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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : A tale of Putin and Xi

 

Source: The Indian Express

  • Prelims: Current events of international importance(Indo-China relations, India Russia) China-Russia etc
  • Mains GS Paper II: Multipolar World, Bilateral, regional and global grouping involving India or Affecting India’s interest etc

 

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • India wishes to sit on top of the mountain to watch the tigers fight.” Chinese scholar reviewing India’s approach to the unfolding conflict in Taiwan.
    • India will be a major beneficiary if the US can contain China in East Asia and the Western Pacific.

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

 China-India Cooperation:

 

India’s support for China:

  • Asian century: India’s enduring illusion of building an “Asian Century” in partnership with China.
  • Engagement with China: At a time when China was isolated in Asia and the world in the 1950s and 1960s, India campaigned with the rest of the world to engage with China.
  • Bandung 1955: It sought to serenade China before a skeptical Asian audience at Bandung in 1955.
  • UNSC membership: Delhi also insisted that Beijing is the rightful owner of a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council.
  • China first strategy: India pursued for long a “China-first strategy” despite persistent evidence that India’s contradictions with China are structural and not amenable to easy resolution.

 

Concerns for China:

  • Reduced attention towards Indian Ocean: China’s preoccupation with the East China Sea, the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea”, will reduce Beijing’s “attention toward the Indian Ocean”.
  • Consolidation of advantage in South Asia: India can take this opportunity to strengthen its maritime power and consolidate its advantages in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region.”
  • Strategic opportunities for India: That China’s problems on its eastern frontier would open up strategic opportunities for India

 

Engagement with India:

  • Accommodative of India’s concerns: There is also an Indian flip side to Liu’s argument — a China locked in a conflict with the US might be more accommodative of India’s concerns.
    • This too has been a persistent but unrealised hope in Delhi.
  • Bilateral dispute: India’s problems with China have less to do with the US policies in Asia, but everything to do with their intractable bilateral disputes.

 

Chinese ambitions:

  • Chinese ambitions in the Indian Ocean: China’s growing problems in the Western Pacific over the last decade have not seen any diminution of Chinese ambitions in the Indian Ocean.
  • Two-ocean strategy: China now has the political will, economic muscle, and growing naval capability to pursue a two-ocean strategy.
  • Growing power gap: Sino-US relations have oscillate wildly in the last 75 years, but that has had little impact on the resolution of the clash of Chinese and Indian territorial nationalisms.
    • That problem has been worsened by the growing power gap between Beijing and its neighbours, including India.
  • Historical claims: China is convinced it now has the power to redeem its historic territorial claims vis a vis India and other Asian neighbours.
  • Asian power balance: Beijing also believes that the West is in terminal decline and the changing Asian balance of power allows China to set the terms of engagement with the US in its own favour.

 

Putin and Xi-Jinping:

  • Alliance without limits: Russia seems to share this assumption with China and the two have now proclaimed an alliance without limits.
  • Weakened west: Like Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin has bet that a weakened West will be unable to stop the Russian attempt to restructure the European security order.
  • Political genius: Both Putin and Xi have been hailed for their great “political genius”.
    • But both of them may have overestimated their own power and under-estimated the resilience of the West.

 

Issues arising out of their policies:

  • Finland and Sweden joining NATO: In Europe, the Russian aggression has compelled Finland and Sweden to join the US-led NATO.
    • Putin has also put an end to Germany’s neutralist temptations.
  • Japan’s alliance with US: In Asia, Japan has embarked on its own rearmament and is strengthening its alliance with the United States and is eager to build regional coalitions against China.
  • Geopolitical ambitions: Unrealistic external calculus and an authoritarian political bubble at home have seen Putin and Xi squander their national gains over the last three decades.
    • The costs of overweening geopolitical ambitions in Moscow and Beijing are just coming into sharp relief.

 

 

 

Way Forward

  • Westernizers: Although it is widely assumed that Putin and Xi are now rulers for life, it is unrealistic to ignore the pro-Western tendencies so deeply rooted in modern Russian and Chinese political tradition.
    • Westernizers” in Moscow and Beijing may be down right now, but they have not disappeared.
  • Managing turbulence: India must find its own way to manage the current turbulence in the triangular relationship between Washington, Moscow, and Beijing.
  • Navigating the current dynamics: A better appreciation of past errors in misjudging the frequent shifts in great power relations should help Delhi more adroitly navigate the current dynamic.
  • Positional play: The discourse on India’s current diplomacy focuses on Delhi’s “positional play” among the great powers.
    • But there is no mistaking the essential “strategic play” that must guide India in the coming years — reducing the power gap with China, building the capacity to deter Beijing’s aggressive actions on its land and maritime frontiers, and rebalancing the Indo-Pacific.
  • Old alliances: Rather than sharpen the contradiction between the US and its regional allies, Russian and Chinese actions have helped consolidate old alliances and gave birth to new security coalitions.

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

  1. The USA is facing an existential threat in the form of China, that is much more challenging than the erstwhile Soviet Union.” Explain.(UPSC 2021)

(200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)

  1. With the expanding influence of China, other Asian countries are also seeking to diversify its security partnerships. Discuss.

(200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)