Critiquing Sameer Lalwani & Happymon Jacob’s Debate About Russian-Indian Ties
This entire debate was artificially manufactured by the Mainstream Media last year and was just recently fueled by one of the US’ top think tanks, without which it would recede into oblivion since it doesn’t objectively exist because the easily verifiable facts discredit its very basis.
Indian Intellectuals Face Off Over Russia
Indian intellectuals Sameer Lalwani and Happymon Jacob shared their views about Russian-Indian ties in an article for the Council on Foreign Relation’s Foreign Affairs magazine asking “Will India Ditch Russia?: Debating The Future Of An Old Friendship”. Lalwani’s insight into this question, which cited Jacob, was responded to by the latter. Both of their articles were then released together as a single one by this leading US think tank, but each of them deserves to be critiqued since their insight is arguably amiss.
Before doing so, the reader should review four of my prior responses to Indian intellectuals:
* 23 September: “Korybko To Happymon Jacob: Russian-Indian Ties Are Qualitatively Evolving”
* 28 November: “Korybko To Rajagopalan: India’s Principled Neutrality Does Indeed Ensure Its Security”
* 16 January: “Andrew Korybko To Anita Inder Singh: Your Perception of The Ukrainian Conflict Is Flawed”
* 23 January: “Korybko To Bobby Ghosh: Here’s Why Indians Are Suspicious Of The US & What To Do About It”
I’ll now briefly summarize what I told them, including Jacob, before proceeding.
Basically, Indian intellectuals have a tendency to embrace the liberal-globalist ideology of the US-led West’s Golden Billion. This has in turn blinded them to the Neo-Realist basis of contemporary Indian foreign policy, especially regarding Russia. Many of these same intellectuals also have a leftist background, which further contributes to their fundamentally flawed analyses. The reality is that Indian grand strategy is apolitical and purely interests-driven, thus making it different from the West’s.
Lalwani’s Three False Opening Claims
It's against this backdrop that I’ll now critique Lalwani’s piece before moving along to Jacob’s. To begin with, his view is just as fundamentally flawed as his fellow intellectual peers’ since he opens up by putting forth the demand that “India should diversify its partnerships away from Russia, given the latter’s disregard for territorial sovereignty, its growing dependence on China, and the unreliable weapons Russia supplies”, none of which is true.
The first one about territorial sovereignty disregards the ways in which NATO exploited Ukraine to cross Russia’s national security red lines by threatening to erode the integrity of its nuclear second-strike deterrent capabilities which in turn prompted Moscow to kinetically react after diplomatic means failed. The second concerning growing dependence on China is debunked by Beijing quietly complying with the US’ anti-Russian sanctions, while the third is rubbished by Russia continuing to deliver S-400s to India.
Lawani’s Solid Points About China & The US
While I just explained above why I contest Lalwani’s suggestion that “U.S. policymakers should help India realize that Russia is a liability”, he does indeed have a point in also proposing that “they should not penalize New Delhi for its continued relations with Moscow as long as they can count on India to play a larger and more active role in countering Chin[a]”. That would objectively be the optimal way for the US to recalibrate its needlessly complicated relations with India that Washington is responsible for.
Lalwani is also right in clarifying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s famous quip to President Vladimir Putin last September about how “now is not an era of war” shouldn’t be interpreted as a so-called “rebuke” like many in the US-led West’s Mainstream Media (MSM) either deceitfully or wishfully spun it as. Not only that, but his insight into the mutual military-technical importance of the Russian-Indian Strategic Partnership is also worthwhile Westerners reflecting on as well.
Lalwani’s Flawed View Of Indian Grand Strategy
Where he veers off course once again, however, is when he speculates that “Indian officials expect to be able to squeeze more out of the relationship with Russia as the Kremlin falters”. Lalwani also adds that “In the view of Indian planners, India can be a wedge between Russia and China”. These are obviously his own views and aren’t reflected by the facts since India is neither exploiting Russia nor attempting to meddle in its strategic partnership with China.
To be sure, India veritably fulfills the purpose of an irreplaceable valve from Western pressure for Russia that in turn preemptively averts that Eurasian Great Power’s potentially disproportionate dependence on China, but this role – which the Kremlin fully supports – is about balancing and not driving wedges. After this brief but nevertheless significant diversion from the truth, Lalwani thankfully gets back on track by talking more about their mutually beneficial military ties and complementary multipolar visions.
Unfortunately, he ends his article on a counterfactual note by citing Jacob to conclude that “the Indian-Russian relationship is on a long-term downward trend”, hence why he predicts that they’ll inevitably decouple, even if it takes decades to do so due to the gradual pace of this trend. My earlier referenced responses to Indian intellectuals like Jacob himself more fully address the fallacy of what Lalwani wrote in his conclusion and should be reviewed by those who want to learn more about my views about it all.
Jacob’s Counterfactual View Of The Global Systemic Transition
Segueing into my critiques of Jacob, I of course completely disagree with his opening concern that “Sameer Lalwani is underestimating the tectonic shift underway.” Actually, Lalwani was impressively balanced when compared to his fellow intellectual peers like Jacob who are ideological biased in their assessment of Russian-Indian ties. Jacob’s view that “structural factors and geopolitical complexities are already diminishing the strength of the relationship” is literally the opposite of the truth.
