By Chan Kung*
Global geopolitics is inevitably linked to major world events. The results of this, however, can be disastrous for well-known geopolitical theories and major geo-strategies.
On March 29, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong visited Washington, and had a meeting for about an hour with U.S. President Joe Biden, who had just returned from Europe. The two held a joint press conference after the meeting, focusing on the consensus between the two countries, including U.S. participation in the Asian region, Singapore-U.S. cooperation, and the adherence to the rules-based international order. From this joint press conference, many intriguing signs can be seen, and they are all important geopolitical messages.
Since President Biden took office, he has actively promoted the “Indo-Pacific strategy”. At the joint press conference, although Prime Minister Lee expressed his “welcome” to America’s proposed Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, when referring to the Asian region at the beginning of the meeting and in the subsequent press conference, Prime Minister Lee repeatedly and politely used the phrase “Asia-Pacific”, instead of “Indo-Pacific” that Americans often talk about.
This is not a trivial question of word choice. Behind these vocabularies is the issue of the actual status and role of India as an Asian power, which has become increasingly obvious since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. Not long before, on March 31, Daleep Singh, the U.S. deputy national security advisor for International Economics in the Biden administration, publicly warned India not to help Russia to weaken the dollar or face “consequences”.
According to relevant news, the White House said on March 29 that Daleep Singh would visit the Indian capital New Delhi to meet with Indian government officials, and the two sides will discuss on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Indian officials on March 31, Singh asked India to narrow its economic and military ties with Russia, refrain from increasing imports of Russian energy and from any moves that could weaken the dollar.
“We are very keen for all countries, especially our allies and partners, not to create mechanisms that prop up the ruble, and those that attempt to undermine the dollar-based financial system”, said Singh. Earlier, Reuters had reported that India and Russia were preparing to launch a rupee-ruble payment scheme to counter U.S. financial sanctions.
Possibly because the meeting with Indian officials was unsatisfactory, Singh sternly warned after the meeting that any country that helped Russia to evade Western sanctions would face “consequences”. It is worth noting that he is not the only U.S. official who is dissatisfied with India. Many U.S. officials have previously accused India being “unstable” in its response to the issue of confronting Russia, and that India is an “exception” among U.S. allies.
In reality, the very notion that India being an ally of the U.S. is merely a unilateral imagination on the American side in its attempt to constraint China. The level of naivety of this imagination at time has even reached an incongruous level. In a recent think tank conference that I have seen, a professor at Georgetown University in the U.S. who seemed to be dissatisfied with India’s performance in regard to the Russia-Ukraine war, accused India of not taking the side of the U.S. This was responded by a vehement rebuttal of an Indian think tank scholar on the spot. The Indian scholar said that India knows how to take care of its own interests, and there is no need for the U.S. to make irresponsible remarks. He continued that India’s economic growth rate is three to four times that of the U.S., and the poor in the United States are ubiquitous. The U.S., stressed the scholar, has no right to accuse India. He said that the war in Ukraine was provoked and instigated by the U.S., and that President Biden’s son has business interest there, while the U.S. also engages in “biological warfare” in Ukraine.
This is not merely an accidental reaction of a nationalistic Indian scholars. Indians are certainly proud of their country’s achievements, and this in fact has broader social basis. Naresh Gujral, an Indian member of Parliament, accused the West and the U.S. in regard to the war in Ukraine, saying that on the one hand, the West continues to buy Russian oil and gas, and on the other hand, it hypocritically tries to India to circumvent Russia’s energy supply. Sanjaya Baru, who served as the adviser to former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, also emphasized that “India doesn’t have to fall in line with either the East or the West”. In other words, the U.S. should not expect India to do what it demands its allies to do.
India has indeed, outwitted the U.S. in the geopolitical field.
Because of the war in Ukraine, India has revealed the U.S.’ blind spot in geopolitical vision. In the past, the U.S. misunderstood that India was an “ally”, even offered Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi special treatments, and upgraded the “Asia-Pacific strategy” which was based on the U.S.’ traditional allies to the “Indo-Pacific Strategy” for comprehensive cooperation with India. Prime Minister Modi then gladly enjoyed all these “special treatments” and the clear support provided by the U.S. in the India-China conflict. Yet, India has no plans to do anything further, and nothing has changed. Therefore, apart from the issue of the India-China conflict, India has never intended to be an ally of the United States. The thought that India being its ally is just a unilateral and naive wishful thinking of the U.S. strategy.
In the Russia-Ukraine war, even China, as a “competitor” of the U.S., “acted in concert” with it even more than India, the so-called American “ally”. At least, China has yet to have military relations with Russia, even if it is rumored that Russia has made a clear request for military assistance to China. India, on the other hand, continues to maintain and deepen military cooperation with Russia amid the war in Ukraine, not only in terms of conventional weapons, but also negotiating with Russia to import a large number of Sukhoi Su-30 fighter aircrafts, which practically continues to support Russia’s military industry.
Perhaps, the U.S. would find out that India has made a fool of it.
The degree to which India’s reaction in the Russia-Ukraine war has been open, obvious, and straightforward. India is tantamount to publicly accusing the U.S. geopolitical scholars and geo-strategists as self-righteous and ignorant. It appears that American geoscientists and strategic planners will be busy for a long time to come, just to revise the large number of policy documents to redefine India’s geopolitical status, and to produce huge amount of books and speeches to explain themselves.
Historical realists have repeatedly criticized Professor John Mearsheimer’s realist view, in the sense that the world cannot be defined with the needs of the geopolitical game, along the line of “the enemy of my enemy my a friend”. With their arrogant tradition of scientific imperialism, Americans have repeatedly made mistakes in this regard. First, there was Afghanistan; and now there is India. This is actually a simple issue. Looking back, today’s so-called “realism” is actually a dumbing-down of the complex global geopolitics.
Indeed, any mistake in geopolitics will result in troublesome outcome.
*Chan Kung, Founder of ANBOUND Think Tank (established in 1993), Mr. Chan Kung is one of China’s renowned experts in information analysis. Most of Chan Kung‘s outstanding academic research activities are in economic information analysis, particularly in the area of public policy.
Anbound Consulting (Anbound) is an independent Think Tank with the headquarter based in Beijing. Established in 1993, Anbound specializes in public policy research, and enjoys a professional reputation in the areas of strategic forecasting, policy solutions and risk analysis. Anbound’s research findings are widely recognized and create a deep interest within public media, academics and experts who are also providing consulting service to the State Council of China.