By Wu Minwen
The Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation recently announced that Russia had begun to deliver the S-400 air defense missile systems to India. The US, who has been objecting military cooperation between the two countries, failed to tank this deal.
For a long time, the US has been courting India to intensify its strategic containment of China. While India, who seeks to elevate international standing and gain some ground on the border dispute with China, has been trying to have it both ways between Russia and the US. However, India's self-serving calculation seems unrealistic.
There is a long-standing contradiction between the US and Russia. Nowadays Washington said to improve the ties with Moscow, while on the other hand, it aggravated the discord between its European allies and Russia. No country could succeed in putting money on both sides with two conflicting countries.
The incompatibility between American and Russian weapon systems is also a challenge for India. Since the days of the Soviet Union, India has been highly reliant on Russian weapons. But the Russian weapons and American ones lack compatibility with totally different technical specifications. The Indian troops have had a hard time achieving basic coordination in training, and the overall efficiency in wartime remains a question.
Besides, Countries strong in military technology have been “generous” and uninhibited in selling arms to India, which makes its arsenal a big pot of medley and makes it difficult for the Indian military to change this situation and rely less on weaponry import. It is strengths and actions that decide India’s position in the alliance. Not based on an even footing and leveraged only on the mixture of weapons and equipment, it might be a bit naïve for India to imagine being in a major country position to try its hand with the US and Russia.
On November 11, India’s Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat named China “enemy number one”. "India needs the United States and Russia, both… We need both to be on our sides if we have to fight China if the need arises," he hoped. However, it might be nothing more than his wishful thinking.
India’s domination in the Indian Ocean isn’t in US’s interests. A key principle of US’s foreign policy and military strategy is that it will try and nip any regional domination that might shake its own global hegemony. Therefore, India’s domination in the Indian Ocean isn’t in US’s interests, so Washington’s military support to New Delhi will definitely follow a line, that is, to achieve its own strategic goal through India while keeping it from interfering in and damaging US’s interests.
In the meantime, the close Russia-India ties will dilute Washington’s trust in and expectation for New Delhi. The US doesn’t like its allies using Russian weapons not only because that would make the allies rely less on itself, impair the alliance’s cohesion, and hurt its own arms sales, but also because it would threaten the combat system of the American military. Modern warfare is a systematic project that has a lethal flaw – any local defeat would collapse the whole system. That’s the underlying reason why the US emphasizes the importance of keeping Russian weapons out of its allies’ weapon systems.
The close military relation between Russia and India has changed the way the US sees India. First, the listing of names at the “Quad” talks changed from “the US, Japan, India and Australia” to “the US, Japan, Australia and India”; then India was excluded from the newly formed trilateral regime AUKUS. Therefore, India’s dream to have it both ways between Russia and the US will be nothing but a pipe dream, either strategically or tactically.
(Editor's note: The author is from the College of Information and Communication, National University of Defense Technology. This article is originally published on China Youth Daily, and is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military Online. The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of eng.chinamil.com.cn.)