Will Putin succeed in bringing India into the fold? - TAHA KILINÇ

Will Putin succeed in bringing India into the fold?

Russian President Vladimir Putin paid an official visit to Indian capital New Delhi on Monday. During meetings with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the two countries signed 28 deals of all shapes and sizes that encompass diverse fields of investment. Within this context, technical details of the weapons India would purchase from Russia were hammered out. With this consensus, which India’s Defense Ministry branded as a “turning point,” the capacity of the Indian army will significantly expand. 

When considering the global position India has adopted in the last couple of years, the timing of Putin’s visit to New Delhi could not be more peculiar. India, which has had border disputes with China for quite a while now, adopted a policy that required it to cozy up to the U.S. to secure its own future. Taking into consideration the years-long friendship and alliance between China and Russia, Putin’s trip to India is, indeed, “extraordinarily symbolic.” 

Notorious for his overly warm bear hugs with an array of world leaders, Narendra Modi has a special relationship with former U.S. President Donald Trump. During Trump’s visit to New Delhi in February of 2020, he was greeted with an extraordinary crowd and extravagant welcome fit for an emperor. Trump, for his part, stepped over the line that many leaders carefully tread when they visit India, and mentioned the delicate matters of Pakistan and Kashmir to his Indian addressees, highlighting his friendship with Prime Minister Imran Khan. Even though he quickly saved face by singing Modi’s praises, Trump’s words had the effect of a cold shower on the Indian front.

Another fruit of the rapport between Trump and Modi is the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD), which was revived over the course of this friendship. It was clear that QUAD, which was first established in 2007 with the participation of the U.S., India, Japan and Australia, but caught in a rut afterward, was clearly designed as a united front against China. When life was breathed once more into QUAD in 2017, this not only drew the ire of China but Russia, too. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov interpreted it as a Western attempt to “include India in the games against China.” India defended QUAD, saying it has “no military objective and does not target any country, but it failed to convince Moscow. Russia, which has not changed its mind on the function of QUAD and India’s role in it, is determined not to lose India to the "American camp" by putting Vladimir Putin himself to good use.  

The one thing all political observers agree on is that Russia and India can work as one in Afghanistan. The concern that the Taliban administration will gain far too much power and that terror will be exported into neighboring countries are two of the biggest soft spots that both India and Russia share when it comes to Afghanistan. However, on the scene of the Afghan front are also two of India’s most formidable foes: Pakistan and China. It remains a mystery as to how New Delhi will turn this complicated equation into an advantage. It is also clear that Russia will not put Pakistan and China aside and put all of its eggs in Afghanistan in India’s basket.

The Narendra Modi administration has adopted a stern and racist policy against the world’s biggest Muslim minority of 220 million people, which it holds in its midst, in India. Belligerence, which ebbs and flows from time to time but never ends, has turned into Modi's entrenched policy and go-to method to secure votes. Ironically, his government is concerned that Indian Muslims will launch “radical” actions like the Taliban, while simultaneously intensifying the pressure and humiliation policy they’re subjecting Muslims to. On the other hand, the ease in Russia's attitude towards its own Muslim minority is at a level that cannot ever be compared with India. Of course, Putin takes all kinds of political, economic, and religious measures to shape this Muslim population in accordance with his own policies, but in practice, there is a relative freedom that the Muslims there enjoy.                                                 

 The question we have to ask now is: What sort of roadmap and plan of action does this great Muslim population have against all the political schemes and policies targeting it? Or is it too busy being swept away by the current?  

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