It’s rare to come across something that calmly acknowledges the differences between India and the US’ approaches to Russia while still respecting its leadership’s independent agency and appreciating what it’s trying to achieve in terms of the bigger picture.
Derek Grossman, a senior defense analyst at the Rand Corporation, just published the most accurate Western analysis of India yet. Titled “India’s Maddening Russia Policy Isn’t as Bad as Washington Thinks”, which is paywalled but can be read in full for free here, he explained to Foreign Policy that the hitherto prevailing interpretation of that South Asian state’s approach to Moscow is actually much more logical than it appears to be among his peers at first glance.
Far from lacking any rhyme or reason, it’s predicated on an ultra-realist understanding of International Relations that always priorities the Indian leadership’s notion of their objective national interests. With this in mind, claims of the sort that are popular in the West nowadays alleging that India abandoned the liberal international order upon refusing to condemn or sanction Russia are premature and belie a failure to appreciate the ways in which India continues to uphold this order in its own way.
Grossman regards Prime Minister Modi’s quip about how “today’s era is not an era of war” as being indicative of India’s desire to defend that selfsame order just like how External Affairs Minister Jaishankar’s insistence on a peaceful solution to the Ukrainian Conflict can be interpreted similarly. Its membership in the Quad as well as training of Global South officials on diplomatic, electoral, human rights, media, and military matters are presented as evidence buttressing his observation.
Nevertheless, he also clarified that “Just because New Delhi supports the liberal international order does not, however, mean that it is entirely comfortable with the arrangement”, adding that “India aspires to become part of the newly emerging multipolar international landscape.” By “forging its own, nonaligned path”, Grossman wrote, “the grand strategic prize that no bloc can win diminishes each side’s collective power against the others and thereby dampens the prospects for conflict.”
The aforementioned approach “seems a net positive for upholding the international order”, which is a surprisingly sober assessment for a Western analyst to make and one which should hopefully be deeply reflected upon by his peers who’ve thus far failed to appreciate India’s stabilizing role in this order. Grossman shortly thereafter wraps everything up on a positive note by imploring policymakers to accept India’s independent agency and agreeing to disagree whenever compromises aren’t possible.
What’s so impressive about his article is that it’s stunningly accurate and exactly the sort of insight that Westerners need to consider going forward in order to pragmatically retain strategic ties with India. Truth be told, however, I’ve been saying the exact same thing and in much greater detail for the past ten months already as proven by the nearly four dozen analyses that I enumerated in my recent response to an influential Indian intellectual here.
For instance, on the exact same day in early June that Grossman published his piece at Foreign Affairs about how “India’s Multipolar Moment Has Arrived” that he cited in his latest article for that same outlet, I coincidentally published my own related analysis at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) about how “India Is The Irreplaceable Balancing Force In The Global Systemic Transition”. The most important difference between our assessments was my reference to the Neo-NAM.
This concept refers to the new Non-Aligned Movement that I predicated India would seek to assemble across the Global South for jointly pioneering a third pole of influence in the present bi-multipolar intermediary phase of the global systemic transition. I wrote about the first-mentioned for RIAC back in December 2021 and the second for the Indian military magazine Force two months prior in October, each of which can be read in the preceding hyperlinked analyses.
By bi-multipolarity, I was referring to Indian thinker Sanjara Baru’s observation that International Relations can best be described as disproportionately influenced by the global competition between the American and Chinese superpowers, below which are Great Powers like his country and Russia, all of which remain above comparatively medium- and smaller-sized states in the international hierarchy. My analysis for Force also cited my academic article from May 2020 about the Neo-NAM.
As far back as two and a half years ago, I already foresaw that India would pioneer a tripolar revolution in International Relations, which I elaborated upon in detail for the official journal of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO, which is run by the Russian Foreign Ministry). Titled “The Prospects of Russia and India Jointly Leading a New Non-Aligned Movement”, it presciently predicted India’s non-aligned approach over the past year and can be read by clicking on the preceding hyperlink.
The purpose in pointing this out is to prove that my analyses of Indian grand strategy were far ahead of the curve (especially as evidenced by my earlier cited piece enumerating nearly four dozen related works over the past year) and laid the basis for the insight that Grossman recently shared. To be clear, he arrived at his conclusions independently and shouldn’t be assumed to have been influenced by my work, but that just further reinforces the analytical accuracy of everything that I previously put forth.
Although his latest piece doesn’t explicitly discuss the Neo-NAM or India’s tripolarity plans, the latter of which I detailed in my analysis for RIAC in late June titled “Towards Dual-Tripolarity: An Indian Grand Strategy For The Age Of Complexity”, his reference to India’s “own, nonaligned path” channels that spirit. It’s likely only a matter of time before he catches up to these concepts and realizes that these interconnected grand strategic goals are precisely what India is pursuing across the Global South.
Despite not yet arriving at that conclusion like I already did long ago, Grossman’s piece is still very impressive and deserves to be praised for representing the most accurate Western analysis of India yet. It’s rare to come across something that calmly acknowledges the differences between that country and the US’ approaches to Russia while still respecting its leadership’s independent agency and appreciating what it’s trying to achieve in terms of the bigger picture.
Western observers have hitherto found it “politically convenient” to jump on the India-bashing bandwagon by claiming that this rising Great Power is “reliably unreliable” as The Economist recently smeared it as being, but Grossman bucked the trend with his much-needed sober analysis. He clarified that which his peers have thus far been struggling to understand, and will hopefully in the process help policymakers formulate a more pragmatic approach for managing relations with India going forward.