As Moscow gets close to Beijing - Hindustan Times

As Moscow gets close to Beijing

ByHT Editorial
May 19, 2024 11:12 PM IST

India will need to be on its toes to ensure that its defence ties with Russia are not compromised

Over the past four years, India has navigated multiple crises, ranging from Covid-19 to the military standoff with China and the fallout of conflicts, enhancing the country’s position without compromising on core interests. In his interview with Hindustan Times, external affairs minister S Jaishankar spoke of the country – and the world – continuing to grapple with more than one crisis. He mentioned Ukraine, where the war is in the third year, and the possibility of the Israel-Hamas conflict intensifying. India has thus far managed to significantly expand its ties with the US while protecting its longstanding strategic interests with Russia. And it is aware of the ever-lengthening shadow of China, not just at the border but across the neighbourhood, including the Maldives, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, where Beijing buys influence to enable its pursuit of the pre-eminent position in the Indian Ocean.

The United States has reacted to the recent meeting between Russia's President Vladimir Putin and China's Premier Xi Jinping. (AFP) PREMIUM
The United States has reacted to the recent meeting between Russia's President Vladimir Putin and China's Premier Xi Jinping. (AFP)

It is in this context that New Delhi will be watching the burgeoning bonhomie between Moscow and Beijing. That President Vladimir Putin chose China for his first trip after beginning another term reflects the strength of ties between the two countries. This was Putin’s 19th visit to Beijing as president, though he has opted not to travel to India for multilateral meetings or the annual summit. In a sense, this is understandable as China and Russia stand isolated and criticised by democratic societies for their actions against the rules-based order. For the US, China’s growing economic and technological prowess is a challenge to its global supremacy. Washington has tried to contain Beijing through tariffs and sanctions but it has also worked at engaging with it to ensure that a Russia-China axis, which may include powers such as Iran, does not cut into its influence. In this context, the Xi-Putin joint statement is interesting for the point it makes about a multipolar world of open alliances, driven by interests rather than ideological themes such as democracy or open markets. What must put India on guard is the veiled reference to groupings such as Quad, in not-so-positive terms.

The proximity between Moscow and Beijing is of particular interest to New Delhi because of its dependence on Russia for defence needs, a legacy issue it has tried to overcome by looking at new partners and by self-reliance in armaments. The West is wary of the bond between two aspiring hegemons in the East, but India should equally be on its toes.

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