US-Russia rapprochement necessary for checking China

Chairman of National Security Advisory Board PS Raghavan

Chairman of National Security Advisory Board PS Raghavan has said that a rapprochement between United States and Russia is necessary for checking increasing Chinese influence and belligerence. 

While addressing a webinar titled ‘The shape of the post-Covid  India-Russia- China Triangle’ organised by the Ananta Aspen Centre he said that it was western pressure which has driven Russia close to China. 

“2021 would be the 50th year of  Henry Kissinger’s foray into China, the whole idea behind it was to ensure China’s neutrality in the US-USSR cold war, geopolitics requires that you ally with or at least ensure neutrality of the lesser rival. The time has come for a reverse Kissinger moment. Can the US  take on both Russia and China together?  It should be very clear to them that there priority is China and that requires a certain level of accommodation for Russia.”

Mr Raghavan, who has been India’s ambassador to Russia felt that Russia too is concerned about growing Chinese power “Russia fears being overwhelmed by China, what ever may be the current status of relations between the two. Russia cannot forget that 600,000 odd square kilometres of its territory in the Far East was Chinese territory not that long back. Besides Russia also knows that Chinese memory is much longer than its own.”

Raghavan said that as far as strategic matters are concerned Russia has kept it’s options open “Russia has not recognised China’s claims in the South China Sea, it maintains close cooperation with the Vietnam, it is supplying arms to Vietnam. Putin has held out an Olive branch to Japan.”

Raghavan  pointed out central Asia and the Arctic as two possible areas of disagreement between Russia and China “there are signs that Russia is getting un easy regarding increasing Chinese influence in Central Asia, there existed an informal covenant between the two,  at least as per the Russian understanding that Russia looks after the security and politics of the region while China looks after the economic cooperation. That informal contract is breaking down as Chinese influence and arms sales in Central Asia increases and it should also be an area of great concern for us, particularly in Tajikistan where Chinese influence is rising. Russians are not on  the same page with China on the question of the Arctic. China has described itself as a ‘near’ Arctic state, while the Russian representative at the Arctic Council quite publicly said that he agrees with the US Secretary of State’s  view that there are Arctic states and non Arctic States and there is no such thing as a ‘near’ Arctic State.”

On the question of India he felt that India can alienate Russia only at its peril

“Anyone who says that we should ditch Russia and look West needs to check the world map, I think China is the only country which shares border with both Russia and India. They are talking about breaking our decades-old strategic partnership and moving west and pushing Russia and China even closer together and creating a hostile Axis at your doorstep! What sort of geostrategic logic is this?.”

He quoted Foreign minister S Jaishankar’s  words that the days of alliances are over, one should not see  things in black and white you cannot quit one alliance and join another “Our strategic partnership with the US has to increase, it has to strengthen, it has to work very well in the Indo-Pacific but that does not mean moving away from Russia.”

While he admitted that India’s  dependence on Russia for diplomatic support has come down  in the last two decades,  he pointed out that our reliance on them for arms procurement continues “Even today after spending a couple of decades diversifying our military arms acquisition, during the past five years at least 58% of our arms imports were  from Russia. And that is a dependence which is not going to go overnight.”

He identified energy as another important field in the Indo-Russian relationship “We have a very strong relationship with Russia in the energy sector, including nuclear power, Indian companies have invested about 15 billion US dollar in Russia in the energy sector. Russians too have invested here. “

He stressed that is important  for India to continue engaging in the Russia India China(RIC) especially with regards to Central Asia “we cannot let Russia and China have a duopoly in Central Asia, there is just a sliver of land separating Tajikistan with Pakistan occupied Kashmir(POK) and that is where the north south transport corridor which gives Central Asia the link to the sea independent of Russia and US a link to the Central Asia comes in. The Americans should be interested in developing that route as they want a route to Afghanistan that bypasses Pakistan, they want the route to Central Asia which bypasses Russia, so whatever may be their present problems with the current Iranian Regime, in the long-term it is in their interest to have this north south transport corridor going.”

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