War is upending security equations in the Indo-Pacific

Photo posted on the Twitter account of Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar during his meeting with Sergei Lavrov, his Russian counterpart, in New Delhi, India, April 1, 2022.

The war in Ukraine could weaken, or change, the internal dynamics of the Quad (Quadrilateral Dialogue for Security), this informal partnership that the United States, India, Japan and Australia have forged in the Indo- Pacific with the obvious goal of uniting their forces in the face of China’s inexorable rise in power in the region.

This eventuality is not of a purely speculative order and the shared fear of the expansion of a Middle Empire that has become a “world-empire” is the main driver of the dialogue between the “quadists”. But today, India’s position on Russia is a stain: it is the only member of the quartet to have abstained, on March 2, during a “historic” vote of the General Assembly of the United Nations. condemning Russian aggression. By choosing to stay on the difficult crest line of neutrality, New Delhi has chosen not to clash with Moscow, knowing that it must spare its ties with the United States, Japan, Australia and Western countries. of the “anti-autocratic” sphere.

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The Indian Republic’s relations with Russia, its main supplier of arms, explain the posture of a nation viscerally attached to the principle of “non-aligned” diplomacy and which today vigorously asserts its concept of “strategic autonomy “. The decision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government not to take sides in a crisis threatening global balances could therefore have consequences for the cohesion of the Quad, one of the actors of which is going it alone on a most burning issue.

The Quad, the result of a complex equation

In some respects, India’s position recalls that of China, its great rival, in an inverted mirror effect: Beijing defends Moscow but knows that it will be difficult for it, for economic reasons, to sacrifice its prosperity to its strategic partnership with Russia. China is caught in a pincer movement.

Same sort of constraint for India: New Delhi cannot get angry with Moscow because its relations are strong, necessary and old. Between 2010 and 2020, Indians bought almost a third of Russian arms exports – tanks, planes, helicopters, guns – making their country the main foreign customer of Russian military equipment, far ahead of China. To whom Russia supplies 13% of its arms for export.

But the rebalancing of India’s strategic position in the direction of Washington, since the end of the 1990s, is now one of the priorities of the diplomacy of a country simultaneously facing the hostility of Pakistan, the west, and China to the north. India needs the United States, Europeans, Australia and Japan in the context of recurring tensions with China on the Sino-Indian border.

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