Does China-Russia Relations Present an Existential Threat to the Asia Pacific Region?

Today, China-Russia relations present a formidable challenge to western block led the US. China has lately started dominating the whole Asian subcontinent and the domination is so much that old ties have deteriorated and foes are now aligning with each other to counter this uprising.

This new power is changing the way how international politics works. It has forced countries to revive their formats and diversify international policy to be versatile enough. Moscow’s weakness and the growing closeness to China is a threat to India. This development has forced India to move towards the USA. It is because the only assurance for India since 1962 was its ties with Russia.

The Russia-China relation would impact not only India but also the whole of the Indo-Pacific region due to its widespread implications. Russia-China are albeit at present only having close relations, and not a complete alliance. The recent twin visit by the Chinese foreign minister and defense minister to Russia sends a loud and a clear message. To add on, China has been granted the permission by Russia to export 50 JF-17 “Thunder fighter” which use Russian engines. Such allowance has never been given before.

Also, Pakistan can get Russian military types of equipment via China. Although Russia has refused to sell equipment to Pakistan, one cannot be sufficiently assured as Russia is known for diversifying its military market.

However, this Russia-China relations would only further cast a shadow on India if the present dispute of Sino-India is not solved. The recent standoff at the Doklam territory does highlight the strains in the relations of India with its immediate neighbours. Both have a disputed border, including Doklam which is claimed by both Bhutan and China. China and India are at present competing for a leadership position in the Asia Pacific region and the Indian ocean. The GDP of China is 4 times more, and its defense budget is 3 times more than India. This difference in the budget of China further pushes India to seek ways to counter its neighbors.

India-Russia Relations

One cannot deny the changing geopolitical dynamics due to the rise of China at the international forum. The international sanction against Kremlin, economic stagnation of Russia has forced India to find other allies in the European front. The Kremlin did play a significant role for India to get a membership in the Shanghai cooperation organization; although this move was for diluting the Chinese dominance in the group.

Moscow itself is concerned with the growing diversification of India in the sector of defense and energy. Although there have been new developments of India with Russia in the supply of LNG, yet this development was followed after the USA delivered its first ever arrival of an LNG cargo. The delivery was made to the Indian shores on 30th March 2018. The ship carrying supercooled oil reached Dabhol, Maharashtra.

The decisive point of the Russian ties is that it is the only country which is willing to provide India with critical technologies such as nuclear submarines, which the USA would never will. India needs Russia as it supplies about 73% of the country’s military equipment. Aso, India needs Russia for its defense, and Russia needs India for revenue. So, such defense deals would continue irrespective of whether it creates an ire from Europe and the USA.

What Can India Do?

Initially, the world was primarily divided into two blocks – Pro-USSR and Pro-West led by the US before the dissolution of the Soviet Union. China is growing powerful day by day and competing with the US in all front aggressively. A situation is about to arise where the worlds will again be divided into two blocks. Instead of the USSR, China and Russia will compete for global influence against the US-led West.

This situation would reduce the strategic mobility of foreign policies of countries, especially India and Russia. India needs to have a multifacet relationship with Moscow provided if it wants to reduce the growing dependence of Moscow in Beijing. For this, sooner or later, India would have to revise its policies on defense and majorly in the energy sector.

So, at present, India has to keep a balance in ties with Russia and USA; with Russia, India has to be very careful. It has to continue to have high-level dealings with Russia to ensure that IT does not align to a particular side altogether.

On the one hand, the Sino-India relations are deteriorating while India’s ties have substantially improved with the USA. The support from the white house for India’s claim for a permanent seat in the UNSC, India’s entry in the Nuclear Suppliers group are specific issues which are strongly opposed by Beijing.

This can also be considered the USA wants to keep a check on the growing influence of China. Also, to push India as the regional leader is an agenda of USA. Nevertheless, India is the only way to oppose China from completely dominating South Asia and the Indian ocean as it has a lot to offer regarding trade and defense. India agenda to diversify its partner is the key reason to bring the USA into the fray.

India and Russia now have to only work towards improving their relations. This can be done as they have many areas of common interest. Culturally, Russian and Indian educational institutions should have much interaction. At present, Indian languages such as Tamil, Sanskrit Marathi, and various other languages are being taught in Russia. Developing a model called Russia-India knowledge initiative on the lines of USA-India knowledge initiative would be a good step. Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), can grant more scholarships to Russian students to study in India.

A further area of cooperation is the Russian Far East. Since it requires much development in the form of infrastructure, Indian and Russia consortium can have a joint venture regarding the same. Also, the labor can include both the Russian and India. It would boost the employability rate of both countries.

Afghanistan is also a hotbed topic for both nations. The deteriorating states of the country is undoubtedly a security threat as neither wants it to churn terrorism. Also, it is the main area for drug trafficking. So, the first step can be in the form of economic aid to the country.

At the highest level, India Russia and China can work together to remove any mistrust between India and China. This is undoubtedly going to be beneficial to India.

Exploring the joint venture in the diamond sector is also a viable option to improve the ties. India is known for having the largest diamond polishing industry in the world. On the other hand, Russia is having a vast amount of diamond. One cannot deny the fact the country is far ahead of India concerning technology. So, having a joint venture regarding the same on research and development, nanotechnology, biotechnology, microelectronics would prove beneficial. At the same time, India can help Russia to build its IT sector.

All the more, India needs to fulfil its energy requirement as soon as possible. Energy is one area where the two economies are complementary. Both nations can research how to exploit natural energy to its fullest for the betterment of the nation. Also, the Indian government should encourage companies to invest in these projects which would eventually create jobs. This would help in retaining the population of that area. Getting help from Russia to build nuclear reactors in the country can also be done by having a joint consortium.

Finally, India should promote a trilateral alliance with the USA and Russia to counter China strategically. In other words, India should neither manoeuvre along the Sino-Russia bloc or should completely align with the USA. It should form a diversified multilateral relation with both Russia and USA. This would thus help India in all phases.

By Apoorva Iyer  
The article may not reflect the viewpoint of the EurAsian Times
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