As I elaborated in my earlier cited response to Rajesh Rajagopalan, structural factors and geopolitical complexities are actually what’s responsible for unprecedentedly bringing Russia and India together in pursuit of their joint vision to break the Sino-American bi-multipolar superpower duopoly. They’re united in their goal of accelerating the global systemic transition to complex multipolarity (“multiplexity”) by midwifing tripolarity prior to that selfsame transition’s final form whenever it comes.
That’s not to imply that Russia is against China or that India is against the US, but just those two’s partnership is nowadays imbued with the shared grand strategic interest of breaking those two superpowers’ duopoly over International Relations. To that end, they’re working to assemble a new Non-Aligned Movement (“Neo-NAM”), each in their own but nonetheless complementary way such as Russia’s “Democratic Security” support for African states and India’s attempt to lead the Global South.
These two multipolar Great Powers are also pioneering a new Eurasian integration corridor via the North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) with their shared Iranian partner, which will function as the physical core of their envisaged third pole of influence in the rapidly eroding bi-multipolar world order. Taken together, Russia and India are truly leading the way with respect to facilitating the global systemic transition’s emerging tripolar phase ahead of its inevitably final form of multiplexity whenever it comes.
Jacob’s Discredited Prediction About India’s Zero-Sum Choice
This insight which is informed by the objectively existing structural factors and geopolitical complexities that are actually responsible for supercharging their strategic partnership, therefore discredits Jacob’s description of their contemporary ties as “a transactional relationship” that he wrongly predicts “will likely grow ever more distant in the coming years.” The exact opposite is true both in terms of their description and future: Russian-Indian ties are strategic and will keep growing closer.
The next part of Jacob’s response to Lalwani claims that India’s hard-earned strategic autonomy in the New Cold War will inevitably be lost by its supposedly “ambiguous” position towards the Ukrainian Conflict, ergo why he predicts that it’ll soon be forced to choose between the US or Russia. I argued the exact opposite, once again, in my analysis for the prestigious Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) in mid-December about how “India’s Principled Neutrality Reaps Grand Strategic Dividends”.
To summarize, I pointed out how India plays an indispensable kingmaker role in the global competition between the US-led West’s Golden Billion and the jointly BRICS- & SCO-led Global South of which it’s a part by pragmatically balancing between both de facto blocs. Each side objectively benefits from India continuing to indefinitely function in such a way as it helps stabilize the global systemic transition as much as possible given the chaotic circumstances of this historic shift in International Relations.
Jacob’s First Deliberately Deceitful Omission Of Key Facts
For these reasons, India isn’t going to dump Russia for the US like Jacob claims is already in the process of happening but will instead continue operating within the unique niche that it’s carved out for itself by remaining the kingmaker in the New Cold War. Also, his reference to Indian Ambassador to Russia Pavan Kapoor’s quip last December about trade with Russia being “too one-sided” and thus “unsustainable” is deliberately deceptive since this intellectual purposely omitted the larger context.
What Jacob left out of that paragraph where he sought to drive home his point about those two’s supposedly inevitable decoupling is that Russia requested that India scale up its exports by a whopping five times, the goal of which will obviously be facilitated by their growing trade across the NSTC. Leaving this fact out manipulates his reader into falsely thinking that the Indian Ambassador to Russia was publicly complaining about their ties instead of keeping differences discrete per protocol.
Nobody who’s confident with their own argument about anything would ever deign to the level that Jacob just did by purposely manipulating their audience’s perceptions through the deliberate omission of key facts whose inclusion would lead to an altogether different impression of whatever it may be. Everyone should remember this since it speaks a lot about his character and should thus ensure that those who are aware of it won’t take his citation of others or related conclusions at face value again.
Jacob’s Second Deliberately Deceitful Omission Of Key Facts
The next critique to add to Jacob’s response to Lalwani is that the former wildly speculated about Russia’s alleged dependence on China and its supposedly unreliability as India’s military supplier just like the latter did. These twisted perversions of the facts were already earlier addressed in my response so there’s no need to redundantly rehash them, just to point out the narrative angle through which Jacob sought to mislead readers into agreeing with his false conclusion about Russian-Indian relations.
To give credit where it’s due, he’s right in clarifying that India’s military diversification strategy hasn’t triggered any adverse reaction from Moscow, but even a broken clock is right twice a day as the cliched saying goes. Jacob then immediately returns to twisting another Indian official’s words, this time those of External Affairs Minister (EAM) Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar during his latest trips to Moscow and Vienna, the latter of which I analyzed in detail here in early January.
Just like Jacob omitted key facts related to the context in which he cited the Indian Ambassador to Russia’s remarks, so too did he omit key parts of EAM Jaishankar’s during his trip to Vienna. India’s top diplomat made many strong and unambiguous statements in support of multipolarity and didn’t in any way even hint at condemning Russia’s special operation like Jacob implied in his response to Lalwani. As can be seen, this opinionmaker isn’t truly an expert nor an intellectual, but an agenda-driven activist.
To wrap up my debate of Lalwani’s and Jacob’s debate about Russian-Indian ties, I believe that the former has a much more realistic assessment of everything than the latter but that both of their views are still fundamentally flawed. After all, this entire debate was artificially manufactured by the MSM last year and recently fueled by one of the US’ top think tanks, without which it would recede into oblivion since it doesn’t objectively exist because the easily verifiable facts discredit its very basis as I explained.