SHIFTING SANDS

by May 23, 2018 0 comments

SHIFTING SANDSModi-Putin summit is more evidence of New Delhi showing alacrity in responding to global power play’

The fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, welcomed warmly by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Sochi for an informal bilateral summit on Monday, leads an Indian administration that is refreshingly responsive to the rapidly shifting sands of contemporary geopolitics is beyond doubt. Even the Prime Minister’s severest critics ought to concede that he is doing a spirited job of keeping India in play at a time when the US, Russia, China and the European Union are all recalibrating their tactical plays and/or redefining their strategic objectives. It isn’t an easy job, especially because both multilateral and bilateral relationships of the above-mentioned are in state of, let’s say redevelopment. Additionally, for India, we happen to live, to paraphrase the late King Hussein of Jordan, in a tough neighborhood, which makes it incumbent upon New Delhi to pay close attention to what’s going down in South Asia as well as what’s happening in Indian Ocean rim-countries.

Some strategic experts trace the current state of flux in the context of which Modi and Putin have met to iterate the strategic level of the longstanding Indo-Russian partnership with an emphasis on defence ties to the moves made by the US under President Donald J. Trump. The argument goes that it is a result of Washington no longer being willing to go along tail tucked neatly between its legs with accepting the inevitability of China’s rise as a fait accompli or Russia’s attempts to reclaim the Soviet legacy in terms of heft on the world stage and is entirely unwilling to continue with one-sided economic ties — especially its trade deficit with other nations/groupings — as a price for being feted as a so-called leader of the free world. Indeed, it is true, that the US under Trump – who promises to make America Great Again — has resulted in others reacting to protect their own national interests in turn thereby strengthening an emerging multipolar world. But it would be facile to put it down this trend to merely a change in US administrations. No, what many have missed but India for once has not, is that these developments are a manifestation of deeper shift in world politics after the end of the Cold War and perhaps the most fundamental rejig of the premise on international relations have been conducted after the end of World war II than is commonly recognized. We are, not to put too fine a point on it, going back to the future in a sense, with the nation-state once again as the primary unit of interaction globally and multilateral alliances increasingly becoming tactical rather than strategic in nature. India, which was a subject nation in the era of empire, has, thankfully, got it right this time around.

New Delhi’s outreach to Moscow at a time when US sanctions are a real threat for the latter while simultaneously deepening its ties with Washington is a reflection of that understanding. Its balancing act in terms of engaging with Teheran, another object of Trump’s ire, and making clear its sympathies lie more with the Russia/EU position is another example. India has also been quick to respond to China’s accommodative overtures given the US pushback against Beijing’s growing global influence which has forced the latter to show some flexibility towards its lesser adversaries. In sum, while all political parties in India have long accepted the primacy of our national interest, it has taken a Government with an ideological commitment to the idea of the nation-state in general and the Indian civilizational nation on which a modern, democratic state is being crafted in particular to walk the talk.

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