The Russia-India-China “Iron Triangle” Ensures Multipolarity Against U.S. Unilateralism
Yevgeny Primakov, former director of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Agency, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, and even a former Prime Minister of Russia, would have celebrated his 90th birthday recently. His contributions to Russia was remembered by the “Time” program in Russia with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov remembering Primakov’s and former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Limakov proposed framework of an “Iron Triangle” cooperation between Russia, India and China, an embryonic form of the BRICS alliance.
Lavrov argued that the Iron Triangle is the embodiment of multi-polarization and multi-polar diplomacy as “five countries from different continents promote the common policy of the world economy and world politics,” and therefore, he believes that Primakov will always engrave his name “in the history of the world.”
The principles of foreign policy formulated by Primakov are in parallel with the concept of multipolarity and have now become the basis of the Russian concept of foreign policy, particularly defending national interests without having to face confrontation and pragmatism. According to Lavrov, multi-directionality means willingness to cooperate with any country in any part of the world, in mutual respect, equality and in finding a balance of interests, with cooperation as the basis.
Some tensions exist between India and China, especially as the latter has successfully expanded the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) into all of South Asia, with the exception of India due to New Delhi’s refusal. New Delhi believes that South Asia should be its own sphere of influence that is being encroached by China. However, this has not stopped trilateral meeting between the Iron Triangle with the leaders of the three countries meeting in Osaka on June 28.
This meeting was critical as according to Chinese Foreign Ministry, the rise of protectionism and unilateralism seriously affected the stability of the global order, dragged down the growth of the international economy, and brought about the neglect of the international order on which emerging market countries and developing countries depend on. The Iron Triangle needs to demonstrate their capabilities in handling international responsibilities and safeguard the fundamental interests and long-term interests of the three countries and the international community.
Therefore, it is critical that the Iron Triangle commit itself to multipolarity if it wishes to act in a sovereign manner away from the demands made by U.S. unilateralism. An international system with an empowered United Nations as the bedrock is a necessary platform in the Age of Multipolarity. An empowered United Nations is necessary to safeguard an international order based on international law and international relations. With such a platform secured, the respect for sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs, opposing unilateralism, and opposing protectionism against unilateral sanctions, can be ensured.
Although New Delhi and Beijing may have an adversarial relationship at times, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his commitment to multipolarity and the Iron Triangle by explaining at the Osaka meeting that maintaining multilateralism, international law and international rules are in the common interests of the three countries, and therefore they should strengthen communication and coordination in the areas of global governance reform, regional security, and counter-terrorism.
The reasons why the Iron Triangle must consolidate is because the three countries are facing almost the same challenges in the international economy and global transportation. Russia, China, India must coordinate in matters of logistics, trade and banking infrastructure.
Another major question is how the Iron Triangle is to respond to the challenges of U.S.-imposed sanctions policy. Russia and China are under certain pressure from sanctions. India has not been sanctioned for the time being, but it also feels significant pressure, so the three countries should be working together to safeguard their respective economies. With Russia under U.S. sanctions since 2014 and China in the middle of a trade war, India has mostly been spared the wrath of Washington’s economic aggression. However, there is still a risk that India could face U.S. sanctions if they insist on their purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system. Therefore, even if China and India do have some issues, they are still allying against U.S. anti-globalization policy. Although the two countries have not eliminated all barriers in bilateral trade and diplomatic relations, Russia can play a significant role in consolidating the Iron Triangle.
Ever since the U.S. President Donald Trump took office, counter-globalization has become obvious, and this is not conducive to India, nor to China and Russia. Washington not only attempts to lead the process of maintaining the unipolar world order, but is also destabilizing the international security order between large powers. Cooperation between the world and major countries is crucial to counter this devastating negative trend. Therefore, the close cooperation of China, India and Russia is needed to shape the future destiny of the world – a pluralistic order.
Although border disputes will continue to hinder the development of China-India relations, it will only slow the rate of coordination and cooperation, rather than halt it. This can prove to be in Russia’s favour as it can continue its reputation and policy of peace and relation building, and if Moscow is successful in establishing the Iron Triangle, this will prove to be a powerful blow to U.S. hegemony across the globe. Therefore, in the vision of Primakov, Lavrov and Russian President Vladimir Putin must push forward the Iron Triangle, not only to ensure the growth of a multipolar world order and resistance to U.S. unilateralism, but also to bolster the BRICS order to help also elevate South Africa and Brazil in their respective continents.