Far from being the astounding success that India’s jingoistic media is portraying it as, last week’s SCO Summit in Astana was a resounding disaster for Prime Minister Modi’s plans. India’s policies of using Afghan-based terrorism against Pakistan, attempting to “isolate” Islamabad from the Afghan peace process, and declining to participate in China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity were all implicitly called into question by none other than President Putin himself.
The Kremlin website has a transcript of the Russian leader’s speech to the SCO and a brief meeting that he held with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, both of which should be read by anyone who wants to find out exactly how Putin spoiled Modi’s above-mentioned plans.
Firstly, Putin’s bilateral meeting with Sharif saw him declare that “Pakistan is an important partner for Russia in South Asia”, something which would have been unthinkable to even countenance only a few years ago before the fast-moving Russian-Pakistani rapprochement began. It’s evidently been so successful that it inspired Putin’s profound statement, and not only that, but the promising trajectory of their mutual relations even prompted him to hint that the two sides should now focus on expanding their economic relations as well. Without directly saying it, it’s strongly implied that Putin was referencing CPEC and Russia’s utilization of the route in one capacity or another, and the reason for this conclusion is because of what willhe revealed earlier that day during his keynote speech to all of the SCO’s national leaders.
In no uncertain terms, Putin said that “Our goal is to combine the potentials of the EAEU, the SCO, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative”, which can be interpreted as him marshaling all of the attendees in support of Beijing’s world-changing geo-economic quest for developing the emerging Multipolar World Order. Given that CPEC is OBOR’s flagship project, this can rightly be interpreted as Russia calling on all SCO members — including India — to accept and participate in this endeavor. It should therefore go without saying that Russia supports CPEC and wants India to as well.
Modi was therefore thrown into a dilemma from which he might never recover — the Hindutva figurehead must find a way to balance Putin’s request that India moderate its hitherto unwavering resistance to OBOR while satisfying his “deep state” handlers’ demands that his country isolate itself from this worldwide connectivity network. Putin, being the masterful strategist-politician that he is, knew exactly what he was doing by telling Modi to his face that that the organization his country just joined must integrate with OBOR, and the reason for saying so — let alone in such a public fashion — is because Russia is giving India its last chance to behave as a responsible Eurasian actor.
The Russian-Indian Strategic Partnership goes back decades, but it’s noticeably lost its famous luster ever since the dissolution of the USSR. Both sides understand that the other has pretty much gone their separate ways in the geostrategic sense, with Russia entering into an historically unprecedented partnership with China over the past couple of years and India doing the same with the US during this time as well. Russia hasn’t publicly complained about India’s new military-strategic partnership with the US (LEMOA), but the fact that Putin said that the SCO will integrate with OBOR indicates that Modi’s resistance to this initiative is a red line for Russia, one which was all but directly decreed in the most public way possible.
If India takes Russia’s guidance to heart and recalibrate its position on this issue, then it could give Eurasian integration the impetus that it needs to qualitatively and quickly change the existing global state of affairs. Moreover, India’s participation in OBOR and full integration with the initiative would naturally lead to the transformation of its foreign policy as well, since India would no longer be waging the Hybrid War on CPEC but would instead be working hand-in-hand with China and Pakistan at the highest and most strategic levels.
As even the most casual observer of regional affairs knows, however, this is overly optimistic and probably won’t happen, and a large part of it has to do with the Indian “deep state’s” outright geopolitical hate for its two Great Power neighbors. While astute analysts were well aware of the BJP-RSS’ position towards Pakistan and China prior to Modi’s election, there was hope for a brief moment shortly thereafter that India’s new leader would break from his base’s populist expectations and pioneer a completely new era of relations with those two states. After all, it’s for this reason why the SCO Modi’s resistance to this initiative is a red line for Russia, one which was all but directly decreed in the most public way possible.
If India takes Russia’s guidance to heart and recalibrate its position on this issue, then it could give Eurasian integration the impetus that it needs to qualitatively and quickly change the existing global state of affairs. Moreover, India’s participation in OBOR and full integration with the initiative would naturally lead to the transformation of its foreign policy as well, since India would no longer be waging the Hybrid War on CPEC but would instead be working hand-in-hand with China and Pakistan at the highest and most strategic levels. invited both India and Pakistan to join a year later.
