Despite irritating US, India deepens Russia ties, embraces multipolarity
Published: Jul 08, 2024 08:29 PM
Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

It is quite astonishing that the US has so much influence around the world, while representing less than 5 percent of the global population. The key to this inordinate power is the divide-and-rule playbook, which is effective as long as the imperialist nation is much stronger and wealthier than its geopolitical pawns. However, that differential power is shrinking rapidly as evidenced by a myriad of geopolitical events, including Modi's ongoing visit to Russia - the first in five years.

When the Russia-Ukraine conflict first began, the US was very hopeful that India's relations with Russia would deteriorate. However, that fantasy has been evaporating in recent times as India continues to strengthen its trade and diplomatic relationship with the world's most-sanctioned country. Despite the threat of even more US sanctions, Russia has become the No.1 supplier of oil for India, which in turn is the top buyer of seaborne Russian oil. In June, India bought a stunning 2.13 million barrels of oil per day from Russia. 

Further irritating Washington, India has taken a neutral stance regarding Ukraine; and Modi even refused to attend the peace summit in Switzerland. 

Ignoring public threats from the US, Modi has significantly boosted India-Russia cooperation in military affairs. For example, India bought the Russian S-400 missile defense systems. More remarkably, India and Russia are considering cooperation on numerous strategic areas such as joint production of weapons, reciprocal access to military facilities, joint deployment of troops, warships and fighter jets - which will be unprecedented for India - and logistics agreements, which would facilitate the use of each other's military bases for refueling, repairs and resupply.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has characterized Russia's relations with India as the "special and privileged strategic partnership." Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar added, "The only constant in global politics are the ties between India and Russia." 

Considering that the US dollar underpins much of the American empire's power, it has been astonishing how India has enthusiastically embraced dedollarization. India and four ASEAN countries recently announced a digital platform that would enable instantaneous cross-border retail payments, circumventing the mighty dollar. Last year, India and the UAE formalized an agreement to settle transactions in their local currencies. And 60 percent of Russia-India trade is now happening in either rubles or rupees. 

There are two more transformative deals with respect to trade: the Chennai-Vladivostok maritime route and the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), which are aimed at long-term integration of the Indian and Russian economies. The win-win paradigm of these initiatives is indisputable. The INSTC also brings Iran - another American adversary - into the mix. India has even defied the US to strike a 10-year deal to develop Iran's Chabahar port. 

But why the sudden epiphany? The answer lies in the global events over the last four years. 

When COVID erupted, the imperialist soothsayers claimed that the pandemic would mark the beginning of the end for China as an industrial powerhouse. They predicted that the entire world would decouple from China and quickly move manufacturing back to their own countries or to friendly nations. However, China continued to rise and even became the world's largest exporter of cars.

Then came the Ukraine war, which was expected to lead to the collapse of Russia and a regime change that would remove Putin from power. Instead, Russia emerged victorious against the US and Europe on the battlefields in Ukraine. Furthermore, Russia's economy kept growing and surpassed that of Germany (in terms of purchasing power parity). And when the US froze $300 billion of Russian foreign exchange reserves, leaders in developing nations began to view the US as an economic terrorist. This led to the expansion of BRICS and an acceleration of dedollarization.

Then came the slaughter of women and children in Gaza. When the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice started to portray Israel's actions as a "genocide," the West quickly rejected the courts, revealing to the world the emptiness of the slogan "international rules-based order."

In summary, the American empire has proven itself to be increasingly irrelevant. Thus, India - just like much of the Global South - is embracing strategic ambiguity and multipolarity. The US has the choice to either join this new and peaceful multipolar world or become a bitter and isolated hegemon.

The author is a geopolitical analyst, columnist, blogger, podcaster, and writer based out of Bangalore, India. His work can be found on Substack, X and more. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn