India’s tango with Russia to dissuade China

India has extended a $1 billion line of credit for the development of the Russian Far East

India’s tango with Russia to dissuade China

Sandeep Dikshit

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 28

When Defence Minister Rajnath Singh accompanied by top Ministry bureaucrats landed in Moscow at short notice following the Galwan Valley clash, it was not just the quest of arms that saw them overlooking new-found friends the US and Israel.

One aspect of their dash to Russia was to tap the Kremlin’s Asia-Pacific policy of binding itself in consultative and cooperative arrangements with both China and India. This diplomatic positioning places the Kremlin as the best bet to lower immediate tensions with China; the retaliation can then take place at a time and place of New Delhi’s choosing.

Hence, the RIC format came in handy for foreign ministers of the three countries to look beyond the immediate dissonance by the deaths of Indian soldiers. The format also became a forum for Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to announce RIC’s expansion to include interactions between the Defence Ministers as well as a continuation of the past practice of holding a leaders’ RIC involving Modi, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the next G-20 summit.

But arms and weapons are a transactional relationship and a bottomless pit for the recipient nation, in this case, India. In order to ensure that Russia stays with India and the taxpayer also reaps visible benefits, India will have to seize the opportunities in the Arctic and the Far East.

Always wary of looking for a challenge from China, India, in this case, need not look over its shoulder. The signals emanating from Moscow are that it would prefer India and Japan as its partners for the quest in both these geographically vast, climatically forbidding and largely untapped region studded with natural resources such as oil and gas, timber and coke.

Although India’s interest in Russia’s wilds precedes the current crises with China, this may be time to accelerate the policy on the basis of leverages provided by New Delhi. India has extended a $1 billion line of credit for the development of the Russian Far East. Led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, several of his Ministers and Chief Ministers have braved six time zones to signal India’s interest by visiting Vladivostok, called the San Francisco of Russia.

Lavrov is already on record as having stated that Russia wants India to be the first non-Arctic state to mine resources from the region. Implicit is the indication that China, which along with India, joined the Arctic Council as an Observer in 2013, will be kept out.

India also needs to reach out to Norway where it has its sole permanent research station for the Arctic in order to avoid getting caught in the West versus Russia cross-fire which is inevitable as resource exploitation of the Arctic gets into high gear.

A stronger Indian foothold in availing of natural gas, oil, timber, diamond and high-quality coal from the Far East and the Arctic will mean more ships passing through South China Sea and the Malacca Straits. While Russia sells sea-denial and air-denial military hardware to India to keep China at bay, its stake in shipments to India will ensure that the Kremlin will always be at hand to cool tensions if the Sino-Indian rivalry gets out of hand.

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