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Editorial of the Day: Russia and China’s Plan is to Divide and Rule the West (Indian Express)

Context: The article is discussing the strategic partnership between Russia and China, and their hopes of exploiting divisions within the West to transform the global order. It also mentions the Sino-Russian aspiration of building a post-Western order, which has resonance in many parts of the world, including India. However, the article gives India the necessary cushioning to not be alarmed by the Sino-Russian alliance and the existing fault-lines within the West as they are real, but not necessarily fatal.

Background of Russia and China’s plan is to divide and rule the West

Change in Balance of Power throughout history: Overview

Throughout history, the balance of power in geopolitics has shifted multiple times as a result of various factors, such as military might, economic strength, political alliances, and technological advancements.

  • Ancient Era:
    • During the ancient era, the balance of power in geopolitics was primarily determined by military might.
    • The empires of Persia, Rome, and China were dominant powers that controlled vast territories through military conquests.
  • Medieval Era:
    • In the medieval era, the balance of power shifted towards Europe with the rise of nation-states and the development of naval power.
    • The European powers, such as Spain, Portugal, England, and France, began to establish colonies and trade networks across the world, expanding their influence and wealth.
  • World war era:
    • World War I and World War II marked a significant shift in global power dynamics.
    • The devastation caused by these wars weakened European powers, leading to the rise of the United States and the Soviet Union.
  • Post-Cold War Power Equations:
    • With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States emerged as the sole superpower in the world.
    • However, the rise of China as an economic and military power, the increasing influence of the European Union, and the resurgence of Russia have led to a more multi-polar world.
    • Other emerging economies, such as India and Brazil, are also gaining in importance.

Decoding the Editorial

  • China-Russia Growing Proximity to change the Global Order: The article is discussing the current strategic partnership between Russia and China, and their strategy to transform the global order.
  • Strategy used:
    • Garnering Support from Developing Economies:
      • They are promoting the idea of building a post-Western order, which has support in some parts of the world, including India.
      • The article also points out that this is not the first time that Russia and China have attempted to build a post-Western order and that in the 20th century, international communism was also aimed at creating such an order.
      • However, the efforts failed as Russia and China ended up with different compromises with the West, and eventually turned against each other.
      • The article implies that history might repeat itself, and the current partnership between Russia and China may not be as successful in upending the world order as they hope.
    • Exploiting the Divisions of the West & Enhancing Moscow-Beijing axis:
      • Both countries believe that they can exploit the West’s divisions by pooling their strengths, such as Russia’s military/nuclear power and natural resources and China’s growing economic weight.
      • They hope that with coordinated policies in Europe and Asia, they can end Western hegemony, which has lasted for 400 years.
      • Their success depends on leveraging the internal divisions between the US and Europe, and the Moscow-Beijing axis can put the West on the defensive.
    • Deepening Economic Dependence: The article says that China is using its economic power to undermine the US while Moscow is focusing on America’s political fractures.
      • China, as the world’s second-largest economy, has significant economic interdependence with the US.
      • Despite taking a hard political line towards the Biden Administration, China is also encouraging US industry to return to China to invest and make money there by opening its economy.
      • However, while many in the US want to return to business as usual with China, the popular opinion of the government is to move on and away from that approach.
    • Russia’s Latest Foreign Policy:
      • Russia’s latest foreign policy doctrine singles out the US as the main instigator of the collective West’s aggressive anti-Russian policy.
      • Thus Russia aims to divide America from Europe.
      • Russia has also criticized Europe for abandoning its strategic autonomy while pushing Europe back into US protection due to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
    • Affinity towards Neutral Nations:
      • Russia and China also have a passion for Europe’s strategic autonomy, similar to its enthusiasm for India’s non-alignment.
      • Also, China taking a neutral stand on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, calling for both sides to exercise restraint and resolve the issue through peaceful means has proved to be advantageous for Russia.
  • The Diplomatic Dance:
    • The European Union is not convinced by China’s proposed peace initiative for Ukraine because China does not distinguish between the aggressor (Russia) and the victim (Ukraine).
    • While Europe is looking to pressure China to take a more active role in ending the war in Ukraine, China is looking for Europe to distance itself from the US on China policy.
    • Despite growing concerns about China’s behaviour at home and abroad, Europe remains reluctant to “decouple” from China due to the massive economic relationship between the two.
      • However, the EU has called for steps to “de-risk” commercial ties with China, including increasing European competitiveness, reducing dependence on China for critical minerals, and greater scrutiny of outbound investment and technology exports.

Beyond the Editorial

Implications for India: India’s position in world geopolitics is complex and multi-dimensional, and the implications of the changing dynamics between Russia, China, and the US will likely be varied.

  • Pressure to choose between sides:
    • India may face increased pressure to choose sides between the US and China.
    • As the two powers compete for global influence, they may seek to pull India closer to their respective spheres of influence.
    • India’s response will likely depend on its perception of its own national interests and its ability to maintain strategic autonomy and its principle of Non-Alignment.
  • Strained Ties with Russia:
    • India’s relationship with Russia may become more complicated.
    • Russia has historically been a strategic partner of India, but its growing ties with China and recent tensions with the West could strain the relationship.
  • Benefits of Closer Ties with Europe:
    • India may benefit from closer ties with Europe.
    • As Europe seeks to reduce its dependence on China and balance against Russia, India could emerge as an attractive partner.
    • India’s growing economy and strategic location make it an attractive partner for Europe, which is seeking to diversify its economic and strategic partnerships.
  • Stronger Regional Position:
    • India’s regional position may become more important.
    • As great power competition intensifies, regional powers like India may play a more significant role in shaping regional dynamics.
    • India’s growing economic and military power, coupled with its strategic location, makes it a key player in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region.

Way Forward

  • Reassess Foreign Policy Strategy without compromising the principle of Non-Alignment: India has traditionally pursued a policy of non-alignment and maintained cordial relations with both Russia and China. However, with the changing dynamics in global politics and the growing proximity between China and Russia, India needs to reassess its foreign policy strategy.
  • Multilateralism via strengthening Ties: To ensure multilateralism and non-alignment, India should focus on strengthening its relations with other like-minded countries such as the US, Japan, Australia, and other democracies in the Indo-Pacific region. This will help India balance its relationship with China and Russia and prevent any one country from dominating the region.
  • Voicing the Opinion in Global Forums: India should also play an active role in multilateral institutions such as the United Nations, World Trade Organization, and other regional forums to promote the principles of multilateralism, equal distribution of power, and peaceful resolution of conflicts.
  • Focus on Strategic Autonomy: Furthermore, India should continue to strengthen its military capabilities and invest in defence modernization to deter any potential threats from China and Russia. India can also leverage its strategic location and become a hub for regional connectivity and trade, thereby increasing its economic and political influence in the region.

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