Back in September 2020, when the Russians hosted India’s external affairs minister S. Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the sidelines of the formal Russia-China-India meeting, many, including me, applauded. It was hoped that the face-to-face meeting would help break the deadlock over the Ladakh crisis, enabling both Indian and Chinese troops to withdraw to their respective sides of the LAC and allow their leaderships to save face.
The Russia intervention, I argued, would help return Russia front and centre to India’s imagination. An old friend would use its good offices with a new one, and persuade it to see the light. Even if the Chinese claimed this territory, there was much merit in discussing the matter; after all, China has been party to several agreements on maintaining peace and tranquility on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which it unilaterally violated by sending troops to Ladakh.
How wrong we were! Not only did Russia not once comment on the Ladakh standoff, it now transpires that it won’t in the future either. Russia will not choose between India and China because it doesn’t want to, head of the Carnegie Moscow Center Dmitri Trenin told me. Russia looks at the world differently, Trenin added, compared to Delhi or Washington DC or Beijing, pointing out that it was in Moscow’s interest to encourage a multipolar world in which several powerful axes, besides the US, existed.
Russia in Chinese arms
First, the lay of the land. China will overtake the US to become the world’s most powerful economy by 2028, says a UK consultancy group, five years before it was expected to because of Covid.