There are those who announce the death of India as a great power even before birth, there are those who believe that India must do more against Putin’s Russia and Russian aggression against Ukraine. Putin’s unjustified war has changed the world order and unfortunately has hastened the end of the US as the global hegemon.
These days are very busy for Modi’s India, which has condemned the violence, but abstained at the Security Council vote. European countries directly have called for India to openly condemn Russia’s aggression, the US more delicately.
Commentators, Indian and international have written India’s obituary as a great power, given, they feel, it is unable to take a stance and support the west. However, despite such criticism, representatives of various countries are flocking to Delhi, even though apparently it has lost its chance for world leadership after being “shaky” on Ukraine.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived in New Delhi hours after ranting against India’s position on Kashmir and condemning (Israel’s) Palestinian occupation in his speech to the Organisation of the Islamic cooperation (OIC). The organization that brings together 57 Islamic countries had its meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad, where Yi represented China as a “special guest”. None of the countries present protested the Chinese genocide of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province, but they applauded Yi in his statement of support for Kashmir and Palestine. What is even more ridiculous is that India, which accounts for around 10% of the Muslim population worldwide and alternates in between the second and third largest Islamic country in the world, is not a part of the OIC on Pakistan’s request. Of course Israel has never even been invited, despite having a sizeable Muslim population. (1.6million-18% of residents)
But the Chinese “real politic” demanded that a few hours later, Yi arrived in New Delhi to meet his counterpart Jaishankar and Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. After Yi, a visit is awaited by both Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz followed by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet in April. Israel, which is in a similar position as India on Russia, is forging relations with India and the United Arab Emirates. Bennet’s visit to India follows his and President Herzog’s visit to the UAE. All these countries, part of the West Asian Quad, depend on Russia for various reasons, but are also strong American allies.
Finally, Sergiy Lavrov, Putin’s loyalist and the Russian Foreign Minister, is expected in Delhi in mid-April. Lavrov who will travel to Delhi for a meeting with Jaishankar will also meet National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval. South Asia, which between India, China and Pakistan, represents a quarter of humanity has not yet supported sanctions on Russia.
All this foot traffic, not counting the Minister of External Affairs of Oman, a key player in the Iran situation, who visited India recently and the Prime Minister of Nepal who will also drop-in early April, bodes well for India’s stance. In the middle of all these high-profile visits, Jaishankar has visited the Maldives and finalised a credit line for Sri Lanka’s tanking economy.
So any announcements of Delhi’s demise as a global player even before it has started to play, may be premature. Delhi continues to represent the developing world and the underdog, in its own understated manner. If it were to join in the formal condemnation of Russia, it will do so in its own time, after it believes that there is no turning back and that the situation will benefit from its words of condemnation.
The elephant’s perspective
Delhi has always been quite isolated during the cold war. In 1971 while Pakistan conducted a genocide in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), the United States under President Richard Nixon not only supported Pakistan but sent warships into Bay of Bengal to intimidate India. In fact, March 25th is the anniversary of the beginning of the Bangladesh genocide where the Pakistani armed forces killed, raped, and maimed more than 3 million people. Indian intervention and assistance to the resistance created the war between India and Pakistan which resulted in Bangladesh’s independence.
Narendra Modi is responsible for almost 1.4 billion lives. A population three times that of Europe and America. If the cost of human life is to be the same all over the world, he has a much higher responsibility than that of European and US leaders. The same leaders who for decades have sold weapons to Pakistan, knowing full well that some of these weapons and technology have been used against Indian civilians by Pakistani-trained and armed jihadists.
Western European leaders who have blocked arms sales to India, forcing it, even 30 years after the Cold War, to keep its dependence on Russian weapons. Today when Europe, NATO and America are unable to send troops to Kyiv, accused of lack of courage by Ukrainian President Zelensky himself, they continue to pay Russia for oil, but expect India to boycott an old ally, on whom it depends for its security in a neighbourhood where it is surrounded by enemies such as China and Pakistan.
