India-China-Russia relations

Foreign Ministers of India, Russia and China are meeting in New Delhi next week at a time when, China apart, India’s growing proximity to the United States is causing discomfort to Russia – our traditional all-weather friend. The meeting is also taking place at a time when relations between China and some of her immediate neighbours are in a flux. In the recent past, three of China’s neighbours – Pakistan, Myanmar and Nepal – have refused to accept Chinese financial assistance to build ambitious hydro-electric projects in their countries, mainly because of the stiff terms for Chinese loans. On its part China, too, has ‘temporarily’ stopped funding three major projects in Pakistan. The apparent reason is reports of alleged ‘corruption’ in some of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects.
Indeed, China’s debtor countries are becoming increasingly aware of the consequences of accepting Chinese loans for building infrastructural projects. The lending rates and repayment terms are so stiff that the debtor country soon realizes that the only way to liquidate the loan is to let the Chinese become owners of the projects by selling them equity. One of the hydel projects in Pakistan which the Chinese have ultimately declined to finance is in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir which India claims as its integral part. China knows that in any future armed conflict any project built in this area – indeed, the entire China-Pakistan Economic Corridor – may become vulnerable to Indian attack. India showed its resolve to defend its territorial rights in Doklam last August. It was China which had to blink first at Doklam and withdraw its troops. China knows India cannot be browbeaten. It seems to have grown wise after the Doklam event.
India commanded the respect of the world because of her non-alignment policy which meant not to be involved in the cold war between the US and the now defunct Soviet Union. The Soviet Union does not exist today but the need to remain non-aligned, that is, not to subordinate India’s independent foreign policy to any Power, still remains. There is no need for India either to antagonize China unnecessarily or to go out of her way to befriend the United States. India can rightfully claim her leadership in Asia vis-à-vis China by pursuing an independent foreign policy. In the next week’s meeting with her Russian and Chinese counterparts, Sushma Swaraj should make this stand clear and assure both Moscow and Beijing that India’s friendship with the US will not act against the interests of either Moscow or Beijing.

Sunday, 10 December, 2017