During the fierce verbal exchange that ensued following the face-off at Galwan Valley, New Delhi was categoric in reminding the world that “it is not India from 1962.”
New Delhi has gauged the mood of its ‘new friends’, and it did not mince its words, exuding confidence that it is ready to act as a catalyst to create a new global alliance. It is also banking on the all-weather friendship of its traditional ally – Russia. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s three-day visit to attend the function to mark Russia’s World War II victory over Germany, which otherwise could be cancelled during a global pandemic, is a proof of the deep Indo-Russian ties. At the Russia-India-China (RIC) virtual meet, India’s External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar stopped short of naming China, when he urged the world’s leading voices to lend credence to international law and protect the interests of the stakeholders involved. He also sought a greater role for India, vis-a-vis decision making at the UN.
But for Moscow, friendship is not the only reason to exert its influence on New Delhi to prevent any punitive action that may cause a full-blown war. The European superpower and a historic adversary to the US, which has been playing its cards close to its chest on the Indo-China border issue, dropped the first hint that it does not like an armed conflict between the Asian neighbours a day after the Galwan face-off, calling for a peaceful resolution. Simultaneously, it opened diplomatic back channels to cool the frayed tempers. The Kremlin did not want to abandon its long-time ally India, at the same time, it wanted the status quo to be unchanged – with China extending its dominion globally, and the radical shifts in the Trump administration’s foreign policies.
The few developments across the world that have strengthened Russia’s resolve include – the US’ reduced presence in Afghanistan and the Gulf, where now Moscow’s position is being reinforced. Washington’s sudden withdrawal from NATO is the biggest plus for the star of the former Soviet Union. On top of it all, the US’ exit from WHO during an unprecedented battle against COVID-19, will only lead to China filling that void. At this stage, a Sino-Indian war could turn the tide and realign global powers in the US’ favour. So, as the military-level talks between India and China make significant progress towards disengagement, Russia’s role is key, even if it is just to keep America’s weakened global influence in check.