India is arguably in the process of recalibrating its multi-alignment policy in light of the rapidly changing geostrategic environment across the world. Basically, the South Asian Great Power realized that it must improve relations with Russia in response to recent disagreements with the US, the latter of which made New Delhi uncomfortable with its new partners in Washington. It’s doing this by purchasing the S-400s despite US sanctions threats, pioneering the Vladivostok-Chennai Maritime Corridor (VCMC), and conducting “vaccine diplomacy” with Moscow. Amid this, India is also expanding its ties with the G7 to avoid provoking the West.
Prime Minister Modi participated as the lead speaker in the G7’s session on “Open Societies” last month, after which his country issued a joint statement alongside its Western partners. That document emphasized their collective commitment to democratic norms and combating disinformation, among other relevant issues. Interestingly, this happened just days after Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Dean Thompson criticized India’s democratic credentials while testifying before the US Congress last week according to media reports. He said that he was specifically concerned with what he described as “increasing restrictions on freedom of speech and the detention of human rights activists and journalists.” The diplomat also said that “Kashmir is one area where we have urged them to return to normalcy as quickly as possible”.
Nevertheless, the Indian leader was still invited to lead the earlier mentioned session on “Open Societies”, which speaks to the fact that the US isn’t so concerned with these issues that it wants to exclude the South Asian Great Power from America’s growing “alliance of democracies” that President Biden promised to assemble. The G7 is emerging as the primary platform through which Washington wants to organize these efforts in order to promote its unstated but increasingly obvious goal of containing China, an objective that India also shares. This explains why a Ministry of External Affairs official said shortly after that his country will study the specifics of the G7’s “Build Back Better World” (B3W) proposal for countering China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) through infrastructure projects across the Global South, especially in Africa.
Some observers might have forgotten about this considering all the dramatic events of the past year and a half, but India is the dual leader of the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) alongside Japan, a proposal from a few years ago that has yet to fully take off. Should India opt to participate in the G7’s B3W, then it could prospectively seek to synergize it with the AAGC. That scenario would be to the benefit of all stakeholders, including the Global South nations that they intend to more actively engage with through “economic diplomacy”. It’s practically impossible for any one country to compete with China across the Global South considering how deeply entrenched BRI has become there over the past eight years, but pooling their capabilities and coordinating their investments could result in India and its G7 allies making incipient progress with time.
Furthermore, India’s possible participation in the B3W might convince the US to back off from its S-400 sanctions threats, especially if the Putin-Biden Summit eventually results in a mild de-escalation of tensions between the two like I predicted will happen in my scenario forecast that was published last month at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC). In that event, the US might realize the wisdom in backtracking on its prior bullying against India just like it recently did against Germany vis-a-vis its decision to waive most Nord Stream II sanctions due to the fact that the S-400s actually complement India’s military balancing capabilities against China, which also serves American strategic interests. This outcome could enable India to more perfectly balance between Russia and the G7, thus boosting its overall balancing capabilities against China.
Considering all the insight that was shared in this analysis, it’s self-evident that India’s recalibration of its multi-alignment policy is leading to more balanced relations with Russia and the West. Each of these primary pillars is meant to balance out one another so as to avoid disproportionate strategic dependence on either, as well as avoid inadvertently provoking any suspicions from them about India’s intentions (i.e. speculation of a “pivot”). China might obviously be concerned with these latest developments, but so long as the military situation along their disputed frontier remains stable – and each party appears to have the political will to ensure that, at least for the time being – then Indian-Chinese relations will also mostly remain stable as well. The end effect is that India is poised to become an increasingly important player in the emerging Multipolar World Order.