Russia Signs Deals With India and Other Non-Western Allies
By Brett Daniel Shehadey
Special Contributor for In Homeland Security
Moscow and Beijing agreed to gas deals that Gazprom estimated at $400 billion over the next 30 years. However, since the massive 2014 drop in oil globally, those original Gazprom figures could be down by hundreds of billions of dollars in profits for that timeframe. Faced with American and European sanctions and massive oil price drops, along with a need for more revenue, Russia set its sights on other players like India.
The U.S. diplomatically disapproved India’s latest bilateral agreement with Russia, saying India should not engage Russia with a “business as usual” attitude. The Western world condemned Russian military aggression in Eastern Europe and specifically in Ukraine. Reports that Crimean Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov was in India have also added to a brief diplomatic chill. However, he did not meet with government officials, he visited India solely to expand Crimea-Indian business ties while Russian President Vladimir Putin engaged the new nationalist Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.
The Russian-Indian Agreements were hardly “usual,” as stated by U.S. State Department’s Jen Psaki. According to Russia Times, there were 20 agreements in less than 24 hours, totaling $100 billion. Whatever the real figure, even the symbolic significance of a Russian partnership is a thorn in Washington’s side.
Even though President Barack Obama is scheduled to travel to India on January 25, America remains one move behind the Russians in strategic dialogue with India. Washington has progressed too slowly with India: hampered to make strategic ties because of a recent diplomatic fallout with India and neglecting its larger regional importance; choosing other Pacific priorities in focusing on Japan and being distracted by two major wars and the European resurgence of a menacing Kremlin; and anything else that came along the way. America has sided with Pakistan through much of history and recently out of necessity against the Taliban, in spite of having a lot more in common with New Delhi than Islamabad.
Washington has yet to take the critical steps needed for reconciliation and strategic partnering that would discourage attempts by players like China and Russia to forge stronger alliances or from beating them to capture New Delhi’s allegiance. Luckily, with China, it was Beijing’s own duplicity with the border skirmishes that ended China’s larger attempts to court India and bring them closer together. With Russia, India is given the best deals from a desperate player. New Delhi has the upper hand. Like China, the Russians get a deal but the other party gets much more.
The U.S.-India civilian nuclear deal remains stagnant. Moscow swept in to wrestle it away, promising to build 10 nuclear reactors within India in addition to the gas deals. About 75 percent of India’s arms also come from Russia. India must modernize their armed forces to compete with China’s increasing indigenous weapon systems, and relying on Moscow in the future might not be the best options.
If Washington was paying attention, it would use this attempt as another grand opportunity to give India more than Russia ever could as well as to finally bring India into a Western sphere of influence—something that will take a long while and a lot of effort. But so long as it is a latent priority, Washington will be one step behind, and others will shape the India of tomorrow.
Another thing for Washington to consider in the upcoming meeting is the stability of bilateral relations between Russia and China. It’s time to remind India that Russia is on the verge of potential economic collapse for their hostile actions against Ukraine and Eastern Europe and that such a condition makes them unreliable as strong partners in any Russian-Indian bilateral agreements. The alliance will not protect them from any further Chinese incursions or stealthy military partnerships and encampments. This point should be stressed and India, who was once longing for U.S. support and better relations, should be treated with better respect in what might be coined a new era of U.S.-India relations. Such a new relationship would entail better economic and political ties, arms, as well as improved regional defense negotiations.
In any case, Washington should recognize India’s importance and play into the game of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s opportunistic alliance bargaining. Modi is ready for the best deal around so why not give it to him?
The best way to stabilize the region is through a stronger India, not a stronger Pakistan. Let China and Russia intervene and manage Pakistan and Afghanistan, wishing them luck. Make a go for India.