India seeks interests from geopolitical tension

By Liu Zongyi Source:Global Times Published: 2016-4-17 21:48:01

The 14th Meeting of Foreign Ministers of China, Russia and India is scheduled to convene in Moscow on Monday. The meeting comes in the backdrop of the just concluded India visit of US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, during which the US and India have made a breakthrough on three agreements, termed as "foundation agreements," to deepen bilateral relationship.

At the China-Russia-India trilateral meeting in Beijing in February, foreign ministers from the three countries agreed to strengthen strategic communication and coordination as well as consultation at the political level and establish a consultation mechanism on Asia-Pacific affairs among China, Russia and India as early as possible.

India will host the BRICS summit this year and it's very likely to become a formal member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. But while India is strengthening cooperation with China and Russia, it has also reinforced its ties with Western world especially in security cooperation.

The in-principle logistics deal reached between Carter and his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar in fact is drawing the US and India into an undeclared military alliance. India's diplomatic maneuvering risks dampening cooperation among the China-Russia-India triangle and the BRICS.

Tensions between the US and China and Russia in terms of geopolitics have provided India with admirable strategic opportunities. Although Indian officials and scholars claim that there is no change to the country's traditional non-alignment policy and that India will continue its strategic independence, the non-alignment policy under the government of Narendra Modi has far transcended the spirit of "non-alignment."

The Modi government's foreign policy has entered an era of Non-alignment 3.0, which are featured by three prominent characteristics.

First, India, instead of maintaining a neutral position, takes sides with countries like the US and Japan in islands and maritime disputes concerning Asia-Pacific security at the risk of escalating confrontation and conflicts in the region.

Second, India shirks its responsibilities and distances itself from China and Russia in dealing with some global problems such as the Middle East conflicts in order to avoid confrontations with Western countries. Finally, it takes advantage of geopolitical conflicts between the US, Japan and China, Russia to gain maximum interests for itself. We hope India won't go too far as a swing power.

India's foreign policy is a result of its multi-layered pursuit for national interests. India joined the BRICS because it shares consistent interests with China and Russia in building a multi-polar world and a new international rule-making process.

But with the slow down of BRICS economic growth, some Indian scholars claimed BRICS brings few opportunities to India. This year's BRICS summit is to be held in India. Unlike the past events that usually convened prior to the G20 summit, this year's meeting is scheduled afterward. Besides, the topics on the table mainly focus on economic and social development, lacking coordination over regional and global affairs.

Geopolitics also matters a lot in the Modi government's foreign policy. New Delhi doesn't want Washington to remain a hegemon in Asia, nor does it hope Beijing becomes the leader of the region. India is accustomed to perceiving the rise of China and itself from the perspective of geopolitical rivalry.

India hopes to counterbalance China through strengthened strategic and security cooperation with countries including Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines. It's also reinforcing cooperation with the US. On one hand, India hopes it could rely on the US to counterbalance China; on the other, it doesn't want to lose strategic independence and degrade into a pawn of the US.  

Regional stability is a common pursuit of both China and India. The US, as an external power, has different interests from the regional countries of China, Russia and India. Eurasian stability particularly requires trilateral cooperation among China, Russia and India.

The three countries must jointly endeavor to establish a democratic, equal, shared and inclusive regional security structure. The structure won't exclude the US, but it's not a kind of the US-dominated hub-and-spoke system, nor is it an Asian NATO. China, Russia and India should play a leading role in the construction of the new security architecture.

The author is a research fellow of Shanghai Institutes for International Studies and a visiting fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. Follow us on Twitter @GTopinion

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