Pompeo is right, India’s ties with China and Russia have worsened
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo published a provocative tweet during his final full day in office. Alongside pictures of himself with the Brazilian and Indian leaders, he wrote: “Remember BRICS? Well, thanks to Jair Bolsonaro and Narendra Modi the B and the I both get that the C and the R are threats to their people.” Although this is coming from the same man who infamously said that “we lied, we cheated, we stole” while talking about his time serving as the CIA Director, he’s actually telling the truth this time. There’s no longer any question that India doesn’t trust China anymore, especially after last summer’s deadly clashes along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), while it’s clear that unprecedented distrust has recently infected its relations with Russia.
What America’s former top diplomat didn’t say, however, is that India is responsible for the deterioration of both relationships to differing degrees after falling under the US’ influence. I wrote earlier in the month about how “America’s Declassified Indo-Pacific Strategy Shows How Badly Trump Failed” after the US couldn’t “contain” China with India like that foreign policy document set out as one of its main tasks. Nevertheless, Washington did indeed succeed insofar as turning those neighbouring Asian giants against one another by encouraging New Delhi to violate the LAC with Beijing. The resultant chain of events ruined relations between those two, which likely won’t repair themselves anytime soon.
Regarding India’s relations with Russia, these too were greatly damaged due to American meddling. The US convinced India to fully commit to the anti-Chinese Quad, which in turn prompted Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov to voice his suspicions about this emerging military alliance late last year. India, reacting as defensively as it always does whenever it’s caught red-handed doing something that it earlier claimed it wouldn’t ever do (be it supporting terrorism against Pakistan whenever Islamabad calls it out for that or joining the anti-Chinese Quad despite reassuring Russia that it never had any such negative intentions against Beijing), instinctively ordered some of its chief influencers to wage an anti-Russian information war that I analysed at the time here.
Taken together, Pompeo was therefore surprisingly telling the truth in his provocative tweet. It’s a bit of hyperbole to claim that India regards Russia as a “threat” though, but it certainly doesn’t it trust it as much as it used to after its influencers spread the false narrative very strongly implying that Moscow has submitted to Beijing in terms of regional affairs and therefore can’t be relied upon like it historically could. Even so, however, I explained earlier this week that “The Future Of US-Indian Relations Depends On New Delhi’s S-400 Decision”. That piece analysed the complex dynamics between India, the US, Russia, and China, concluding that Indian-American and Indian-Russian relations are greatly influenced by US-Chinese ones.
All of these observations confirm that BRICS isn’t what it used to be before Donald Trump entered office. Four years ago, there was plenty of hope that this structure would remain united and eventually deliver on its promise to make the world a better place. Regrettably, the US succeeded in splitting it from within by co-opting Modi’s India, which in turn ruined relations with China and even worsened them with its historic ally Russia. BRICS is nowadays a shadow of its former self, a slogan that’s mostly kept alive for nostalgia’s sake because its stakeholders believe that it’s better for each of them to do so than to formally disband the organisation.
It might one day fulfil some of the very high (and arguably mostly unrealistic) expectations held of it in the geopolitical sense, but that can only occur in a post-Modi India, which probably won’t happen anytime soon. For the time being, BRICS is moribund, but it’s not yet dead since the optics surrounding its continued existence (mostly on paper, that is) serve each member’s interests. The lesson to be learned is that Modi’s India duped its “fellow” BRICS “partners”, yet he himself was just made a fool of after his American patron lost re-election. There’s a chance that India might try to crawl back to Russia and China, but it’ll be on their terms, not its own.