Russia hopes for Sino-Indian bailout as West takes harsh economic bite

By Rajeev Sharma Source:Global Times Published: 2014-12-15 20:28:01

Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to India on December 10-11 has brought up many questions and raised a larger strategic picture.

Will major Asian powers like China and India bail out Russia from the morass of US-led Western sanctions on Russia? Is the ongoing West-Russia spat going to create a new strategic axis in the world?

Asia's No.1 and No.3 economies, China and India respectively, have stood alongside Russia, but what about the interplay among the three nations themselves - Russia, India and China?

China and India lending vital political, diplomatic and economic support to the hounded Russia at a time when Russia desperately needs it has galvanized international politics in a big way. It leads to the inevitable question: Is the much-touted RIC (Russia, India and China) axis finally emerging?

The ever elusive RIC bloc is riddled with all kinds of inherent contradictions. India and China have more divergences than convergences. The two are more rivals than collaborators because of many factors, including Pakistan and the baggage of the 1962 war.

Russia and India were former strategic partners of yore and have strong political relations but the erstwhile sheen is missing. They are definitely not foes or even potential foes but both are pursuing policies that do not synergize and both are courting friends that are nothing short of enemies for the other side.

Russia and China have a chequered past, have nearly gone to war against each other, have nibbled into each other's backyards and are suspicious of each other.

And yet when Putin's Russia is being hounded by the West and being penalized by crippling sanctions over its actions in Ukraine, it was China who signed a $400 billion 30-year energy contract with Russia earlier this year. China thus not only bolstered Russia's economy but also sent a message to the international community that Russia may be a pariah to the West but for China it is a valued friend and partner in mutual economic progress.

Putin got the same message from the Indian leadership with whom he interacted during the 15th annual India-Russia summit in New Delhi on December 11.

A number of 20 pacts were signed between the two sides worth over $100 billion in long-term deals in several areas, including energy, nuclear, defense, infrastructure and trade.

The West and its allies have already come up with vociferous protests over India generously giving away so many business opportunities to Russia, saying that this was not the time for "business as usual' with Russia. The US and Ukraine have already lodged protests with the Indian government over this.

The Russian economy is already reeling under the impact of declining international oil prices. Russia, a major oil producer, budgeted on international oil prices hovering around $100 per barrel. But today the oil prices are ruling around $60 per barrel, a six-year low, and may even plummet to $40.

The Western sanctions on Russia have forced Moscow to turn its gaze toward Asia.

But in Asia too, the choices for Russia are limited as powers like Japan and South Korea are in US influence. In fact, Japan has supported Western sanctions on Russia.

It will be interesting to see how far India and China can go in their support for Russia in the face of the ever-hardening stand of the West.

The author is a New Delhi-based independent journalist and a strategic analyst. Follow him on Twitter at @Kishkindha

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