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Recently India has just begun two-year term as a non-permanent member at UNSC, it was widely expected that India will work closely with US led coalition and take on China. But matters have turned out rather differently. The latest UNSC vote comes on the heels of another, on climate security, in which India openly voted with Russia and against the United States. During that debate, New Delhi, Moscow, and Beijing collaborated closely on strategy, including offering an alternative resolution that challenged the core premises of the US led one.Whereas Russia and China cast no votes, India did not supported US -led push for meeting by abstaining. Since nine positive votes were needed in the 15-member Council to approve the meeting, India’s abstention was effectively a rejection of the US led argument.

Debates regarding Indian tilt towards Russia is generated and impression that due to India-Russia defense agreements, India cannot take side with US so it is playing diplomatically to avoid the situation. But the uncomfortable fact remains that Washington’s arch-rival Moscow is also New Delhi’s age-old partner and friend, with deep interdependence and common interests in defense and energy trade and investment. 

Indo-Russian ties are growing stronger. Russian President was received with open arms during his recent visit to India and important agreements were signed despite US concerns, India remains committed and prioritized Putin’s visit, India even put off a key US-India dialogue between their respective foreign and defense ministers. In September, India also went ahead and took delivery from Russia of the cutting-edge S-400 air defense system, disregarding veiled threats by US officials of sanctions under the 2017 CAATSA law. 

Now it seems like US is minimizing its risks to the broader relationship with India by, among other things, refraining from imposing counterproductive secondary sanctions under the CAATSA law. But Biden administration has not yet announced a decision on the matter.

Western countries are involved in are supporting Ukraine against Russia. US and UK announced that if Russia attacked Ukraine, then it will face sanctions by several western countries. Debates are generated at international forums that what will happennext. Western countries are looking towards its allies in east to support its stance against Russia and support them over Ukraine situation. Whereas strategic interests are more important for eastern countries so they are forming diplomatic alliances. So question rises that eastern strategic allies of will support US on Ukraine or not? It seems like this time countries are trying to stay away itself from the situation. India considers itself a close strategic partner of US in the region whereas US expects that India will take its side when it comes to any decision making regarding any international issue. Recently US, in coordination with delegation of Ukraine and other partners, called UNSC meeting to discuss the on-going situation on Ukrainian border under agenda item “Maintenance of international peace and security.” Though Ukraine is not a member of the council but was invited to participate as the crisis escalates at its border. Ukrainian diplomat pushed back on Russian claims that Kyiv was prepared to mount an attack.

As I wrote that US see India as its strategic partner and when it comes to any decision making then India will support its stance, but as Ukraine crisis rages on, where is India’s voice? Recently, it was missing in action. But a vote at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on whether to hold an official session to discuss the crisis saw New Delhi tilted towards Moscow by not attending the UNSC meeting on Ukraine crisis. It seems like India will continue to resist falling in line with US due to its policy.

Nowadays rift is going on in between US and Russia over issue of Ukraine. Allegations are being made against Russian that it is trying to invade Ukraine to fulfill its strategic interests in the region. Whereas Russian repeatedly denied the accusations and termed it conspiracy of US and NATO allies against its regional interests. Ukrainian President after meetings with several western leaders, clearly mentioned in his press briefings that diplomatic channels are always open to overcome crisis. At the same time the aforementioned President specifically gave statement that panic is being created and a perception is building that Russia at any time may attack Ukraine. Now maybe it was said because Russian troops moved towards Ukrainian border in an unusual manner, which is somehow being exploited by western countries and international media. Alas I saw in past when 9/11 attacks were conducted in New York City, when it was conducted the media at time propagated the incident in such a manner that convinced several powerful states to attack Afghanistan. Similar was the case, due to which Iraq war started when international media propagated that Iraq has WMD’s that pose threat to regional and international security. Later former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted that there were no WMD’s present in Iraq. These two incidents were debated and remained in media discussions for long time. It seems like similar situation once again is emerged when we look towards Ukraine crisis.

But the Ukraine crisis is not the only sign of the new limits of the US-India convergence. When AUKUS was formed, India sharply distanced itself from the move. India-China tensions continue to simmer, as evidenced most recently through their spat over Olympics. While being strongly critical of China in bilateral settings, New Delhi has however also simultaneously limited the Quad’s anti-China push, stressing that the compact is for something and not against someone. 

US President Biden departed from Trump’s strategies in one important respect, his stress on alliances and partnerships, of which the deep links forged with India have been touted as a lynchpin. The Biden team, not without some justification, is banking on India as a key component of its strategy of neo-primacy with respect to China. India-China tensions have worsened greatly since their armed clash in 2020. India’s increased strategic ties with the United States, including its activities in and outside the Quad, have seen a qualitative shift from its historic stance of non-alignment. 

US-India ties are weaker as compared to past, with their many common interests in energy, climate action, technology, and trade, both are important for each other but diplomatically US is seeing for other strategic allies’ options in South Asia rather than relying on India. But when the chips are down, Washington may discover that India will not only decidedly stay away from its coalition against Russia, but may not even be as hawkish on China as is widely assumed. There are part-parallels here with Southeast Asia, which similarly does not wish to pick sides when it comes to great power rivalries. Bearing down hard on India on its strategic ties with Russia will only push New Delhi further away from Washington. 

India’s domestic challenges show few signs of easing and its sharp rivalries with China and Pakistan pose an increasing threat on its land borders, far from the conflict-prone waters of the South China Sea. As I wrote in the immediate wake of the India-China Galwan clash in June 2020, it makes sense for India to tilt more towards Eurasia than the US. This remains true today, even if the United States decides to waive CAATSA sanctions against India.India’s differentiated interests and the rapidly evolving geopolitics of the international system combine to not only end all the wishful speculation by Nikki Haley and others on an U.S.-India alliance, but may also increasingly limit the trajectory of their current strong partnership. So, India is becoming an untrustworthy ally of US when it comes to any international decision making.

The writer is political and media analyst who writes regularly on international political issues, feedback can be given at [email protected]

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Disclaimer: IS INDIA LOOKING TOWARDS RUSSIA? By Muhammad Shoaib Khan - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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