India is the fastest growing power in South Asia. With its vast areas and big population, India dreams of dominating significant parts of Asia. During this period of rapid growth, India needs allies in its course to leadership.
So, India wants both the U.S. and Russia by its side on its way to South Asian leadership. Two big neighbors of India, Pakistan, and China are historically unwilling to serve Indian interest. India cannot have China as ally nor can push back Pakistan to a corner. Because, to India’s ire, China is apparently committed to defending Pakistan.
India and Pakistan are like two brothers fighting for a single candy. Their mother divided the candy in a way that seemed unjust to both of them. The brothers turned into two enemies for the decades to come. The analogy might sound exciting to read, but the actual relations between these two countries have left the whole region perilous rickety. Unlike Pakistan, India doesn’t consider Pakistan as an existential threat but always accuses it of much turbulence inside including Kashmir violence and threats of Islamic terrorism in India.
In pursuit of isolating Pakistan and establishing regional hegemony, India has been active in the international community. India has been optimistic after its newfound ally in the United States. As it happens with any relationship, India’s newfound ally in the U.S. left its longstanding partner Russia in despair. India was hopeful that the new administration in the White House would come in handy to publicize Pakistan as a state sponsor of terror and eventually isolate the country.
The new government didn’t altogether upset India. The U.S. didn’t declare Pakistan a terrorist state, but openly recognizes the ‘erosion in confidence.’ The U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, “Pakistan and the U.S. historically had excellent relationships, but over the last few years, there has been a real erosion in confidence between our two governments.” The U.S. President Trump accused Pakistan of giving safe haven to the terrorists. “Pakistan often provides safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror,” he said in his first address as the commander-in-chief.
Either India has managed to convince the U.S. to see the South Asia through ‘Indian lens,’ or the U.S. has assured India that they see the South Asian affairs through ‘Indian lens.’ Both the countries’ new romance has led traditional U.S.-Pakistan relations to fade away. The new U.S.-India friendship is set to rule the arena; at least that’s what India would love to see.
India is an ambitious country. As it has now the support of the U.S., it also wants to hold the hands of its old pal Russia. But Indian policymakers should be reminded the old saying, ‘everybody’s friend is nobody’s friend.’ Much to India’s angst, Russia had a military drill with Pakistan in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province for two weeks with seventy Russian military personnel in 2014.
India had many objections against the drill. India’s ambassador to Russia, Pankaj Saran said, “military cooperation with Pakistan which is a State that sponsors and practices terrorism as a matter of State policy is a wrong approach, and it will only create further problems.” But Russia carried out the drill anyway. Russia has been selling military equipment to Pakistan and didn’t treat the country the way India wants them to treat gesturing India that things between the old pals are not all well.
The policy makers of India may believe to have the privilege to think that these downturns and heartburns occurred before in the Seventy’s and the relation between them is far too matured. But Russia-Pakistan relation in the Seventy’s and now has significant transformations that might worry the Indian side. In the Seventy’s, the U.S. didn’t decide to take India in as its top ally in the arena.
China and India share a long border where hostilities between the border guards often challenge the stability of the region. Historically, China had been a Pakistani ally. Many billion dollar projects are going on in between China and Pakistan in the recent days. So, China-Pakistan relations apparently progressed more than ever before. But bilateral issues between China and India are still impeding the countries to build a friendly relationship.
Recently, India and China had a military standoff in Doklam for two consecutive months. India was repeatedly alarmed by China to pull back from the border area which India refused. But India had to withdraw their soldiers at the end. India had a chance to test its friendship with the U.S. amid the military standoff with China. But the U.S. had a rather conventional stance. The U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a neutral tone, “Just that we are encouraging both parties to sit down and have a direct dialogue. As you know, we have relationships with both governments. We continue to encourage both sides to have conversations.”
It is always convenient to have the strongest power as an ally. But how much convenient it is to risk a longstanding partner for the new one who historically has been the ally of the most dangerous ‘foe.’ India’s Doklam withdrawal and a neutral U.S. stance over the border dispute between China and India predict an unpromising future for the Indian foreign policy. Having two best friends, the U.S. and Russia, could have been convenient for India. But who can have both the U.S. and Russia as allies at the same time!