Putin in India | Editorial

Vladimir Putin is in New Delhi. Today sees the annual Russia-India summit; a tradition dating back to 2000. Topping the agenda is the inking of a $5 billion-arms deal. For the Modi government is all set to buy the much-coveted S-400 anti-craft missile weapons system. Also on the cards is a formal plan of action on nuclear cooperation.
All of which underscores Moscow’s regional designs that thus far India is happy to embrace. Indeed, this sits well with New Delhi’s active tilt towards diversification on defence and energy. And while the US will not be pleased with this ongoing penchant for Russian weapons of mass destruction, it will likely not protest too much. After all, India is not buying exclusively from Moscow. American arms sales to its strategic partner for the twenty-first century skyrocketed from zero to $15bn in the last decade alone.
Thus Trump Town looks ready to issue a waiver on the S-400 deal under CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act). This legislation effectively penalises any country from doing significant business with Moscow and has been in place since the latter’s annexation of Crimea back in 2014. Though it remains to be seen if the US will take punitive measures against the proposed $4.2bn Russian loan earmarked to cover the cost of India’s new nuclear park. What will likely irk Washington more is how Putin is now firmly back in the driving seat; selling arms to those whom the US views as sitting on the wrong side of the Middle Eastern fence. Such as Qatar. Or Syria.
Of course, the foremost American concern in this region remains China. In terms of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as well as the Beijing-Moscow strategic partnership; both of which are regarded as directly challenging US hegemony in this neck of the woods and beyond. This is to say nothing of Chinese and Russian intermittent attempts to mediate in the Taliban peace process. And then there is the matter increased bilateral trade between the two sides; which is scheduled to reach the $100 bn-mark this year.
It is rather ironic that the US is far warier of Russia-India ties than is Pakistan. This is because Islamabad is adopting a pragmatic approach to regional shifts. Indeed, it now enjoys close ties with all the big players: China, Russia and Iran. Not forgetting Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Then there are traditional relations with the US that it is endeavouring to reset. In fact, Pakistan has positioned itself as a force to be reckoned with. Which is another way of saying that it has finally harnessed its significant geo-strategic location. India, for its part, is doing the same as it continues to court the Russian bear.
Washington would do well to recognise these realities. After all, nothing stays the same for too long. At least not when it comes to the ebbs and flows of nations on the rise and those in retreat. *
Published in Daily Times, October 5th 2018.
Source: https://dailytimes.com.pk/306346/putin-in-india/

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