Let Us Revitalize Russia-India Friendship In The Post-American Era     

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By Dr. Sawraj Singh

The just-held informal meeting in Sochi between President Putin and Prime Minister Modi is a very significant event both in the history of Russia-India relations as well as in world history. It comes at a time when the world is going through a period of great turmoil, instability and uncertainty. The main reason for all of these is that America does not want to accept the obvious: it is no longer the only superpower and the self-appointed policeman of the world. The world has moved from the American era to the Post-American era long back. However, America has continued to deny reality and has continued to resist the change. The world has changed from a unipolar world order to a multipolar world order. However, America wants to live under the illusion that the old world order is still intact.

The biggest achievement of the revival and revitalization of Russia-India friendship can be that it can help America accept the new realities and stop resisting and fighting change. If America accepts the change that the world has moved from a unipolar world led by America, to a multipolar world where America is one center of power, rather than the undisputed leader of the world, then the transition can become smooth and peaceful. If this does not happen and America continues to resist and fight change, then it increases the risk of a very dangerous and destructive Third World War. India’s role can be crucial in maintaining peace and harmony in the world. India is the only country which can provide manpower to match China’s manpower. Therefore, if India becomes neutral, then it is very unlikely that America will start a war against Russia-China axis. India should play the role of a peacemaker rather than become a party to the conflict.

The period between 1945, after the Second World War, and 2000, when President Putin decided to join forces with China to oppose American hegemony, can be called the American era. After the Second World War, America became the most powerful country in the world. No one country or group of countries had the overall power to compete with America. However, when Russia and China joined their forces, their combined strength became larger than America. Therefore, technically, the American era ended in the year 2000. However, demarcation between two eras in history is not always water tight. Actually there can be a considerable period of overlapping between the two eras.

Out of about 50 years of the American era, America had just about 10 years of absolute domination. This is the period after the collapse of the Soviet Union. For about 40 years, the Soviet Union and its allies continued to challenge American hegemony and domination. Therefore, the world at that time was more bipolar than unipolar. During this period Russia and India were very close and trusted friends. We can look at the voting patterns at the UN of that time. The two countries voted together 90% or more of the time. Their close relation culminated in the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation in 1971.  This treaty can be considered a prelude to the 1971 Bangladesh war between India and Pakistan. India and the Soviet Union were the clear winners. At that time, America was also losing the wars in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. For all practical purposes, the American era had ended.

However, Henry Kissinger started a diplomatic offensive called Ping Pong diplomacy. The 31st World Table Tennis Championship in Nagoya, Japan provided the opportunity to launch this. The American team got an invitation to visit China. This was followed by a visit to China by President Nixon. America was able to draw a wedge between China and Russia. This move played a big role in the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union. It will be no exaggeration to state that Henry Kissinger was able to extend the lifespan of the American era by about 30 years. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, India started tilting toward America and for all practical purposes, joined the American camp.

It was President Putin who changed this when he first got elected in 2000. He joined forces with China to oppose American hegemony and domination. This move, for all practical purposes, ended the American era. The combined strength of Russia and China was more than that of the USA. India started realizing that the world situation and balance of power has started changing. This resulted in the Indian efforts to revive friendship with Russia. Russia also wanted to revive friendship with India.  President Putin visited India in 2000 and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Russia in 2001.

The changing world situation has created new opportunities and possibilities for India and Russia to increase their cooperation and work together. They can significantly increase their mutual trade and use their own currencies instead of using dollars. In a new multipolar world order, there should not be monopoly of any one currency. Russia can continue to be India’s most important source of advanced weaponry and other defense needs, and Russia can keep transferring and updating India’s nuclear technology. Russia can help India join the Eurasian Economic Union just like it has helped India to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Russia can provide India with advanced weapons like S-400 missiles. Russia can help to update Kudankulam nuclear plant.

Russia and India  should stand up to the unreasonable  American policies like imposing sanctions and forcing them to cancel deals which are vital to their interests, such as forcing them to cancel deals with Iran after America withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Deal. Similarly, they should oppose wrong American policies such as moving its embassy to Jerusalem.

The Post-American era will have two major characteristics; the world will become truly multipolar and American-led exclusive globalization will become inclusive globalization, and it will also acquire an ethical aspect which it is lacking now. Russia and India have to work with China and other countries to bring the needed changes in the world to make it more equal, just and fair. Revitalized friendship with Russia can also help India to address some of its concerns about China. In spite of their differences, there are many areas where India and China can cooperate. It is not only in India’s best interest to revive and revitalize its friendship with Russia, it is also in the best interest of the Asian people as well as people of the world.

Dr. Sawraj Singh, MD F.I.C.S. is the Chairman of the Washington State Network for Human Rights and Chairman of the Central Washington Coalition for Social Justice. He can be reached at [email protected].