- The geopolitical factor has always been the key enabler in making a nation great. Historically, alliances between nations at war invariably become the dominant factor in dictating the outcome. (The Second World War was won by a by a much broader alliance of America and the allied forces as against the few axis powers). The equation here is clearly beyond the realm of pure mathematics of adding alliances or subtracting them. It is enmeshed in a very complex equation of geopolitics, geostrategy, governance, technology and resources etc. Let us examine the matrix specifically between these four nations; USA-India-Russia and China. Let us calculate their interplay. For example, if India does trade with Russia (the adversary state to USA) at the cost of the friend state (America), it could only have a marginal negative effect on the economy of the friend state. But however, if this transaction kind of weakens and creates a wedge between the alliance of two adversary states (China and Russia) then the weight of geopolitical advantage to India-USA partnership will be much more significant than sacrificing a minor trade deal. Simply, same is the case between US-India-Russia and the peer state China at least as regards defence deals and arms purchase is concerned. Here again, India–US relationship synergy is an advantageous geopolitical spin-off to both the friendly nations. But because, India is the middle factor and also traditionally allied to Russia, who in today’s time is also China’s ally. Ipso- facto the binding of the opposite alliance between Russia &China gets naturally weekend. This in turn gives a Philip to the India-US alliance and gives a geopolitical benefit as compared to a tactical loss to USA, when India buys military hardware from Russia rather than USA.
Denial of S400 will create Operational Void
- The second point one has to understand is making India’s security self- sufficient. Because India already has inducted some mobile squadrons of the S-400 Triumf contract and has always depended on the Russian legacy systems. Any abrupt switching over of the system will only cause an operational void for few years, which India can ill afford. Even the USA should not want such a vacuum in India’s air space. This when converted into geopolitics translates into India’s dependence on Russia and continuation of the privileged Indo-Russia strategic partnership. This falls in contradiction with the parallel Indo-US strategic Partnership, which has been further fortified especially after the four ‘Foundational Agreements’. Further, the recent US National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) 2021 has focused on shaping the Indo-Pacific environment and has specifically mentioned about China’s unlawful aggression along the LAC in the Himalayas. Obviously, this has given an extra Philip to the partnership with the US. Therefore, denying India its traditional air defence systems from Russia will tantamount to disruption in this critical domain of warfare.
- The third main factor is the formulation of the NDAA 2021, which targets China on multiple fronts, with $6.9 billion prescribed for a new Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI) over two years. The Act as interpreted by the US Senate Armed Services Committee bill summary says “The PDI will send a strong signal to China and any potential adversaries, as well as to our allies and partners, that America is deeply committed to defending our interests in the region,” Starting with the PDI, this proposal aims to intensify the US containment policies in the broad region that it nowadays refers to as the “Indo-Pacific”. It thus seeks to optimize spending and improve the military’s positioning, as well as coordinate everything with America’s regional allies. This strongly implies that attempts will be made to ensure that the so-called “Quad” between itself, Australia, India and Japan remains a prominent fixture of regional geopolitics. All the above is only possible with India becoming the pivot and key enabler of US Defence Strategy. This ipso facto dictates that US should not take any action to weaken India. In fact, by allowing India to continue buying equipment from Russia will enable Russian economy to stand on its own and reducing dependency on Chinese largesse. In other words, it will indirectly dilute Russian-China partnership. Obviously, this again then gives a great geopolitical advantage to the Indo-US capabilities and partnership.
Big Power Rivalry
- At this juncture of a global Coronavirus Pandemic there appears to be an evolving big power rivalry, which is manifesting into a geo-political power shift with China declaring claims all across from the South China Sea to the Himalayas and its new Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong policies. Therefore, it becomes imperative for the present Super Power, the USA to lay down its geographic priorities rather getting engaged all over the world. Should USA focus on China or Russia or Iran? Does it need to get involved with North Korea and Saudi Arabia? Or does it tackle all of them simultaneously, as it has been wrongly done under the Trump Presidency? Simple logic should lead you to the correct answer with these reiterations. Firstly, the new challenger is communist China. The focus of the US effort has to be on China, China and…China! Russia is too weak economically (although, militarily it is still Number 2 power in the world) and is intertwined with China for its minimum economic health. Russia cannot get into an open military conflict, either with USA or even with China. In the present configuration and inter-state relations, China by pairing up with Russia is leveraging the Russian military prowess as against America and the NATO alliance, so as to obtain an equal balance of power. Therefore, geopolitically, if Russia is weaned away or maybe economically benefited by the West instead of sanctions, then it is likely to become lesser dependent on China. This then is advantage USA.
The Geopolitical Pivot of Peace: India
- Finally, the Balance of Power, as a concept, is fast altering in favour of a communist China. This balance needs to be immediately tilted back in favour of nations following the rule-based International laws. There is immediate requirement of America restoring its primacy in the United Nations and promote the ‘Collective Security’ agenda for survival of the planet. India is holding along the ‘LAC’ against China at a huge cost. Thus, there is a case, for legitimising grants towards the costs of weapons and equipment, which is needed by India for this thankless job. In selecting its weapon systems, India should also be allowed autonomy off procuring S-400 system. All Developed Western nations need to chip in. This could be by giving one-time grants to India for the defence purchases as well initiate a new process of an “On Lease” method for hiring strategic assets like the Sixth Generation Fighters or other game-changing assets like B2 Stealth Bombers etc. The Indian pilots can be trained in peacetime to operate the same. Because, India is not only serving as a ‘Pivot in Asia’ concept but actually is holding PLA’S 20-25 Divisions equivalent, which otherwise would have been available for overwhelming Taiwan or Japan. Thus, India’s position in the Himalayas, along the ‘LAC’ is a new “Geopolitical Pivot” of time. It can be actually coined and named as the ‘Pivot of World Peace’ (POWP) requiring global support.
Summary and Conclusion
- Therefore, in totality, there is no case for America to apply ‘CAATSA’ on India for buying the Russian S-400 Air Defence systems. May be, India and USA can work on phasing out of Russian equipment in a gradual period of maybe more than a decade or so as not to cause any turbulence in India’s defence capability. This is advantageous to America and most of the democratic nations. In fact, CAATSA type sanctions should be introduced now against China rather than Russia. This needs serious consideration by the Biden administration. Further, the “China Pakistan Economic Corridor” (CPEC) happens to be the flagship project of this ‘OBOR’ drive. This has shifted China’s main effort towards a western land route, where India’s Himalayan defences lie. Beyond doubt, both the above theories need to be replaced by a shift of the Geostrategic Pivot of the 21st century to the Indian Himalayas. Here lies the main contest between the three military powers, China, India and America. Management of this ‘conflict Zone’ will dictate the outcome of tomorrows’ global security.
- Therefore, both India & the USA need to work on a more flexible but robust partnership with mutual readjustments so as to allow India, its own geopolitical space and autonomy for India’s future growth. This will in turn enable India, to emerge as an independent and strong military power rather than becoming a puppet of the West, as that does not allow inclusive and independent growth. Mutually, both India and the USA have to reach out, to be able to knit a workable Strategic Partnership which gives enough confidence to India. Therefore, let not “CAATSA” impede this defining partnership of the 21st century and that India should get the necessary ‘waiver’ for continuing to buy the S-400 Air Defence systems form Russia.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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