The peculiar pattern of international alliances was seen recently when India and Russia inked an agreement whereby the former will buy the game-changing S-400 air defence system military hardware from the latter. The agreement was under international scanner for some time for the US, under the leadership of President Donald Trump, was critical of those who made any business relation with the countries that it dubbed as enemies.
India and Russia nonetheless went ahead. During Russian President Vladimir Putin’s two-day visit to New Delhi last week, the two traditional allies completed the deal worth $5.4 billion. There was a speculation whether the US will proceed to sanction India after it made the deal with Russia, just as it did in September against the Chinese military for buying military hardware from Russia.
An interesting aspect of the S-400 saga is that China never saw the deal with jaundiced eyes even though experts said that India made the deal to get weapons to counter China’s influence in South Asia. The news that China was ready to sell 48 high-end military drones to its all-weather friend Pakistan was also cited by many as Beijing’s counter move to the India-Russia deal.
Joining the two dots to construct a black-and-white picture might not be the smartest thing to do. China’s Global Times came up with an op-ed piece on Tuesday, October 9, in which it said: “Despite their disputes at bilateral and regional levels, China and India have more in common than differences over global issues. And they, together with Russia, advocate a multipolar world and democratization of international relations against the US pursuit of unipolarity and hegemony, which is the underlying reason for their trilateral mechanism.”
China eyes strong BRICS and SCO, not small gains
This explains sufficiently why China hasn’t spoken with apprehension about the India-Russia military deal. China at the moment is in the middle of an ugly trade spat with the US and needs a multipolar world platform to back it. Moreover, in this era of alternative clubs like BRICS and SCO where China, Russia and India are members – Beijing is wise enough to consider the long-term gains over the small ones. It will still help Pakistan in its own capacity because that it is another part of its external affairs policy of keeping India under check by aiding Pakistan, but on the India-Russia deal, Beijing will never express any sort of dissatisfaction because it knows it only does a favour to the anti-US platform.
US sanctions against India will be self-defeating, says China media
The Global Times piece also says with confidence that the US’s threat of sanctions is not likely to work against India for if New Delhi also drifts away from Washington as a result of its probable sanctions, then the Trump Administration will have little hope remaining over making an impact in Asia. Even in bilateral relations, a coercive stand from the US can see India getting closer to other powers – like in matters of arms purchase – and that will not help the US’s cause either.
“…imposing harsh sanctions on India would mean an abortion of the US’ Indo-Pacific strategy of which India is a major player. The administration of US President Donald Trump declared a South Asia strategy in August last year to woo India. While India is in need of strategic involvement of the US, Washington needs India more since both its strategies cannot hold on without New Delhi’s cooperation,” the Chinese news website op-ed also said.
Russia might still need India to counter China, as it is known in case of the SCO, but Beijing has a clear understanding of Moscow’s relationship with New Delhi. It is not panicking over the predictions that India will use the S-400 against it because it knows that both these economic potentials are wise enough to avoid talks on any armed confrontation. The actual gain, on the other hand, is a show of solidarity between the three powers – India, China and Russia and that is enough to rattle the US’s perception. For China, that is the most important victory at the moment.