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Bad Comparison


The US has reminded India that it faces a threat on its borders similar to that which Ukraine has from Russia. This comes in response to India’s ‘neutrality’ in the face of Western condemnation of Russia’s belligerence. The comment assumes that India is doing nothing to restrain Russia or uphold Ukraine’s sovereign rights. That obviously is not the case. India’s relations with Russia run deep and it is certain that necessary concern and advice will have been communicated, as the intent would be to resolve matters than just cause embarrassment to an old friend.

It is also incorrect to compare China’s inherently expansionist approach with Russia’s bid to defend what remains of its historic area of influence. It desires Ukraine to serve as a buffer – the kind Tibet would have been between India and China had it not been opportunistically gobbled up while the world was not looking. In fact, in the same period, India dithered even in taking over its territories that were held by colonialists other than the British. (Goa was mentioned in this regard recently by PM Modi.)

Also, despite propaganda about the similarities between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, the systems of the two nations are quite different, as are their compulsions. There is a historic continuity in the policies of Jinping, dating back even beyond the communist takeover of China. All kingdoms were expected to kow-tow to the Emperors of China. That essential belief runs through the subconscious of the Chinese state. In fact, the absolutist nature of control being practiced by the Communist Party is exactly similar to that of earlier social and political structures.

On the other hand, Russia has been through major shifts – from an Empire to the Soviet Union and, now, some kind of ‘democratic’ oligarchy. It is struggling to find its place but the numerous shocks it has faced within a century and a quarter has made it extremely insecure. The old animosity and distrust of the western powers has not helped. While western capitalists helped through outsourcing for profit the rise of the Chinese economy, Russia was proactively prevented from moving forward. China can leverage its economic might to pressure the global powers, but Russia’s options beyond exercise of military muscle are seriously limited.

The US has forgotten the art of skillful diplomacy after the days of Henry Kissinger and Bill Clinton. Perhaps, instead of trying to embarrass India, the US should learn from it how to successfully deal with Russia.