NEW DELHI: Washington, D.C.’s obsession with Russia and does India have BRICS Summit leverage over China? An Excerpt from ‘Talking Point‘, with Ambassador P.S. Raghavan, Former Head of India’s National Security Advisory Board and Ex-Envoy to Russia and Seema Sirohi, Columnist at ‘The Economic Times’ in analysis with StratNews Global Associate Editor Amitabh P. Revi.
Watch the complete conversation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-rzF0Jq3770&t=27s
APR: The U.S. has been conveying strong messages to China in their meetings, whether virtual or in person. The EU is supposedly also asking questions today in their virtual. How does Washington see the Russia China dynamic and India?
SS: Biden had a two hour conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping. They were trying to get China to sort of take a stronger position on the war in Ukraine. But they failed, which led to some fears in India that the G-2 might happen again, where the U.S. and China come together. But, I think those fears are largely unfounded. Because now it’s not just India that would be concerned about a potential G-2, it would also be Australia and Japan because we’re all members of the Quad. And the entire U.S. focus, we have been told, is to look at China as a rival of the U.S., and they look at it as if the policy is all about that. So, it was a tactical move by Biden, because when it comes down to it, it’s like this city, Washington DC is obsessed with defeating Russia again and again and again. That’s what I see having lived here for a long time, that it’s never enough. Now, there’s an added element of this once again. A chance for the U.S. to sort of almost change the government in Russia. This kind of sort of borderline hysteria is disturbing. Your objective should be to somehow end this war, find a way out. But, there’s hardly any focus on ending the war. I have to read the British newspapers to find out what’s happening in the peace talks.
APR: On China, Wang Yi was here. We know what the Indian response was. The Chinese statements, even the Russia-China statements seem to indicate some kind of non-western pole, but India would never be part of that. Right?
PSR: No, no, most certainly not. I think. Foreign Minister Wang Yi came, for a number of reasons. One is that he was doing a South Asia swing and he couldn’t have avoided India in a tour of South Asia. That was one. The second cause, of course, he was trying his luck to sort of indicate that India and China were on the same page as far as Russia and Ukraine are concerned. I think our statements very clearly indicated that we have our own position, which is definitely not the Chinese position. But, he also tried his bit to tell us that you need to put aside the tension on the LAC and develop other strands of our relationship. That also failed. He put words into our NSA’s mouth in the press release that China issued after the meeting. That was also corrected. And the last point, of course, was that he came to invite Prime Minister Modi to the BRICS summit that China is going to be hosting later this year. And then there was a very interesting press release that came from China after that, saying that we are hosting the BRICS summit and India’s hosting the G-20 and the SCO thereafter, kind of indicating that, if the Indian Prime Minister comes to the BRICS summit, the Chinese will come(unclear). One can read it in that manner. But, look, there is no question of India and China joining together on any one of these platforms, an anti-West platform. Earlier, the RIC was considered a non-west, not an anti-west platform. But, I don’t see how we can actually share any kind of strategic perspective in the RIC format which cannot be anti-West and therefore it cannot suit us. So, we have to wait and see how China reacts when you get closer to the BRICS summit. If they really want the Indian Prime Minister to attend the BRICS summit, they’ll have to do a little bit more than what Foreign Minister Wang Yi did in India and of course, he also prestaged it with a statement in Pakistan at the OIC meeting on Kashmir.
APR: So, Ambassador, in that sense, does India have a card to play with China? We saw what happened in Doklam.
PSR: It’s very difficult to say. It’s a good question. I think it’s a question that is exercising a number of strategic analysts in India as to what India is getting from BRICS and if the configuration of forces within BRICS continues in the direction that it is doing, how useful can BRICS be to India. But that’s a longer term question. In the immediate term, China is very interested that President Xi Jinping is able to host all four of the other BRICS leaders, when he does his Summit, which will probably be a coming out party after the Congress of the Chinese party congress anoints him for his next term as President. Whether that gives us leverage, to what extent that gives us leverage, how will we play it? I think it is something that we have to wait and see. But, to a certain extent, it does give us some options. How the government will use it is something which I really can’t predict at the moment.