24th October 2018
Answer questions in NOT MORE than 200 words each. Content of the answer is more important than its length.
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GS II- INTERNATIONAL
Q1. The recent India-Russia summit is considered more successful than the 2+2 dialogue with America. Comment.
- The summit between the Indian Prime Minister and the Russian President is now an annual event, the protocol having been agreed upon in 2005. Summits have often led to spectacular breakthroughs – in the 2009 the log-jam in the long pending sale to India of the Russian aircraft carrier, Gorshkov (since renamed Vikramaditya) could be resolved and, in the latest instance, the inking of the $5.4 billion S-400 Triumf missile defence system. The recent 2+2 Dialogue between India and the U.S., on the other hand, is a new concept, and while it has been hailed as a path-breaking event paving the way for an avalanche of state-of-the art defence equipment from the U.S., the outcomes from this initial meet were clearly dwarfed by what took place during Mr. Putin’s visit.
- The 2+2 Dialogue – a format the U.S. employs with some of its closest allies including Japan and Australia – has given the impression that India has come within the U.S. orbit of influence, detaching itself further from Russia. This impression is further heightened by India signing on to the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) recently. Lost in translation, however, is that India still fancies a close relationship with Russia, one of its and most dependable allies.
- A comparison of the India-Russia summit outcome with the promises made during the 2+2 Dialogue can hardly be a true index of what lies in the future. It may, nevertheless, be worth undertaking. The summit’s mega missile defence deal clearly took the shine off any promises made at the 2+2 Dialogue regarding future defence acquisitions from the U.S. Russia’s S-400 Triumf, possibly the best missile defence system in the world, comes with no strings attached. There is no Russian equivalent of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) in place. The S-400 Triumf can be deployed against all enemies, irrespective of any other defence choices that India might have.
- There were several other concrete outcomes from the India-Russia summit. India and Russia signed on to a document to expand civil nuclear energy cooperation and agreed on a second site for Russian nuclear reactors. They signed a memorandum of understanding on a joint programme in the field of human space-flight, enabling Indian astronauts to be trained in Russia. They also agreed on the virtues of a regional security architecture to provide security to all countries in Asia and in the regions of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. This seemed to demonstrate a clear ‘mutuality of interests’.
- The underlying theme of the 2+2 Dialogue, is however, aimed at forging a possible containment of China strategy,with India partnering the U.S. in this effort. The U.S., at present, perceives China as posing a major challenge to its supremacy, and ‘the most significant threat to U.S. interest from a counter-intelligence perspective’. Whether China was specifically discussed or not in the course of the 2+2 Dialogue, it was obviously the 400-pound gorilla in the room.
- Differences in the outcomes of the India-Russia summit and the promises made in 2+2 dialogue are thus quite apparent. Russia was essentially seeking to cement a relationship with India that has existed for several years. It was not insisting on any exclusivity as far as relationships go. The U.S. wanted India to view foreign policy perspectives largely through a U.S. prism, and thereafter make a choice. For India to steer between this Scylla of Russia and the Charybdis of the U.S., however, is not going to be easy. Russia has already given a hint that it has the option of other choices, which might not exclude Pakistan.
- The situation is greatly complicated by the fact that the world today faces a post-Cold War situation. The rise of China’s economic power and its growing military might, and the re-emergence of Russia are significant pointers to this situation. The U.S., hence, no longer holds all the cards. Additionally, many existing precepts are undergoing changes. For example, the threat to the rules-based international order today comes as much from within existing democracies.
- India needs to ponder deeply on what is in its best interests. It should not allow itself to be easily persuaded in the belief that democracies, by and large, offer better choices. It should not reject, without due consideration, what is in its best interest. Its decision needs to be dictated by the cold logic of circumstances. Strategic ambivalence is not an answer to the situation that India faces today. Strategic integrity and autonomy, and mature strategic judgment are required in a world where disruption is the order of the day.