The threat of two major wars looms large over Asia — one in the South China Sea between China and the US-led QUAD (which includes India), and the other in the Himalayas between China and India.
Ironically, China and India are common in both the permutations. Both countries face a two-front war scenario.
What, however, is the surprise element in this growing war scenario? The exact guess is Russia! Russia is very skeptical of QUAD – a strategic alliance of the US, India, Australia, and Japan — and has disengaged with India, by canceling the Indo-Russian summit, on December 23 for the first time in two decades.
India has signaled a true departure from the past and is lined-up with the US now for perhaps some decades to come. Israel and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are the staunchest allies of the US and are, therefore, allied with India.
China and Pakistan are engaged in a month-long military exercise, and China has told India to look at it ‘objectively’. The joint exercise came in the backdrop of China and Pakistan’s new memorandum of understanding to boost their already long-term close defense relationship.
The agreement was signed between China’s Defense Minister Wei Fenghe and Pakistan leadership after he visited Pakistan military headquarters in Rawalpindi.
On the conclusion of the exercises of the two air forces, Pakistan Air Force Chief Mujahid Anwar Khan had demanded that such exercises be organized regularly owing to the rising global situation during his address at the annual “Shaheen (Eagle)-IX” exercise that culminated at an Operational Air Base of the PAF.
China’s Ambassador to Pakistan Nong Rong was also present on the occasion. The posturing by China and Pakistan, barely a few hundred kilometers from the Indian border, has the potential to force India to also prepare for any uncertain eventuality.
Russia is also growing wary of the new geopolitical order with particular reference to the US which has snatched away India from it after its 70 years of friendship with the country, and hence, its ambassador to New Delhi on December 22, Nikolay Kudashev, has given a message that Russia is committed to its relationship with Pakistan and India need not worry.
No wonder, the Russian strategy will now be guided by the new arising confabulation of the dynamics involved by the emergence of QUAD which surely is as much a challenge to Russia as it is to China.
Russia, therefore, would not like to see the US bash-up China that easily. Russia and China have had a long tacit understanding to forge a front against the US, precisely after 1989 when the Soviet Union collapsed.
#Ryabkov: Every day we record malicious activity on servers located outside of #Russia, & the #US sources of various types of attacks are usually in the foreground. We do not go public with this, do not present it as some kind of sensation https://t.co/2HNdVsyS97 pic.twitter.com/fUjoUh5pCM
— Russia in India (@RusEmbIndia) December 25, 2020
Russia in a renewed move to confront the US has now started to organize joint aerial strategic patrolling in the Asia Pacific since December 22, 2020, which is slated to become ‘routine’.
According to the reports, the patrol included a joint formation of Chinese four H-6K and two TU-95 Russian bombers, as both the countries displayed their air force might in the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea, without violating the airspace of any other country.
It can easily be understood that though the ‘exercises’ were declared not to have been aimed at any other country, the obvious message was to the US.
If skeptics are to be believed, then no doubt Russia has aimed a message against India too as Russia and China are defense partners, and India at the behest of the US has entered into nine pacts with Vietnam on December 21.
Vietnam is supposedly a key partner in the Indo-Pacific region. Both India and Vietnam have agreed to step up their military-to-military exchanges across the three services.
India has little stake in the South China Sea but, apparently, is firmly with the US to provoke China. This has possibly made Russia form an alliance with China more openly to counter the US.
Russia, by the same logic, may have embraced Pakistan too, which India, of course, would not like to see as more than 70 percent of the country’s weapons are Russian-made. Even the Afghan-Taliban (AT), which broke the Soviet Union, are today getting Russian support against the US along with help from China amid the changing geopolitical landscape.
If Pakistan aims to pit the Afghan-Taliban against India, then FATF (Financial Action Task Force) constraints would deter Pakistan from doing so. It may be noted that Islamabad figures in the FATF list for terror funding.
The Afghan-Taliban are also a scourge to Russia, since during the Azerbaijan-Armenia war, Turkey, according to Russian intelligence, was to unleash them against Russia, if the country threw its weight behind Armenia. The war ended in a ceasefire. Russia did not want to open-up the scars of the pre-Soviet Union era.
The world is standing in a very precarious position as all the major countries like Russia, China, India, and the US are almost on a brink of a war, which might lead to the ultimate ‘World War-III’ and into more darkness as if the COVID-19 pandemic were not enough to bring the world on its knees with millions and millions already lost their jobs and livelihood.
Meanwhile, it is to be seen as to how Russia tends to deliver the S-400 missile system worth $5.43-billion to India by next year to help it fortify its borders.
The writer is a former State Information Commissioner, India, He is a media analyst and writes on international politics.