From Non-Alignment to Indo-Pacific, India Falls Into US Lap
As Modi eagerly awaits Trump’s visit to India, there is a tectonic shift taking place in Eurasia, the Indo Pacific alliance is coming of age. India, confronted with serious economic problems and collapse of corporate sectors of banking, telecom and even energy, is desperately seeking for a wind fall from this visit. Obama’s dream of Asia pivot which was nurtured through Shinzo Abe’s Asia Democratic Security Diamond aka ‘Quad’ has been further given a fillip by discourse in Raisina dialogue, regularly held in Delhi.
The Russian and Chinese position on Indo Pacific has been very clear, it’s based on exclusion of important countries in the region, goes against the spirit of SCO and Eurasia and actually fails to even define the term Indo Pacific.
The honorable Russian foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov conveyed this to Indian and regional audience in no unequivocal terms that Indo Pacific was a red herring being sold by the West to create cleavage between the Eurasian countries. He openly asked the Indian audience and participants of Raisina dialogue about these questions. How do you define Indo Pacific,is it a geographical term, why does it exclude the Gulf region or North Arabian Sea or for that matter East coast of Africa.
Chinese stance is also clear, China regards it as a new great game to create a Rimland around the emerging block of Eurasia and targets Russian and Chinese interests.
It may be interesting to dissect the talk by Sergey Lavrov delivered at Raisina Dialogue in Delhi on 15 Jan 2020, as it gives us some insight into how Russia views the shaping of new global order.
Lavrov deliberated that unfortunately the powers against the more democratic and multipolar world are trying to hamper the process of a more open and fair world. Our western friends use the language like International Law less and less and have coined a new word Rule Based World order, this may be dangerous as you are imposing upon others, this makes it harder to deal with global issues of transnational nature, like terrorism, water security, food security, organized crime, bringing weapons to outer space and even weaponising the cyber space.
Talking of vast continent of Eurasia honorable Lavrov highlighted that many great people are trying to make this region unite and competitive. President Putin during discourse on Russia ASEAN summit talked on Grand Eurasian Space expanding right upto Indonesia and integrating Eurasian Economic Union, ASEAN and SCO and should include all countries in grand Eurasian space. Russia has also promoted Asia Pacific cooperation.
While deliberating on the Indo Pacific, Lavrov linked it with the jargon of Rule Based World Order, propagated by the West. When we asked about the difference between Asia Pacific strategy and Indo Pacific, the answer is that ‘Indo Pacific is more open and more democratic’. It is actually an attempt to reconfigure existing structures in the Eurasian continent and moving from ASEAN centered structure to something that will be divisive. When we ask them, does it include East Africa or the Persian Gulf, they say no!
Lavrov also talked about Russian efforts to initiate dialogue amongst countries across the Gulf, confidence building measures and more transparency in collective security matters. We must strive for a 21st Century which does not start a new process of Colonialism or Neo Colonialism; sanctions are not going to work.
While replying to a question from the moderator on Indo Pacific, Lavrov candidly replied that Indo Pacific was mainly meant to contain China and was definitely based on exclusion rather than inclusion. Russia would prefer formats which will not divide but unite countries of the region. Think about the term Rule Based International order vs International law, why such divisive jargons are used? If you play with rules of International Law, which is governed by the United Nations,you are actually twisting the existing structures. These terminologies are not benign but substantive and are used to highjack sovereignty of nations and states through a subtle use.
While Lavrov got half an hour to give his point of view, Raisina dialogue gave hours to China bashing by including military commanders on topics like “Fluid Fleets: Navigating Tides of Revision in the Indo-Pacific”. This panel included the Chief of Naval Staff on Indian Navy, The Chief of Staff of Japanese Defence Forces, Vice Chief for Defence Forces of Australia, the Chief of Naval staff of UK,and Deputy Director General for International Relations and Strategy from France. Ironically the first questions asked by Yalda Hakim, the moderator, was, ‘Number one, two and three concerns for this region was China, China and China”.
Indian Naval chief’s response was that India was concerned about unusual activity of Chinese Navy in Indian Oceanand the initiatives like Belt and road and CPEC impinged upon Indian sovereignty. Indian Naval Chief conveniently forgot that US has an Armada of ships almost permanently placed in the region and UK and France are having permanent bases in the Indian Ocean.
More ironically this so called Indo Pacific Alliance is represented by Western dominated militaries with one addition of India. Technically, in a more subtle way, France and UK are already poised to join the so called Quad, and India may be slipping into this new trap of Neo Colonialism and working against the interest of the region.
Yalda Hakim had probably a guided set of questions on China and even asked the UK Naval Chief of Staff on why British were reluctant to not to accommodate Hwavei of China, it looked quite absurd.UK Naval chief boasted about how UK was collaborating with US, France, Japan and even Canada on rule based international order and freedom of navigation in South China Sea.
Indian Media is already raising the temperature by boasting that Trump’s visit would open new vistas of Security cooperation. As reported by Times of India, describing the US-India relationship as one of the “most consequential” partnerships, Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shingle said “It is a strategic partnership based on shared values and geared towards the 21st century. Whether in countering terrorism or in ensuring a peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific, India and the US have unprecedented convergence of interests.”
Trump’s visit to India should be watched by the Eurasian brotherhood with care, the defence deals, the issue of regional security and deliberations on Indo Pacific will crystalize the new game, unfortunately impinging upon the Eurasian spirit.