Why India is crucial to Russia and China’s goal of countering US influence in Indo-Pacific
- In a bid to oppose Washington’s diplomatic and military advances in the Indo-Pacific, Moscow and Beijing are seeking stronger ties with New Delhi
- While India has retained its neutrality over Ukraine and its relations with China remain tense, all sides know it is the cornerstone of the region’s security structure
These global and regional trends are interconnected. Destabilisation at the tremendous scale we are seeing in Europe – one of the world’s most important political and economic fulcrums – will have a domino effect on all other regions.
The intensifying competition between global powers in the Indo-Pacific is a case in point; the region has become the focus of increased geostrategic attention and military presence.
On August 29, it was reported that US President Joe Biden was planning to ask Congress to approve an estimated US$1.1 billion arms sale to Taiwan, featuring anti-ship and air-to-air missiles – systems that could come in handy given Beijing’s strategy of using warships and missiles to blockade the island.
If the new package is approved, it would become the largest in terms of dollar value to be authorised by the Biden administration.
Moscow and Beijing will also perform joint patrols in the Sea of Japan, their first since June 22, when the countries’ naval forces entered the region following Tokyo’s condemnation of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine and of China’s growing military presence around Taiwan.
The last Vostok games, held in 2018, were said to be the largest in Russia since the “Zapad-81” drills performed by the Soviet Union in 1981. Yet what should capture observers’ attention about this year’s exercises is that, unlike in 2018, India – a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) – is a participant.
As seen before, as the US ramps up its foreign diplomatic outreach and military activity, Beijing and Moscow feel compelled to take countermeasures that will guarantee their robust influence in Asia and the Indo-Pacific.
India is undoubtedly the cornerstone of the Indo-Pacific security structure. Due to its long-held foreign policy of non-alignment, New Delhi has managed to uphold a reputation as an independent player in the region, despite repeated pressure to move closer either to US-led alliances or the BRICS- (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and SCO-coordinated groupings.
Russia and China do not welcome any US moves to deepen its influence in the region. Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that Washington and its allies seek to extend a Nato-like system to the Asia-Pacific, echoing claims by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in March that the US was building an “Indo-Pacific Nato”. Wang added that “some forces” (meaning Washington) sought to “stoke tensions” between China and India and “sow discord” between China and Russia.
Danil Bochkov is an expert at the Russian International Affairs Council