Retreat by Moscow?

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India’s diplomatic drive to isolate Pakistan encountered a determined Chinese block at the Goa Brics summit, and the bad news from New Delhi’s point of view is that old ally Russia is more in China’s corner than India’s on this one. Thus the Brics summit declaration specifically mentioned terror groups that are of interest to Russia and China, such as Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, but overlooked Pakistan-backed terror groups that are of interest to India. There are other straws in the wind, such as joint Russia-Pakistan military exercises. Moreover, Russia is effectively doing a Pakistan to Ukraine by fuelling an ethnicity-based proxy war there. Faced with a furious Western backlash Russia is entering China’s orbit, presenting a challenge to Indian diplomacy.

New Delhi must recognise that in international relations, interests and realpolitik calculations count for far more than ideology. Pakistan’s advantage is that it realised this long back. That is why it can leverage support from both China and America, otherwise strategic competitors. It has used this to, in effect, get America to bail it out of sticky financial situations, then pay China to build its infrastructure. China’s diplomatic support for Pakistan is payback for the economic opportunities it provides.

For India to change the game it must, first of all, persuade the Americans of the number of ways they are being had, that current US policy towards Pakistan is counterproductive. If the US can be dissuaded from being Pakistan’s financial benefactor, let us see if China wants to assume responsibility for Pakistan’s debt. The decks can be further stacked by offering China more economic opportunities in India. This can be done by offering connectivity to China’s One Belt, One Road project which Beijing is currently pursuing as its route to growth.

A route through India would provide the Chinese what they seek – access to the Arabian Sea – while building India’s infrastructure and diminishing the importance of CPEC and Gwadar port. If incentives alone do not work New Delhi can build in some disincentives as well. One could be denial of market access if China continues to support terror groups. Second, India could consider doing to China what China has helped Pakistan do to India: work on battlefield tactical nukes to be deployed on the Chinese border.

The Article First Appeared in THE TIMES OF INDIA

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