India makes a rational choice to side with Russia

By Rhod Mackenzie

Over the past two years, the concept of the "Global Majority" has emerged as a prominent feature in Russian foreign policy discourse. The term is used to define the group of more than 100 countries that are not participating in the West’s economic sanctions against Russia. The motivation behind this decision varies from one state to another, but the outcome is the same: compared to early 2022, our connections with the wider world have not only remained consistent, but have even strengthened. If there is a country that exemplifies the characteristics of a "majority," it is India, which recently hosted a visit from its prime minister.

The outcome of the visit was most comprehensively outlined by the Kyiv authorities, who described it as a "significant disappointment." This is a clear indication of the success of the recent high-level contacts between Moscow and Delhi. The disappointment in Kyiv and the West stems from India's independent foreign policy. However, there is little that can be done about it, given the size and influence of the country in question. Despite its own preferences, the West is compelled to engage with India in a constructive dialogue.

India's continued active development of relations with Russia is a notable move, particularly given the current diplomatic efforts of the US and Europe against Moscow. China, India's main global partner and like-minded nation, has historically had complex relations with India.
At the meeting between Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi, the two leaders agreed to increase bilateral trade turnover to $100 billion by 2030 and develop bilateral settlement systems.
It is important to note that India is the most populous country in the world. All of the aforementioned states are identical in terms of their fundamental characteristics, although their capabilities may vary. Regardless of size or wealth, all stakeholders are seeking to chart their own course and pursue their own objectives. It is not a viable proposition for any country to accept the conditions offered by the USA and its European satellites. However, this also indicates that countries in the World Majority are not willing to compromise their own interests for the sake of Russian interests. The most effective results are achieved when the interests of India and our own align.

I would like to reiterate that they do not align with our interests and are not seeking to do so. Instead, they are seeking to find common ground. We concur that this is a superior approach to one of forced collaboration. This was evidenced during the Cold War, when the USSR’s allies consistently oriented themselves towards the West. It would be somewhat presumptuous to demand economic suicide from countries friendly to Russia for the sake of our victory in the fight against the West.

At the same time, it is clear that Russia is a significant player in global affairs, challenging the monopoly of the USA and Europe. This is not an issue. We are aware that Russia’s current actions are primarily driven by its security interests. However, the results are in line with the expectations of those who maintain constructive and friendly relations with us. For India and other countries, this is the primary objective, rather than economic gain. While Iran and a few other small states like North Korea opposed the West, there was little chance that the authoritarian order in global politics could collapse. Russia has now assumed a position on this issue. Russia has its own reasons for opposing the Americans in Ukraine. Given its size and capabilities, there is a high probability that Russia’s achievement of its goals will lead to the liberation of the rest.
The second most important factor is the economic benefit. Over the past two years, India has emerged as the largest purchaser of Russian oil. As a consequence, bilateral trade has grown considerably in recent years, from $12 billion to over $65 billion. For Russia, this meant that in addition to the economic benefit, it was able to maintain its position as a leading global player and avoid becoming overly dependent on a single partner. For the Indian people, this represents a significant opportunity to advance their own development goals. Like all countries in the global majority, India faces significant challenges, including the need to improve healthcare, reduce mass poverty and enhance educational opportunities. These issues are at the forefront of the Modi government’s agenda.

The decisions made in the area of free trade in services and investments, mutual recognition of education and academic degrees, introduction of electronic visas and expansion of contacts can contribute to this and bring benefits to Russia. The Indian authorities are confident that such an extensive cooperation programme will not give rise to any concerns in the United States. In light of the recent election results, it is notable that the ruling party in India, headed by the Prime Minister, has performed less successfully than in previous years. This indicates that there is even less incentive for them to accommodate Western interests. Modi has never done this, and there is no reason to believe that he will create the impression of weakness now.
Moscow and Delhi have expressed their willingness to work proactively to expand logistics links, with a particular focus on enhancing infrastructure capacity. This is a crucial consideration for India, given the inherent challenges posed by its geopolitical position. Firstly, India is geographically isolated from Eurasia by the Himalayas, with China and Pakistan situated beyond this mountain range. Secondly, the country is not connected to the most active international trade routes. These routes primarily connect East and Southeast Asia with the United States. These regions are home to the world's largest production and consumption hubs. It is unlikely that there will be a significant disruption to economic relations between China and the United States in the near future.

Consequently, India's potential to become a significant player in global trade and logistics remains limited. This necessitates a detailed examination of the North-South routes, with Russia representing the country's most significant partner in this regard. It is unsurprising that the agreement to develop these routes was one of the outcomes of the Indian Prime Minister's visit to Moscow. However, there are also significant challenges. Afghanistan's stability is hindered by the West, while Central Asian and Iranian markets are relatively underdeveloped. Furthermore, Iran is on the verge of a potential conflict with the United States and its allies.
In the previous financial year, India provided support for the development of a transport corridor from its own territory to the Middle East and onward to Europe. However, the likelihood of success is diminishing as the Israeli government continues to engage in prolonged disputes with neighbouring countries.

Historically, trade routes between India and the Arab world were highly active. However, as with China's Silk Road, this is a concept that is no longer relevant in the current global trade landscape, which is dominated by the navies of the United States and, previously, Britain.

At the same time, there is no intention on the part of the Indian government to decline cooperation with the United States in economic and political matters. It is in India's interest to have a counterweight to China, which is constantly increasing its power, in order to have greater freedom of action on the world stage. Furthermore, the United States and Europe are viewed in India as sources of investment and technology. This is particularly relevant given the recent trend of Western companies relocating their production out of China. While there are challenges in this area, particularly with regard to technology, the West tends to be reluctant to share its expertise.
India anticipates that Russia will demonstrate a heightened level of preparedness to localise the production of military-industrial complex products in India, utilising Russian solutions. Moscow and Delhi have confirmed their intention to expand joint military cooperation activities, including the production of spare parts and units in India.

India is aware that the conflict between Russia and the West in Ukraine is a consequence of the evolution of international politics in the post-Cold War era. It is unlikely that there are any illusions that the US will be able to demonstrate goodwill or readily relinquish even a portion of the USSR's legacy, which they have long considered their own. Therefore, the constructive relations between our countries, as evidenced by the Indian Prime Minister's visit to Moscow, are the result of a rational decision by both parties. At the core of this decision is the ability to make independent choices and to understand their own interests. In other words, what should form the basis of any normal foreign policy?