Is India realigning with Kremlin?

Entry of S-400 in South Asian military scene will break US hegemony on arms sales

By buying the S-400 Missile System, New Delhi has placed the USA in a challenging but interesting situation where Washington needs to manage buffer relationships with New Delhi and try to find face-saving too, because the USA clamped sanctions on Turkey back in 2017 for the same sin India has committed today.

If procurement of Russian military gear is turpitude for US allies, then the USA needs something tangible as an excuse for waiving off India from the list or facing the questions over duplicity in its geostrategic policies.

- Advertisement -

Due to the grave regional scenario after the Syrian war, Turkey felt obliged to look to enhance its air defense system and took a bold step regarding strengthening its defense system by moving out of the manipulations of NATO allies defense system and made a deal with Russia to obtain the S-400 surface to air missile defense system. As a result, the USA kicked out Turkey from the “F-35 countries” list and also imposed defense sanctions on Turkey.

The US strategy to confront the rise of China is a losing proposition because Five Eyes and Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) failed to overcome Chinese influence in Southeast and South Asia so AKUAS would just another US attempt in desperation at the turn of events in the 21st century. The potential frontline state in South Asia against China is not a member of this venture, explaining the trust deficit between the USA and India over the future regional developments. By being a member of QUAD India must have expected to be a party in AKUAS as well, instead of the US partnering with countries having no border links with the Indian Ocean. This military alliance is much more important than QUAD and explains the Indian position in the USA’s sphere.

US is branding “F-35 countries” as “superior nations”, so denying Turkey the sale of F-35s was a serious punishment like disowning a child of the family, therefore the USA had to have something really solid to justify its decision. While explaining the possible reason for canceling the sale of the F-35 to Turkey, Pentagon Editor at Air Force Magazine, Abraham Mahshie, in his article “Turkey’s Erdogan and Biden to Face Off Over F-16 and F-35 Debacle “ indicates that NATO allies thought that Russian technicians while manning the controls of radar system connect with S-400 missile system can study the vulnerabilities of the F-35 and F-16 when fighter jets were flying over the S-400 system.

This fear is not unfounded because pseudolocking of the target (F-35) can explain vulnerabilities of both— the target and the missile, so Russian can enhance the capacity and capability of S-400 with available data after doing a pseudolocking exercise.

Indian writer Aaron Mehta also fears that Russia could use S-400 to acquire classified information about the F-16 (already under use of the Turkish Air Force) and F-35 and thus pose a threat to the NATO defense system. Fear made sense as the S-400 was built specifically to destroy US-made missiles and flying objects. The S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system is the most advanced equipment and is commonly known as a triumph in Russia. It is capable of firing three types of missiles to create a layered defence. The system can engage all types of aerial targets, including aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), and ballistic and cruise missiles, within the range of 400km at an altitude of up to 30 km. The system can simultaneously engage 36 targets.

History has been repeated and the US strategic partner in South Asia—India has purchased the system from a cold war-era friend. India and Russia are calling this deal a “partnership for peace, progress, and prosperity” and pledge their allegiance toward each other. Re-alliance includes boosting the defense ties with a 10 years’ cooperation programme. Targets have been set to expand bilateral trade and investment. In addition, the two sides concluded a deal for India’s procurement of 600,000 AK-203 assault rifles. The AK-203 rifles are to be procured through the joint venture of Indo-Russia rifles.

Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said that Putin’s short but highly productive visit set a base for some highly ambitious targets. He further added that the target had been set to increase bilateral trade to 30 billion US dollars and bilateral investment to $50 billion by 2025. Indian media reports that other things on the agenda are connectivity options such as the international north-south corridor with the new changing geopolitical scenarios in the Indo-Pacific.

- Advertisement -

Indian newspapers believe that the USA tried its level best to put India under its shadow, making India a member of QUAD while Russia had expressed concern that this quadrilateral strategic dialogue will deform the geopolitics of the region. The Russia-India relationship during the cold war is tested and India after leaning towards the USA for some time is diving backward to re-align with old support.

India take AKUAS as a fortune-telling mirror and after seeing its shaky future with the USA decided to come upfront. Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States on 15 September formed a multipurpose military alliance with a drive of collective security in the region of Indo-Pacific for encircling Chinese trade routes. The alliance is called AKUAS (abbreviation of Australia (A), United Kingdom (UK), and United States (US).

The US strategy to confront the rise of China is a losing proposition because Five Eyes and Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) failed to overcome Chinese influence in Southeast and South Asia so AKUAS would just another US attempt in desperation at the turn of events in the 21st century. The potential frontline state in South Asia against China is not a member of this venture, explaining the trust deficit between the USA and India over the future regional developments. By being a member of QUAD India must have expected to be a party in AKUAS as well, instead of the US partnering with countries having no border links with the Indian Ocean. This military alliance is much more important than QUAD and explains the Indian position in the USA’s sphere.

On the other hand, Russia is not hysterical at all about China and has been advising India to keep away from the high-risk game theUSA is playing in Indo-Pacific waters and pushing India not to prefer all US inclusive geopolitics in the region. Being an old partner Russia weighs more and once again heavily marks its presence in the regional strategic maneuvering.

Turkey bought S-400 and faced sanctions and India has also bought S-400 but I do not see any sanctions against India at sight. The US will look for buffer relations to find a way out of this awkward situation but how? is the question.

Shazia Anwer Cheema
The writer Shazia Cheema is an analyst writing for national and international media outlets. She heads the DND Thought Center. She did her MA in Cognitive Semiotics from Aarhus University Denmark and is currently registered as a Ph.D. Scholar of Semiotics and Philosophy of Communication at Charles University Prague

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Must Read

PM Shehbaz, Zardari discuss options to help foil PTI’s resignation plan

ISLAMABAD: The federal government has decided to employ all possible tools to help foil PTI's plan to dissolve provincial assemblies of Punjab and Khyber...