The US Endgame
The war in Ukraine has begun the change in global geopolitics. While Putin’s invasion is pure madness, Biden’s speech in Poland made it clear that the American “endgame” is regime change in Moscow, even if this was much denied by the White House afterwards. The President’s words were clear and spoke for themselves. “For god’s sake this man cannot remain in power”, he said concluding his speech in Poland, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Not all are convinced by Biden’s grandstanding. Mykyta Hubo, a Ukrainian from Dnipro who has been living in Poland for several years called the speech “ordinary”: “Lots of talk, little action,” he said.
While Modi’s India is focused on convincing Russia to stop the violence, which Modi has formally condemned several times, it will not lend itself as an accomplice to a regime change US strategy in Russia. As history teaches us, a weak, destroyed Russia is a danger to world order and global security. Then India must think of 1.4 billion Indians first, as no one else has historically defended them. From the Indian perspective, what happens in the case Russia is defeated in this war in Ukraine, forced to sign a treaty? It just starts a countdown to another World War, much like German humiliation in Versailles did.
President Putin’s chief propagandist Vladimir Solovyov underlines *any* treaty Russia signs with Ukraine will mark its defeat. That will be beginning of the end, not of Putin’s regime but of Russian state. He states it clearly, “If you can’t manage Zelensky, what will you challenge NATO or the USA” in his talk show.
“If you could not even deal with Zelensky, what are you?”
— Bruno Maçães (@MacaesBruno) March 27, 2022
If a regime change happens in Moscow, what will it look like? Another dictatorship? A chaotic Russia with arms being sold in the black market to the highest jihadist bidder? In all cases, whatever happens, it will start a countdown to an inevitable conflict between Russia and the West, one which the future generations of Europeans will pay dearly for.
It is these thoughts that have triggered new strategies and alliances in the Middle East and South Asia. The Saudis have agreed to accept payment from Chinese in the Yuan, and India and Russia are preparing an agreement for payment in Rupee-Rubles for Russian crude oil, The start of payment of commodities, especially crude oil, in other currencies than US Dollar has begun. This signals the start of the demise of the US dollar as the global currency, a process that had started, which this war will hasten. The other Persian Gulf countries will not take long to accept payments also in Rupees, which in any case was their currency before 1971 and may follow Saudi Arabia in accepting other currencies for crude oil payments.
What can Europe do?
Europe’s leaders are in a weak position at this moment. On the one hand, there is strong US pressure to continue supporting Ukraine. From the 3 million displaced people that Europe has sheltered, the US President has announced that they will welcome 100,000. The sanctions do not cause too much discomfort to the Putin regime, which was ready for quite a while to circumvent them, but it is causing serious damage to the Russian people.
If regime change in Moscow is not an objective shared by European leaders, there is a need for a European delegation to visit Moscow, to offer Russia an agreement of security and counteract any excuses from Putin. The European initiative must be independent of NATO, shared with other countries such as India and China, possibly jointly presented, which cannot fail to support a pre-agreed plan to stop this senseless war, which addresses all concerns. If Moscow fears for its security with the militarization of Ukraine by the Americans under the guise of NATO, Europe can guarantee both Putin and Zelensky as a the security buffer for both countries.
As the days go by, with an endless war, Europe risks losing its relevance with the United States, in a world where other countries are acting in their own interests. Not many share Europe’s ingenuity which believes US narratives. While all uniformly condemn violence, countries such as India, China and the Gulf countries are trepidatious of the success of a regime change in Russia which will topple global geopolitics and set the world on an eventual certain collision course.
To share a strategy, you need to consult with allies. If today the Washington and Europe continue to think that as in the days of colonialism, it can continue dictating rules to “continents” such as India and China, it is wrong.
They are countries where a small change in the price of oil can cause 50 million people to go into poverty and starvation. The European unity created by Putin’s useless war must also create a common strategy of a new world order, where Europe does not blindly follow the United States, but dictates the rules. If European leaders do not act now, Europe too will pass into the darkness of geopolitics, where money is not everything and raw materials matter more. Europe also needs to awaken from its Cold War trauma and look at other conflicts being ignored in the Ukraine euphoria. Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Ethiopia and the post pandemic divide between haves and have nots increasing will soon bring “undesirable” immigrants back to its gates. European leaders wont be in a hurry with blankets and supplies to welcome them.