The visit of Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar to Russia on December 25-29 is an event that deserves attention in terms of assessing the main trends in the change in the world order, which was established for a short time with the end of the Cold War. Despite the fact that today, we can only roughly imagine the most general characteristics of its (future) image.
But doing this will be pointless if it becomes clear that the “transition process” will inevitably result in another global massacre, probably the last in human history.
This, however, is what provocateurs from several countries where local conflicts have already broken out, as well as the accompanying propaganda fighters who declare the “necessity of victory” (it is unknown over whom, how and what it will consist of), are waiting with masochistic impatience. Both are located on either side of an increasingly visible global fault line.
But unlike the latter, responsible government officials from some countries, who today have a particularly significant influence on the process of reformatting the world order, seem to be doing everything possible to avoid a man-made apocalyptic scenario. These countries undoubtedly include modern India and its current External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.
Foreign commentators on his pre-New Year visit to the Russian Federation agree that the overall main goal of this entire event was precisely to facilitate a more or less smooth course of the said “transition process”, including by ending at least some of the local conflicts. Moreover, during S. Jaishankar’s negotiations with his Russian colleagues, they apparently discussed not only the conflict that has been going on in Ukraine for almost two years (mentioned in the official press release about the guest’s meeting with Russian President V. V. Putin), but also a new (but no less dangerous) one that broke out in the Middle East. Although, of course, issues relating to various aspects of bilateral relations were also discussed.
Regarding both these conflicts, India calls for an end to the conflicts as soon as possible. New Delhi believes that they have a variety of negative impacts on the global situation as a whole, as well as on the prospects for the implementation of some planned transnational projects, in particular. For example, the prospect of implementing the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC), which was announced during the visit of US President Joe Biden to New Delhi in September 2023, is becoming unclear.
Moscow generally expresses a similar position, emphasizing the forced nature of the Special Military Operation during the gradual development of the Ukrainian crisis. The SMO was launched mainly to counter the gradually growing threats to Russia’s national security. The subject of discussion with foreign partners is the conditions for its completion.
Note that despite certain differences in the positions of the Russian Federation and India regarding the Ukrainian conflict as a whole, the latter did not join the anti-Russian “sanction war” declared by US-led Western countries. This is extremely important for both countries. However, for each country in its own way. At S. Jaishankar’s meeting with the Russian President, the rapid growth of bilateral trade in the last two years was particularly noted. Moreover, mainly due to a sharp increase in supplies of Russian energy resources (thereby bringing large benefits to India). That is, in that area of Russian foreign trade, which was the main target of the “sanction war” initiators, which, however, hit them hard on the rebound.
But the point is not only the importance of the trade and economic component of Russian-Indian relations. In the current situation, the political component (essentially related to it) is of particular importance. By the very fact of the discussed visit to Russia, which its enemies are also trying to block diplomatically, modern India confirms its commitment to an autonomously neutral positioning at the table of the “Great World Game”.
It should be noted that India has declared its desire to adhere to this course since its independence. With all the conventions of both the category of “neutrality” itself and the practice of any country that claims to be “neutral” in relation to the struggle waged by certain groups of the main participants in one or another stage of the global political process.
India declared its “neutrality” at the height of the Cold War, although the “bias” towards one of the two opposing camps at that time (specifically, the one led by the USSR) was quite clearly noted. India also declares its “neutrality” today, in particular, by S. Jaishankar at a meeting with Russian experts. With an equally noticeable “bias” in the foreign policy of modern India. But this time the bias is observed in the direction “toward” the United States and its closest allies and in the opposite direction “from” Washington’s current main opponent in the face of the PRC. Both “biases” have a completely rational explanation, each time determined by the specifics of the global political process.
And yet, we repeat, with all the mentioned conventions, the fact itself, as well as the outcome of S. Jaishankar’s visit to Russia, whose relations with China are at the peak of positivity over the past half century, show that statements about the “neutrality” of India’s foreign policy are not empty declaration. Although, with a (certain) desire, one can discern its hidden participation in “team play” with the United States in order to keep Russia from “too close” rapprochement with the PRC.
But, it seems, Moscow’s task is not so much to find out the “true motives” of the discussed visit and the generally positive foreign policy trend of New Delhi in relation to it, but to use both for its own as well as collective benefit. And this is seen primarily in helping not only to reduce tensions in relations between the two Asian giants (to the delight of the mentioned ill-wishers, both the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China), but also to turn the main vector of this process in the same positive and constructive direction.
This should be facilitated by the fact that next year the Russian Federation will take over from South Africa the role of organizer and host of events within BRICS. However, without the above-mentioned positive relations between the most important BRICS participants, such as China and India, it is difficult to expect the urgently needed strengthening of the positions of this structure in the international arena.
However, the same can be said about the no less important SCO, which has the characteristics of an international organization, in which the chairmanship functions in the past year were assigned to India. We can say quite confidently that evidence of the negative impact of problems in Sino-Indian relations on the SCO’s functioning is that its last summit was held in the format of a videoconference. Although, of course, there were other motives for holding this event this time in such a way that the leaders of the participating countries did not leave their countries.
The mentioned “other motives” will be absent at the beginning of the year at the next BRICS summit, which is scheduled to be held in Kazan in October 2024. This may facilitate the direct presence of the leaders of India and China at this event. As well as their direct meeting, the outcome of which, with careful preliminary preparation, may turn out to be long-term fruitful. In other words, these will not be yet another public statement about the advent of a “new era” in bilateral relations, as was done for about a year after the leaders of both countries met in Wuhan six years ago.
Moreover, Russian President V. V. Putin may meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Kazan. S. Jaishankar announced in Moscow that the latter was “impatiently” awaiting this meeting. This news was received quite positively by the Russian President, who, in his New Year’s greetings sent to the President and Prime Minister of India, described their bilateral relations as “a particularly privileged partnership.”
Finally, it should be noted that not only the Russian Federation can play a positive mediating role in relations between the two leading Asian countries. India itself seems capable of playing a similar role in relation to the escalating situation at the current stage of the “Great World Game” as a whole. Along with the factor of (albeit relative) “neutral” positioning on the world stage, New Delhi is sharply increasing the significance of its presence on it. All this constitutes a significant potential that India can use to overcome the emerging global split, which, we repeat, today poses the main threat to the smooth flow of the “transition process”.
Perhaps through joint efforts, peace and love will be established in the world, to the great regret of the masochists mentioned at the beginning. I hope this New Year’s wish does not turn into a bad joke.
Although this is precisely the assessment that it can provoke in an atmosphere similar to general political madness.
Vladimir TEREKHOV, an expert on the problems of the Asia-Pacific region, especiallyfor the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.