- India’s compulsions made spoil the SCO
By Azhar Azam
The two-day Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit ended in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek last Friday amid a novel fray between Beijing and Washington on annexing new allies and under the bracing rapprochement between China and Russia.
As the trade tensions with China broil in the backdrop, US President Donald Trump is flying from North Pole to South Pole to discuss ideas with US allies how to route China and on the other hand, Chinese President Xi Jingping cozied up to Russian President Vladimir Putin to persuade New Delhi to join Beijing in calming down Washington’s trade war frenzy.
At the SCO forum, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi again vied for Xi’s support over alleged Pakistan patronage of militant activities in the disputed Indian-held Kashmir and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan urged international mediation to resolve the core Kashmir issue that has recurrently brought the two South Asian nations on the verge of a nuclear war.
Under unassailable Indian compulsions and its greater stakes in Washington, the SCO summit concluded without any substantial outcome to the favour of China and Russia or to the disquiet of the USA
The eternal victim of Trump’s oral crusades, Iran was also the part of the annual multilateral pact with observer status and pressed the member states to back Tehran in neutralizing US punitive measures and its military threats in the Persian Gulf.
American Cold War foe Russia’s president outlined the Kremlin approach for a Syrian settlement and spoke on the Iranian nuclear issue and “on actions within the framework of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group”. According to Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov, the Indo-Pak diplomatic spat was not on the agenda.
The USA should be closely observing the proceedings as the top leaderships of three of its rival countries– China, Russia, and Iran– were working to forge a collaborative alliance in response to Trump’s showdown with each of them. Washington, of course, seeks a split among them to eschew a converged trilateral front though beholding Trump’s chronicle, he won’t mind taking them on individually or simultaneously.
Whereas Beijing, Moscow, and Tehran would hope New Delhi would part ways with Washington after India has been volleyed hard by Trump on tariffs on US goods. Recently, he also removed India from special trade status that exempts billions of dollars of Indian goods from US tariffs.
In addition, before the US sanctions waiver ended on May 2, New Delhi was the second-largest buyer of Iranian oil after China but now its oil imports from Tehran have sunk to zero. Murky shades of CAATSA sanctions are looming on the Indian purchase of S-400 missile defence system from Russia too.
But New Delhi would be disinclined to construct an alliance that could aggravate the USA. At the same time, with the approaching meeting between Trump and Modi at the G-20 summit and Indian strife with China, India certainly would dislike any Chinese idea to confront the USA, which could jeopardize its strategic economic interests in the world’s largest economy.
The other problem with India is that it wants to embrace everyone concurrently that under the sprouting frictions among China and Russia and the USA, which is largely impracticable. It continues to seesaw in between Russia and the USA though its position apparently is substantially tilted towards Washington.
The Sino-Indian brawl and the massive Indian market alongside its ecstatic economic growth unleash enormous opportunities for the USA to milk it in bulk on Washington’s trade and strategic interests. As China and Pakistan share deep relations, New Delhi is the sole choice for Washington to confine China in the region.
Trump is very confident about India. In his interview with CNBC, his remark “he (Modi) reduced it (tariffs on Harley motorcycles) by 50 percent with one phone call” tells of his increasing faith about Indian cooperation with Trump administration and pro-U.S. Indian foreign policy.
Trump is optimistic to snatch a deal with Beijing as well. In a TV interview, he walled his protectionist trade policies stating because of tariffs, China is getting absolutely decimated by companies that are leaving the country.
He also slated his political rivals. “Had a Democrat gotten in (Hillary)…China would have caught us by the end of her term…Not with what I am doing. They’ll never catch us.” Trump further claimed that China wants to make a deal much more than he does.
In the meantime, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be embarking on a four-nation trip to India, Sri Lanka, Japan, and South Korea from June 24 to strengthen alliances with the countries against China and reassure US support for a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
Russia is the other contender for international domination. Counter to the US interests, the increased Russian engagement in Middle East and the escalating boldness of the Kremlin navy confronting U.S. warships in the blue waters makes it highly unlikely for India to pay heed to Moscow’s advice to patch-up with China or even sustain close relations with Russia itself, in the way it used to do in the past.
Under unassailable Indian compulsions and its greater stakes in Washington, the SCO summit concluded without any substantial outcome to the favour of China and Russia or to the disquiet of the USA. It was a regional festivity though.
The writer is based in Pakistan, he works in a private organisation and writes on geopolitical issues and regional conflicts. His thoughts and opinions have appeared in several domestic and international publications.