Regrettably, though unsurprisingly, Modi’s initial pretenses of regional pragmatism were proven to have been a major ruse to trick Russia into agreeing to India’s admission to the bloc, after which New Delhi could do what it really wanted while knowing that it would be politically impossible for Moscow to reverse its decision after the fact. Truth be told, Russia still harbors high (though potentially misplaced) hopes that India can function as the responsible actor that it’s supposed to be in the SCO and all Eurasian integration processes in general (such as OBOR), but it’s increasingly coming to realize that this might not ever happen so long as Modi’s BJP-RSS is running the show.
This brings the analysis to the point of discussing India’s Hybrid War on CPEC and New Delhi’s use of terrorism in promoting its regionally obstructive agenda. The Times Of Islamabad just published a detailed report about “How NDS-RAW created ISIS-Khorsan to counter Pakistan, Afghan Taliban”, and it’s strongly recommended that the reader review this important article. In the same vein, one shouldn’t forget that Indian operative Kalbhushan Jadav was caught in Pakistani Balochistan and admitted to cultivating a terrorist network in the province, nor should anyone overlook the fact that India’s handful of consulates in eastern Afghanistan essentially function as Hybrid War outposts for carrying out this task and supporting Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP).
With this in mind, Putin’s words about terrorism ring louder than ever. He said that “The fight against terrorism should be system-wide and uncompromised”, after which he remarked that “the role of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure takes on added significance.” Moreover, the Russian President’s focus on terrorism was mostly directed towards threats emanating from Afghanistan, which means that Indian destabilization efforts there against Pakistan and New Delhi’s patronage of ISKP could soon come into the organization’s crosshairs if Modi doesn’t order his National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to abandon these Hybrid War campaigns.
Relatedly, with Afghanistan occupying the SCO’s — and especially Russia’s — attention, Putin proposed the resumption of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group which had been suspended since 2009. With Pakistan now an official member of the SCO, this means that it’s an inseparable part in all organizational efforts from here on out in reaching a political solution in Afghanistan, which perfectly aligns with the incipient Moscow peace process. India is now unable to “isolate” Pakistan no matter how hard it tries because the SCO recognizes Islamabad’s indispensable role in Afghanistan and is counting on it to help the organization make progress in the war-torn country. Obviously, this also means that the SCO is not opposed to the Taliban being formally recognized as the key political actors that they are, much to India’s ultimate chagrin.
Reassessing everything that Putin said during the SCO Summit, both during his one-on-one meeting with Sharif and to all of the attendees during his keynote speech, there’s no question that the Russian President threw down the gauntlet to Modi and that Moscow is giving New Delhi its last chance to behave as a responsible multipolar Great Power or risk being isolated in the same organization which it just joined. If India continues utilizing Afghan-based terrorists against Pakistan, opposing Islamabad’s sensible suggestions to include the Taliban in the new Moscow-based Afghan peace process, and standing in the way of China’s OBOR, then it won’t have a functional place in the SCO and will be relegated by all of its members to the periphery of the bloc’s decision-making process. However, if India takes Russia’s hints and changes its stance on these three key issues of importance, then there’s hope that the SCO will fulfill its destiny in becoming the irreplaceable force for constructing the emerging Multipolar World Order.
Again, it can’t be stated enough just how overly optimistic it is at this point for anyone to seriously believe that Modi will change his ways after having gone so radically far on each of the three examined positions, so it must be seriously considered that Putin was actually warning his Indian counterpart that this is his last chance at redemption. India’s failure to heed Russia’s implied advice will lead to the full-on aggravation of the Chinese-Indian Cold War, something which Russia is sparing no effort to avoid. Even in the event that India spoils the SCO by continuing its hostile policies towards fellow members Pakistan and China, Russian-Indian relations probably won’t be harmed too much, as they’re mostly transactional nowadays than anything else.
Granted, there is certainly a high-level and strategic component to their economic, energy, and military relations as manifested in the North-South Transport Corridor, nuclear deals, and state-of-the-art arms sales, but they’re still transactional nonetheless and haven’t translated into political coordination on the international front. After all, Russia and India are on opposite sides now as it relates to Pakistan, the Afghan peace process, and OBOR, and New Delhi has been systematically seeking to lessen (and some would cynically argue, replace) Moscow’s role in the aforementioned three spheres of cooperation by rapidly enhancing its ties with Russia’s American, Japanese, and Israeli competitors.
Russia seems to have finally realized the Chanakya-inspired game that India is playing, however, which is why Putin effectively called Modi out in the most diplomatic way possible at the SCO Summit, and this ultimately proves that both sides have finally said bye-bye to the slogan of “Rusi-Hindi Bhai Bhai”.
DISCLAIMER: The author writes for Regional Rapport in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.