Despite western sanctions, India has not only continued its defense relationship with Russia, but also increased its acquisition of Russian oil and coal. Meanwhile, bilateral trade is expected to be boosted through the International North-South Transport Corridor, connecting Russia, Central Asia, Iran and India.
Major General BK Sharma (Retired), of the Strategic Net Assessment Methodology Scenario Building and Strategic Gaming, and director of the United Service Institution of India, is a member of the Indian delegation taking part in the seventh Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in the Russian Pacific port city of Vladivostok between 5 and 8 September.
Sputnik: A tectonic shift is taking place in international relations at the moment. What is India's place in this new multipolar world? And are Moscow and New Delhi on the same level in this new world architecture?
BK Sharma: Yes, a tectonic shift is taking place because it is not the US-led kind of world order that should be applicable to all countries. Each country has its own interests, its own values system, and its own culture. And therefore, countries are asserting their independence to attain a more representative international order.
And this necessity has been accentuated by three strategic shocks. One is the COVID-19 pandemic. [The] second is the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and now it is the Ukraine [crisis].
[...] we are all sharing a similar worldview with Russia regarding the primacy of the United Nations and other multilateral organizations. And it's for this reason that you [see] that India has maintained its strategic autonomy when voting at the United Nations and regarding Russia developing the Far East, particularly the Arctic region.
This is a new strategic frontier, in which India wishes to be an important stakeholder because we need energy, and we [will] be importing a lot of energy from Russia.
If these become operational, that will add a new dimension to our economic relationship. And it will, therefore, boost both countries' economies. And with stronger economic ties, the two countries will probably have a better say in reshaping the existing world order.
Sputnik: Since you mentioned Ukraine and you are an expert in military affairs, this crisis is being fueled to a large degree by the US and NATO who are supplying weapons to Kiev. How dangerous is this situation?
BK Sharma: I feel the situation is extremely dangerous there because of actions initiated by the West, particularly regarding the expansion of NATO [designed] to include Ukraine and countries such as Georgia; this was a red line [for Moscow]. And Russians have been warning right from 2008 [not to] do this because it's an existential threat. That notwithstanding, even in 2020 they wanted to accelerate Ukraine's membership.
And then, there was the redeployment of resources, military exercises, and other things taking place in the Mediterranean and [in] the Baltic Sea. So that has probably pushed Russia to take recourse to the special military operation.
There was a view in Russia that if Moscow [had not acted], there would have been a pre-emptive offensive by the Ukrainian forces supported by the West towards Donbass, Donetsk, and even the Crimea. So, to pre-empt that situation, Russia has resorted to military actions.
Now, if the two sides do not reach an understanding and [there] is more escalation, it may degenerate into some kind of nuclear brinkmanship, which is not good for regional and global peace.
Sputnik: In 1971, during hostilities between India and Pakistan, the US supplied weapons to Pakistan and sent the USS Enterprise to the Bay of Bengal. Some historians see parallels between those events and today's situation in Ukraine. Does the situation look similar to you?
B.K. Sharma: Well, to an extent, yes. But there are many more dissimilarities because a lot of time has passed. We still remember the situation when the UK and the US mobilized their fleets. And there was an attempt at strategic coercion, and then it was the Soviet Union, which came to help India and mobilize its fleet, and therefore Soviets became a huge countervailing factor so that India could win that war. So, the Soviet Union insulated India against foreign strategic coercion.
Sputnik: You mentioned India's position on the Ukraine issue within the UN. India also refused to impose economic sanctions against Russia over the situation in Ukraine. We see cooperation on the economic level in the area of fuel and energy trade. Before the special military operation, there was also a lot of collaboration in the military field. Will we see a decrease in contracts, or will it continue?
B.K. Sharma: Energy cooperation has increased, with only one of the two countries buying energy from Russia. Similarly, more than 64 percent of all military hardware comes from Russia. To the extent that a very important weapon system like S-400, we are getting from Russia.
So, from the Indian side, I do not think there will be any letdown as far as our military and defense cooperation with Russia is concerned.
Our only concern is your employment in the [Ukraine crisis]; you may not have the capacity to supply India with the same vigor and speed as you were doing in the past. But on the whole, I don't think India is leaning away from Russia in this particular aspect.
Source: The Telegraph