that the Sino-Indo dimension of RIC represents this format’s so-called “weakest link”. This observation can’t be denied by any honest influencers in the AMC, but nor should it be exploited to concoct conspiracy theories claiming that India’s differences with China are supposedly due to Delhi secretly colluding with the US to divide-and-rule RIC at Washington’s behest.
This second-mentioned narrative has become increasingly popular in light of the latest Sino-Indo border tensions over the past month, but it’s easily discredited by the comprehensive strengthening of the Russian-Indian Strategic Partnership in spite of that. After all, it’s unrealistic to imagine that the Kremlin would continue expanding relations with any country that its policymakers truly believed to be the US’ largest-ever vassal state, let alone the one that’s supposedly being exploited to divide-and-rule Eurasia.
Even the influential Council on Foreign Relations has finally come around to belatedly realizing the impossibility of the US successfully pressuring India into playing that role as proven by the impressively insightful piece that its official magazine published on this subject over the weekend. Ashley J. Tellis’ article that was analyzed in the preceding hyperlink isn’t part of a “5D chess master plan to trick the Kremlin” like some AMC conspiracy theorists imagine, but an acknowledgement of objective reality.
That being the case, it’s clear that the Sino-Indo tensions within RIC pose the greatest challenge to this format tapping into its full potential to unprecedentedly speed up the global systemic transition to multipolarity. In particular, it becomes doubtful that those two will ever trust one another enough to make major progress on BRICS’ new reserve currency project, with each instead preferring to internationalize their respective currencies more than rely on that one whenever it’s finally unveiled.
The AMC’s well-wishers want those two to put aside their bilateral dispute in pursuit of what’s described as the greater good, but that stance directly contracts India’s officially promulgated foreign policy as articulated by External Affairs Minister Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. He regularly reminds the public that relations with China won’t return to normal until their border dispute is resolved, which Delhi says requires Beijing at the very least returning to the military status quo prior to summer 2020.
That hasn’t yet happened since the People’s Republic is concerned that complying with this request would prompt claims that it unilaterally conceded to India, thus making President Xi look weak at home and potentially emboldening South China Sea claimants to harden their demands of Beijing in response. The same concerns are relevant to why India hasn’t budged on this issue either since Prime Minister Modi doesn’t want to look weak at home and also risk emboldening Pakistan’s claims to Kashmir.
The resultant impasse is a naturally existing consequence of the security dilemma that has come to characterize their ties in recent years, with this issue remaining purely bilateral despite the US’ information warfare campaign aimed at misportraying India as its ally against China. If Russia extended any credence to that claim, then it wouldn’t be comprehensively expanding relations with India because that would then irresponsibly risk provoking a security dilemma in its own relations with China too.
The fact that China remains calm about the newly strengthened Russian-Indian Strategic Partnership of the past year, especially its military dimension that Delhi relies on for deterring Beijing as its leadership conceptualizes the importance of these ties as being, further debunks the AMC’s conspiracy theory. Sino-Indo tensions are therefore truly bilateral, which means that those two’s continued border dispute and resultantly impeded economic-financial cooperation via BRICS isn’t due to any US meddling.
Tempering expectations about that group’s new reserve currency project is therefore the right thing for the AMC to do instead of continuing to indulge in wishful thinking or conspiracy theorizing about this. Neither China nor India is likely to budge on what each sincerely regards as the other’s unacceptable zero-sum request for resolving their border dispute that’s required to achieve a breakthrough on BRICS’ currency project, just like Delhi isn’t secretly doing Washington’s bidding to sabotage that project either.
The AMC’s honest influencers will reflect this objectively existing reality of RIC’s intra-group relations in their forthcoming works instead of clinging to the aforementioned wishful thinking or conspiratorial narratives that some have already misled their audience into falling for. RIC remains the most meaningful format for accelerating the global systemic transition to multipolarity, but there are also limits to how far China and India will cooperate, which should be candidly acknowledged instead of denied or spun.
-By Andrew Korybko
(The story was published on Korybko.substack.com on May 4, 2023 and has been reproduced here with permission.)