Saleem Qamar Butt
Disturbing Global Re-alignments
The ongoing Russian-Ukraine conflict has badly exposed Indian long held pretentious nonalignment stance in her foreign policy. Even Indian foreign policy experts with dual nationalities are now urging India to take a stand on Russia’s War in Ukraine; especially from an American perspective, the fence-sitting by India no longer serves its diplomatic or security interests. During the first week of March 2022, India abstained from voting against Russia in UN General Assembly along with 35 other countries against 141 countries, which condemned Russian invasion of Ukraine must have at least created a bad diplomatic taste considering the new found strategic partnership of India especially in the Asia-Pacific and the CASA regions. Only a few days earlier, India had abstained from voting against Russia in the UN Security Council too. How this impacts the efficacy of the American led QUAD Security Group to contest China, only time will tell.
As a sustained policy, India has mostly been avoiding a firm stand on many foreign military interventions due its own foreign-policy and security vulnerabilities under the hollow nonalignment rubric. In the 20th century, New Delhi condemned the Vietnam War as well as English, French, and Israeli actions during the 1956 Suez Crisis. But the same year, it refused to support a U.S’ sponsored resolution to condemn the Soviet invasion of Hungary, which had similar motivation as the current Russian invasion of Ukraine i.e. fear of losing valuable Soviet support at the U.N. Security Council over the Kashmir dispute. India also supported the former Soviet Union’s incursion on Czechoslovakia in 1968, and invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Interestingly, the BJP government in India resorted to mild disapproval of the United States’ attack on Iraq under false pretext in 2003.
America picking up India as a viable strategic partner against China has obviously been based on commonality of interests, deliberately ignoring both China-Russia growing strategic proximity as well as long held India-Russia strategic economic, diplomatic and security partnership. Quite explicitly, India had to be careful in her duplicitous policy of “Running with the Hare and hunting with the hound” as any Indian move to annoy Russia would not only mean hurting her own economic and security interests but would also further boost Moscow’s strategic partnership with Beijing. New Delhi’s acute dependence on Moscow for arms transfers is a legacy of the Cold War, when India relied on the Soviet Union for diplomatic and military support against China. However, today's Russia is not inclined to act as a strategic bulwark despite supplying India with an array of weaponry on payment at market prices and in hard currency. Besides, some other factors pushed India to diversify military procurements, but still almost 60 percent of New Delhi’s arsenal remains of Russian origin; thus making it difficult to put an end to its dependence entirely. Nevertheless, Indian diplomatic statements calling for peaceful resolution of the ongoing conflict without criticizing Russia are disappointing for the U.S. as well as for the EU/ NATO. Besides, current Indian dilemma is further exposing the hypocritical facade of largest democracy despite enormous atrocities and human rights violations in IIOJ& K and against Muslims and other minorities all over India under Nazi Hindutva doctrine of RSS and Prime Minister Modi. Sooner than later, both India as well as U.S. will have to undertake cost benefit analysis of the new global re-alignments as was in the process by NATO/ EU even before current Ukraine crisis. The same was witnessed by NATO’s disenchantment with American Asia-Pacific Rebalancing Policy and AUKUS/ Quad grouping against China.
The world was witnessing a smooth and clear division of global-realignments on economic and security fronts after U.S. and allies’ exit from Afghanistan and the Middle East after successful destruction of selected Muslim countries (minus Pakistan and Iran) with economic and military potentials. This selection of Muslim countries was made in early 90s after dissolution of former USSR and demise of WARSAW pact threat. The other purposes served by this sustained destruction were to keep the NATO and Western Military Industrial Complexes alive for keeping the capitalist politico-economic and security structure intact for American global hegemony. However, the USA and allies were never unmindful of the three main threats i.e. rising China, re-emerging Russia and nuclear South Korea. A nuclear Pakistan and potential nuclear Iran were and continue to be managed by other ways as discussed in John Perkins's book “Confessions of an Economic Hit man”.
While both China and Russia worked in their respective spheres of influences with mutual respect for each other’s interests, the smaller regional countries like Central Asian Republics, South Asian countries less India and many African, and South American states found it convenient to seek economic and security in aligning with China and Russia. The Eastern European countries including Baltic States that had remained in the Russian sphere of influence found it more appealing to join NATO/ EU block by under-estimating the backlash from Russia as just being witnessed in Ukraine. Consequently, while three big powers are now in open confrontation with the risk of escalation beyond measures, Europe itself seems confused and divided and America is finding it hard to keep the satellite states in its orbit. The reasons for Brexit, the challenges faced by EU, the fear of rising and ever becoming stronger Germany with energy dependence on Russia, the French maneuvering, and EU’s greater concerns about security and stability of mainland Europe rather than other theaters of American led misadventures are well known now. Hence, whether the efforts for newer global re-alignments will help and ensure the avoidance, de-escalation or deterrence of another global catastrophic nuclear war or the reverse of it critically depends on the statesman-ship by the big powers. Any efforts to turn the UNO into defunct The League of Nations, coercion of relatively smaller and weaker countries to join the global camp politics is prone to add fuel to the fire.
The rising number of countries in the UNO that abstained from voting for and against USA or Russia is an indicator of instinctive self-survival, confusing global big power politics, as well as more focus on respective national interests. However, instead of double-dealing, the global realignment trend is considered an unavoidable strategic compulsion, which further points towards more cohesive regional security and economic groupings like SCO and CSTO in the CASA region for maintenance of peace and stability besides deterring any internal or external aggression. The world is teetering on the brink of the most devastating military conflict that humanity has ever experienced as if COVID Pandemic waves were not enough to kill humanity. For a country like Pakistan, all energies need to focus on overcoming internal fault lines and improvement of the socio-economic profile instead of presenting itself as a house divided to the hovering vultures.
6th March 2022