The Cold War hypothesis that the Soviet Union was hoping to “wet its toes” in the Indian Ocean was in reality an extension of the geopolitical construct known as the “Anglo Russian Question” (that was written about by Lord Curzon, viceroy of British India (1899-1905)).
While the English feared the Bear strolling into the tropics, it was the Chinese who were principal rivals of Russia for Asia Major and the Middle East during Silk Route trade and later with military dominance by Russians since last two hundred years in the region, up till this decade.
G7 to G8 to G7
The Group of Seven or G7 originally came into being in 1975 when the heads of the world’s six leading industrial nations the US, UK, France, Germany (West), Japan and Italy, who decided to hold a meeting in the wake of the oil shock of 1973 and the following financial crisis. The six countries were joined by Canada in 1976. Russia was formally inducted as a member in the group in 1998, which led G7 to become G8.
However, Russia’s act of moving Russian troops into eastern Ukraine and conquering Crimea in 2014 drew heavy criticism from the other G8 nations, and as a consequence, the group became G7 again in 2014.
G7 is capable of setting the global agenda because decisions taken by these major economic powers have a real impact. Thus, decisions taken at the G7 are not legally binding but exert strong geostrategic and economic influence.
Russia’s Access to Indian Ocean
To check China’s Hegemonizing ways in the Region?
Soviet Union begun expanding its strategic footprint in the Indian Ocean during the 1970s and 1980s post-Bangladesh liberation, and mushrooming India Russia friendship. But the collapse of the Soviet Union disrupted Moscow’s Indian Ocean trajectory.
As the Bear has returned to the Mediterranean, using its bickering but steady Entante with Turkey, regarding regime volatility in Lybia, Russia’s intention to return to the Indian Ocean, to address trade with South East Asia, the Middle East, and Africa has been due.
China, in it One Belt One Road(OBOR) chapter did not include a lateral from Georgia-Russia to Middle East opening up the Arabian Sea to Russia. China kept the OBOR infrastructure on to the southern periphery of Russia, fearing Russia’s influence in Asia Major.
Also since two decades, Russia’s primary exports have been the Arms industry. China has been using reverse technology to copy Russian arms. For instance, China is trying to sell SU-27 as J-11 in Africa.
Russia feels that the proverbial glass ceiling has been reached and is therefore has been reluctant to transfer high-end arms and technology to China. Russians feel that this will further reduce the market for Russian arms in China and that stage is reached where Russia now has to compete with China in the international arms markets of Latin America, Asia, and Africa.
India’s Chabahar Port driven North South Transport Corridor(NSTC)
Russia Breaks free from Chinese OBOR drive
This corridor interests Russia, as its shipping time is reduced by 60% and gets immediate access to the Indian Ocean, Africa, and South East Asia.
India ensures completion with land route from Mumbai directly to the Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, directly opening to South China Seas. This provides Russia an opening to South Asian Markets, in addition to influence in the region.
By design, China has played dirty with Russia, wherein OBOR has rolled out in such a manner that Russia is kept on the periphery and cannot have direct access to Asia Minor as well as to Indian Ocean.
Russia knows only too well, its existence in Asia Minor, influence in Asia Major and entry to Indian Ocean, shall in next 10 Years be challenged by geostrategic conflict with Eastward moving China. Here India is counted as the stable partner.
Naval Exercise Indra – 2019
Started in 2003, initially as a bilateral naval exercise between India and Russia, the joint exercise assumed a tri-services scope with corresponding maturity and gradual increase in scope, complexity, and level of participation.
This is now at a time, and despite the fact that when India is officially part of the Quad and Indo Pacific has rolled out.
Interestingly, India has always been the harbinger of Russia being in Indian Ocean as one of the stakeholders and convinced the US come to terms with it.
While Russian naval exercises with China are more towards maintaining cordial relations, Russia knows and trusts only India and Iran, rather than any other country 7000miles away, for geo-strategic reach.
Here till now such, US and India have been at loggerhead, to allow this corridor and let Russia a peak into the Indian Ocean. Russia has acknowledged this and supported India in Kashmir, Afghanistan, refused to take side of China in Sino-Indian border disputes, remains neutral for Chinese presence in Indian Ocean and supports India in steps in negating the same(like Indian presence in Andaman Seas, Seychelles controversy and in the Maldives).
India and Russia find themselves with very few political issues between them, a rare foreign policy relationship that has stood the test of time. Recently, India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar pointed to the fact that the India-Russia relationship has remained a relatively stable factor in international relations, more so than any other significant relationship since the heydays of the Cold War.
Russia’s Re-entry in European Market
Since G7 meeting of 2019, at behest and insistence of Indian PM Modi, Trump had tabled entry of Russia to European markets. This is the primary issue for President Putin and shall usher economic windfall which Russia has been looking at since last eight years( denial of which had resulted in Russia temporarily moving closer to China and its markets).
China will always be dependent on Russian Oil, however, Russian economy looking west again, has a very different connotation, to China trying to dominate Russia.
This shall be the ultimate deal-maker, for Russia to assume neutrality as far as US-China cold wave is concerned.
Russians do not consider China, its successes notwithstanding, as a particularly attractive source of modernization or innovation. However, they had continued to value it as a political partner and a global balancer.
“It looks like they’re cooperating, it looks like it’s all nice and rosy in Russia China relations in military and geo-strategic terms, but it’s not,” Mathieu Boulegue says in a research.
He feels “It’s about matching Chinese interests in the region because Central Asia right now is a new battleground for influence, not just on the economic side but it’s very much about the growing Chinese influence in the military and security sphere, in the Russian Backyard.”
India and Russia always had a common interest in reducing their dependence on the United States and China in matters of regional importance. While India has deepened their military partnership through various initiatives like the Quad and Indo Pacific, Russia’s current strategic closeness with China is not in the bag, in the long run.
India is eyeballing China in the Galwan valley in Ladakh, a place where both countries have been skirmishing since 1962, where China feels Aksai Chin to be threatened by India. Trump has been vociferous of US support in going long term in the standoff or India deciding to penetrate elsewhere, or employ Pincer strategy to envelope the camped Chinese in Galwan valley, if Chinese are stupid enough to try hold its camps there and go for an all-out war.
With call for including three more countries and convert G7 to G10, this biggest stroke of diplomacy of India has been, inclusion of Russia. With this, Russia looks forward to removal of embargos and trade sanctions, especially in the European market. Combine it with an available Indian ocean within its reach, thanks to Chabahar Port and amalgamation of NSTC and East-West Economic Corridor, Russia has no need to play up to Xi Jinping’s Land Grab roulette in Asia and South China Seas.
In this new scenario, that is likely to blossom in next two years, apparently, Russia will have no need to use China as a Global Balancer to the US.
02 June 20/Tuesday Written By: Fayaz