BRIGADIER RAJIV MAHNA
Shake the kaleidoscope of the last week and, look at the emerging patterns through the eye piece. Indian geopolitical responses in the post Covid, and continuing Ukraine conflict, global scenarios have become clearer. Shift from the state of ‘wait and watch’ towards the posture of ‘avail the opportunities’ offered due to these uncertain circumstances is apparent. And, for the time being, India is walking the tight rope which is stretched between the two pillars: long, reliable relationship with Russia and emerging multi range interactions with the West, in rather efficient manner.
First piece on the screen of the kaleidoscope is the two days visit of Indian EAM to Russia, first after the commencement of the Ukraine conflict. Focus during this visit was clearly, on two ‘Cs’, commerce, and connectivity (read, International North-South Transport Corridor and the Chennai-Vladivostok Eastern Maritime Corridor). An observation duly supported by two facts, one, the composition of the Indian delegation which included senior officials from the Finance, Commerce and Industry, Petroleum and Natural Gas, Agriculture, Ports and Shipping and Chemicals ministries, clearly established the core interests of India during the instant visit. And two, during his visit, Dr Jaishankar, in addition to holding meeting with his counterpart, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also met Russian Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov who is Russian Minister for Trade and Industry.
The overall scenario may not have been finely choreographed by India, but it is noteworthy that in the same time frame multiple forms of diplomacy were being practiced by India.
Indian Naval Chief, Admiral R. Hari Kumar visited Japan from November 5-9, attend the International Fleet Review, the inaugural ceremony of the Malabar exercise and held talks with his QUAD counterparts to further expand mutual maritime ties.
On November 8, Air Force Chiefs of India and France joined the ongoing Air Exercise Garuda VII at Jodhpur. Interestingly, while, Air Chief Marshal V. R. Chaudhari flew in a sortie of IAF Rafale fighter, French Air and Space Force (FASF) Chief, General Stéphane Mille flew in an IAF Su-30MKI fighter.
Towards the end of this interesting week, U S Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen made her first official visit to India on November 11. The announcement that the US has removed India from its currency manipulation monitoring list was coincidently made, during her visit.
India-Russia relationship was described in apt manner by the Indian EAM during his visit to Moscow, when he said, “We have a very substantial and time-tested relationship with Russia. In the last few years, we have been finding ways of expanding this relationship, making it more durable, more sustainable, more balanced”. India is aware that despite the current enthusiasm being exhibited by the West to meet its’ defence equipment related requirements, in mid-term, it may not be practical to disassociate from the Russian origin weapons, platforms and equipment. To begin with, India must ensure the life cycle sustenance of such inventory which is already held by its’ Armed Forces. And the cost will always remain a consideration, Western war like equipment is costlier than its’ Russian equivalents. This also implies paying more license fees for production of West origin equipment under ‘Make in India’ schemes. Russia is and will remain relevant in Indian calculations regarding, Afghanistan, Central Asia, and China. So, it is imperative that this relationship continues to remain enduring and updated. India was also able to articulate its’ position about the growing concerns of Global South due to Ukraine crisis. Anothersubstantial diplomatic outcome of the EAM’s visit.
QUAD is an interesting club which possesses adequate scope for upgradation to a military alliance. It is possible that so far, India may have successfully resisted such temptation. However, it may be prudent on part of India to keep such possibilities alive, to counter growing belligerence of Chinese naval activities.
US and India are strategic partners and, economy and trade are important ingredients in this relationship matrix. Any progress on these fronts is always welcome.
It is not common to observe such a rainbow of diplomatic efforts made by a country in the short time span of one week. Last week India did demonstrate its’ intent and capability of pursuing national interests by engaging with divergent multi-lateral and bi-lateral partners, simultaneously. Through these endeavours India has clearly conveyed the message in the world arena that it is prepared to walk the talk, irrespective of the tightness of the rope.
Signing off for the week, by quoting a couplet from the Poem ‘Shakti Aur Kshama’ written by Shri Ramdhari Singh Dinker, “Kshama shobhti us bhujang ko jiske pas garal ho us ka kya jo dantheen, vishheen, vineet, saral ho” (loose translation – Venomous snake has the right to pardon, how can a snake which does not possess venom claim higher moral ground through forgiveness).
Brigadier Rajiv Mahna YSM, SM, VSM is an Indian Army Veteran who has chosen to remain a student for the lifetime
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v Very sad stories about the food crisis being faced by the poor countries are making regular appearance in the world media.
v This aspect was covered in detail in the article titled; ‘Lasting Changes’ published in ‘Beyond Boundaries’ column on 6th June 2022.