· Implications of meeting between Putin and Xi JinpingBy JK VermaNew Delhi. 10 July 2016. Blossoming friendships between not-so-friendly neighbors and traditionally friendly countries should make India sit up . More so if this relationship has geopolitical implications.
The strategic meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing in June was significant in the present world scenario, although Putin accentuated that the meeting was more to restore the economic ties, enhance Chinese investment, sale of energy and augment supply of military hardware which is reduced considerably.
Russia superpower of yesteryears and China global force of present era want to tone down the increasing dominance of United States (US). European Union and US put stringent sanctions against Russia in 2014 after it annexed Ukrainian territory of Crimea. It compelled Russia to seek more friends and China was the obvious choice, consequently Russia signed a USD 400 billion contract with China pertaining to natural gas supply. At present one natural gas pipeline is under construction and negotiations for the second pipeline is in final stages. It was a blunt message from Moscow to West that there is no dearth of friends.
Russia which is dependent on energy export does not want to lose China, as energy demand is reduced in Europe and US may emerge as a net exporter of energy. Energy starved China has the capacity to utilize the enormous energy export of Russia and has also the financial capability to pay. Russia has increased its oil export to China and superseded Saudi Arabia.
The bilateral trade between Russia and China which was USD 100 billion in 2014 was reduced to USD 60 billion last year. China which is the biggest trading partner of Russia imports raw material and exports finished goods. China Russia friendship is significant and there is confluence on several international issues including issues in Security Council, BRICS, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation etc.It was the fourth visit of Putin to China after Xi Jinping took over as president in 2013. Xi also mentioned that both countries should remain “friends forever” as they are celebrating 15th anniversary of the China-Russia treaty of friendship.
Japan is also apprehensive about the development of close ties between Moscow and Beijing although Japan is in US camp but it has thick business relations with Moscow. The differences between China and Russia are grave and the chances of agreement are remote but Japan is suspicious about their growing proximity.
The analysts mention that relations between the former communist nations have declined because both are suspicious of each other. Russia has more nuclear warheads but China’s conventional forces are much superior. Consequently both the countries regularly conduct exercises on their borders fearing attack from the other.
Moscow is also worried about the increasing influence of Beijing on Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) especially on Kazakhstan. China is reluctant to invest more in Russia as its investments are already at the higher side. Secondly at present Russia needs China more than later needs the former. Nonetheless China is aware that if Russia tilts towards West it will be disastrous as the West can encircle China.
In view of deep suspicion between China and Russia the role of US becomes crucial because if US tilts towards Russia the later may like to abandon China to embrace US. Although chances of US China alliance are remote but if it does happen Russia will have to choose different friends.
On the other hand if China and Russia forges an alliance than either India will have to become closer to US or it has to collaborate with any one of them. Not only this if Russia and China becomes close then India will face resistance in all international fora especially BRICS, SCO and RIC.
India is not worried about development of China- Russia trade as it is already more than India- Russia trade. India is also not concerned about supply of Russian 1650 Amur-class of submarines and S-400 SAM which is the most lethal long-range air defense missile system as these weapons are for East and South China Sea. India is concerned if these weapons are given clandestinely to Pakistan which will be used against India. China is making sincere efforts to acquire latest weapons technology from Russia, which may be perilous for India.
India also has to keep an eye about developing Russian relations with its paramount enemy Pakistan. Sometimes back Russia signed a military deal with Pakistan. It may be under influence of China or in view of India’s developing closeness to US and Israel for the purchase of weapons. Russia is developing relationship with Pakistani military which is genetically anti-India.
Russia assured India that it will not supply cutting edge technology to Pakistan. Russia will not abandon India as it is Moscow’s biggest purchaser of arms and may emerge as leading consumer of Russian energy. Both the counties need each other to balance China and US.
India must maintain close relationship with Russia as it is important to counterbalance China. On one hand India should try to acquire latest technology from Russia and on the other hand it must convince that China is not reliable hence latest technology should not be transferred to China as it will be deleterious to both.
India should try to inculcate tripartite trade between India, Russia and China which will belie distrust and develop dependency nevertheless close relation with US will also be important. Afghanistan is another area which needs attention of all. The influence of Islamic terrorists is increasing. The country is the biggest producer and supplier of illegal drugs in the world. Pakistan under the theory of strategic depth wants to control Afghanistan after evicting India. Therefore Pakistan, China and Russia already met number of times to solve problems of Afghanistan which may be good but India has to be careful as it may like to have access in the energy and market of Central Asia through Afghanistan. Pakistan alleges that India assists secessionist movement of Balochistan from Afghanistan and wants to encircle Pakistan.
China should not be worried on growing India US relationship because since independence India pursued the policy of non-alignment and still it is not supporting US against China. Besides this China’s foreign policy is more towards East than towards South. Recently India refused US for joint patrols in the Indian Ocean and the Asia-Pacific. India follows independent foreign policy and is keeping equidistance between China and US. India US relations are basically bilateral and are not against any country.
In this shrinking world there can be a tripartite dialogue comprising India, US and China on common issues. The trilateral discourse would also convince China that India and US are not hatching any conspiracy.
India on its part should have friendly relations with US, Russia as well as China. In international relations there are no permanent friends and permanent foes there are only permanent interests. Hence India must balance its foreign policy and should not join any block. China is next door neighbour and more powerful than India. It developed reliable infrastructure on the Indo-China borders while India lacks the infrastructure therefore India should first strengthen itself and then border issues should be sorted out.
Indo-US relations should be on firm foundations and not be China centric as these types of relations are not viable. India should not become frontline state against China although US has emerged as a prime seller of weapons to India but it is also the biggest donor of aid to Pakistan. US wants to sale six nuclear reactors of about USD 21 billion which would energize US nuclear industry. US does not want to support India against China or Pakistan but wants to use India against China hence India should be extra cautious in the complicated international affairs. And India should definitely be vary of warm hand shakes between Putin and Nawaz Sharif, Putin and Xi, Xi and Nawaz and should understand that if these friendships blossom they could be difficult for India.
(Jai Kumar Verma is a Delhi-based strategic analyst and a retired R&AW officer. The views in the article are solely the author’s. He can be contacted at email@example.com)