From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Partners in the blue pacific
Mains level : Paper 2- Need for balanced outlook to strategic policy
Three back-to-back summits in the past fortnight have helped settle the dust on who stands where on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Background of the summits
- The BRICS summit took place on June 23-24, followed by the G-7 summit (June 26 and 27), and then the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit in Madrid (June 29).
- In order to understand what they portend for the future global world order, it is necessary to study the messages sent out by each of these groupings against the backdrop of the situation in Ukraine.
- Most importantly, how can India, that has hitherto managed a careful balancing act between all the groupings, build a movement out of this moment of deep polarisation in the world?
Why outcomes of BRICS Summit throws some challenges for the West
- The fact that India agreed to join the summit showed India’s commitment to BRICS as an alternate grouping of economies spotlighted India’s refusal to shun Russia, and agreement to set aside the two-year stand-off with China in favour of multilateral meetings such as BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
- The BRICS Beijing Declaration was a consensus document, as each member cited differing “National Positions” on the Ukraine issue.
- Economic initiatives: BRICS’s New Development Bank (NDB), has approved about 17 loans totalling $5 billion for Russian energy and infrastructure projects, the “Contingent Reserve Arrangement” (CRA).
- A BRICS Payments Task Force (BPTF) for coordination between their central banks for an alternative to the SWIFT payments system, was proposed.
- Mr. Putin also proposed building a global reserve currency based on a “basket of currencies” and trading in local currencies.
- Challenges to western sanctions: The BRICS economic initiatives contain several challenges to the western-led sanctions regime against Russia
- Russia also committed to providing more oil and coal supplies to BRICS countries, which will no doubt raise red flags in the West.
- The possible admission of countries such as Argentina and Iran that have applied to the BRICS mechanism will also sound alarm in the West.
G7 Summit and India’s flexibility
- A day after BRICS, Mr. Modi left for the G-7 Summit in Germany, proof of India’s flexibility in dealing with both sides of the conflict.
- In a number of statements, the G-7 targetted Russia’s war in Ukraine and China’s economic aggression.
- Its outreach documents — on “Resilient Democracies” and “Clean and Just Transitions towards Climate Neutrality” — the only ones that India and other invitees signed on to, were devoid of any mentions of either.
Key takeaways from NATO Summit
- Reference to China: NATO for the first time, made a reference to “systemic competition” from China as a challenge to NATO “interests, security and values”.
- Presence of US allies: The presence of the U.S.’s trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific military allies at one conference sent out a clear message against a perceived Russia-China alliance.
- US’s growing focus: The launch of another Indo-Pacific coalition — of “Partners in the Blue Pacific” (PBP), i.e., the U.S., the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Japan, in addition to last year’s Australia-U.K.-U.S. (AUKUS), is another signal of the U.S.’s growing focus on countries that it has military alliances with, against its adversaries.
- No consideration of Russian sensitivities: Apart from the Indo-Pacific partners at the summit, there were leaders of the five countries that have applied to join NATO.
- The direct message was that NATO would no longer consider Russian sensitivities on the subject of NATO expansion.
What is the strategy adopted by India?
- The outcome of all three summits points to a growing polarisation, even battle lines being drawn, between the Western Atlantic-Pacific axis and the Russia-China combine.
- Neutral stand on Ukraine crisis: India has adopted a singular strategy, albeit a defensive one, that does not condone Russia for its attacks on Ukraine, but one that does not criticise it either.
- India has joined China as global economies that have most increased their intake of Russian oil, and where India continues to source fertilizer, cement and other commodities from Russia.
- Strategic tilt towards the U.S. India is working to diversify its defence purchases from Russia, hostilities with China are high, and a strategic tilt towards the U.S. and Quad partners in the Indo-Pacific is growing.
- Balancing Act: On the multilateral stage, too, India remains a balancing voice in the room: along with Brazil and South Africa, India ensured that the BRICS Beijing declaration did not carry the Russian position on the Ukraine war or any criticism of the West.
- While making certain with other partners of the global South that the G-7 outreach documents carried no criticism of Russia and China.
Way forward for India
- It is time for New Delhi to seize the moment for leadership in a world that is becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the growing polarisation and the disruption due to the Ukraine war.
- India is not alone.
- At the United Nations General Assembly, for example, a majority of 141 countries voted to castigate Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, but much fewer, only 93, voted to oust Russia from the Human Rights Council.
- This represents a large pool of independently-minded countries that do not see it in their own national interest to blandly choose one side over another.
- India’s national interests would be better served by building a community of those like-minded countries (from South America to Africa, the Gulf to South Asia and to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), who cannot afford the hostilities, and want to avoid the possibility of a global war at all costs.
- In 1955, it was in such a similar moment that India took leadership along with countries such as Indonesia and Egypt at the Asian-African Conference of 29 newly independent nations, at Bandung that eventually led to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
This is the time to rethink India’s role in reducing the polarisation and bringing the objective and balanced outlook Nehru spoke of, to the forefront of India’s strategic policy.