LAHORE: Growing Indian apprehensions had become palpable after the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the growing presence of China in India’s neighbourhood – as evident from the investments not in Pakistan, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka. In this context, India felt more and more encircled.
The Chinese threat has been largely responsible for the making of New Delhi’s Indo-Pacific policy, says Christophe Jaffrelot – the French Indologist and an expert on South Asian. He is the author of a number of books on the region.
Speaking at a seminar, “The Indo-Pak relations in the context of India’s Indo-Pacific strategy,” he said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared his vision of the Indo-Pacific for the first time on June 1, 2018, at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore where he claimed that the Indo-Pacific “include[d] all nations in this geography as also others beyond who have a stake in it”, an oblique reference to the western powers which, until recently, were not welcome by India in its region. This trend culminated with the relaunch of the Quad (Australia, India, Japan, the US) in 2017, a multilateral initiative more clearly a reaction to China’s assertiveness in the region.
At the same time, Mr Jaffrelot said, India was not comfortable with the American anti-Chinese stance, her ambivalence resulting from her will not to alienate her big neighbour. In fact, India agreed to upgrade the Quad meetings at the ministerial level – something the US were longing for – only after the Galwan attack in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed in 2020.
According to Jaffrelot, while the India-US rapprochement in the Indo-Pacific seemed to be more necessary than ever visa-à-vis China, India continued to believe in pluralism, a doctrine that Jaishankar S. defines in his 2020 book, The Indian Way in one clear sentence: “If India revived Quad arrangement, it also took membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. A longstanding trilateral with Russia and China now coexists with one involving the US and Japan. The idea, here, is to “engage competing powers like the US, China, the EU or Russia at the same time.”
India stands in favour of a multipolar world where the plurality of power centres would allow her to play one pole against the other. In this context, New Delhi wants Russia to remain an important player – but this is not the only reason. The other reasons, he said, were that India could emancipate itself from its dependence on Russia in terms of military equipment – when more than two thirds of its weapons came from Russia (or had been conceived in Russia), including sophisticated ones like the S-400. Secondly, New Delhi is keen to remain a partner of Russia to balance China.
Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2022