The world is wary of anything it doesn’t understand, control or threatens its preeminence. Vladimir Putin’s Russia is all of that. Hence the strengthening of the Putin-Modi equation will be a source of worry for America and its allies, which have economic and military interests in the AfPak region and are counting on India to be their primary ally, though the US refuses to declare Pakistan a terror state.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi knows this too well. Hence, BRICS will be the forum to balance Russo-Indian interests with America’s untrustworthy AfPak policy. India and Russia have a historic past, which the US is aware of. Hence, Modi finds himself in an advantageous position despite China making pro-Pakistan noises for dialogue, which is unlikely to be heeded by South Block. Many diplomats believe that Russia’s recent joint military exercise with Pakistan is Putin’s use of maskirovka, the old Russian military strategem of deception to confuse subcontinental politics, since the alchemy of alliances hasn’t produced a new philosopher’s stone yet. Media chatter about a Sino-Russian effort to arm-twist India to talk to Pakistan instead of replying with cross-border strikes looks like Track-II lobby at work.
Russia quickly snubbed Pakistan’s claim that the exercises took place in PoK. Putin is clear where his interests lie. In the quicksand of regional weddings, he needs to strengthen Russia’s old ties with India to play
sudoku with both the US and China. Putin’s reputation has become something like Darth Vader’s—an invincible jedi who can strike anywhere, anytime. He is suspected of hacking White House computers, leaking emails and interfering with the US presidential campaign in Donald Trump’s support. Russia is blamed for shooting down aircraft and blaming the Ukranians for it, and wanting to get control over Crimea. Putin suppresses dissent, subverts elections and jails anyone—oligarch or intellectual—who opposes his agenda. The unpopular truth is that the Russian President disregards world opinion in protecting what he believes is his country’s interests and, of course, his own.World leadership is not a popularity contest, but a pragmatic expression of nationalist doctrine, a maxim Modi realises.
Pakistan’s crowing apart, India’s best ally in fighting terror is Russia. Putin wiped out Muslim separatists in Chechnya with the same ruthlessness he used against rock bands and bloggers. To the naive horror of Obama & Co, he stands by Russia’s oldest ally in the Middle East—the Assads—bombing IS and al-Qaeda. The US conveniently forgets it authored the Middle East crisis when it invaded Iraq.
The emergence of a strong leader in the European theatre makes Western leaders look like mannequins without a shop window. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is a failed madonna of liberal guilt. UK Prime Minister Theresa May looks like a neo-Nazi nintendo wannabe. French President François Hollande is more tepid than diluted sauce. The US presidential race is between which candidate is less dislikeable, and not who will be a better president. In Russia, however, the choice is between Putin and Putin.
Russia was once the third largest empire in history. History shows an empire that has fallen is pitied by its neighbours, while an empire that has risen from its own ashes is feared. Modi wants India to be the latter.