China Looms Over Biden-Modi Meeting

News AnalysisPresident Joe Biden’s virtual meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 11 has significant geopolitical ramifications for the entire Southeast Asian region. It is evident that, like next-door neighbor China, India has chosen not to fall in line with the U.S.-led punitive regime against Russia over its military actions in Ukraine. New Delhi notably joined more than 50 other countries in abstaining from the April 7 vote to suspend Moscow from the United Nations Human Rights Council. It has also refused to impose any sanctions. During the call, Biden brought up the issue of India’s oil imports. New Delhi has continued to benefit from purchasing discounted Russian Brent crude due to Western energy sanctions. “I would not see it as an adversarial call,” reported White House press secretary Jen Psaki. Adversarial or not, the dialogue between Biden and Modi didn’t result in any tangible benefits for the U.S. position in the region. If anything, it further exemplified how the United States has developed its geopolitical strategy on the foundation of form over substance, righteous-sounding rhetoric over beneficial action. Consider that Russia comes in behind countries such as Oman and Nigeria as the ninth top source of imported oil for India. While New Delhi has increased supplies from Moscow due to the discounted prices mentioned above, the amount is still bound to be minuscule compared with the top destinations for Russian energy exports. As stated by Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, “[India’s] total purchases for the month would be less than what Europe does in an afternoon.” Given a basic geopolitical cost-benefit calculation, does Biden scolding an important ally in New Delhi over an insignificant amount of oil serve as a net benefit for the U.S. position? The results of the votes to expel Russia from the United Nations Human Rights Council are seen on a screen during a continuation of the 11th Emergency Special Session on the invasion of Ukraine on April 7, 2022. Belarus, China, Iran, Russia, and Syria were among the U.N. members that voted against the resolution, while India abstained from voting. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images) Additionally, the implicit push to get India to condemn Russia also reflects poorly on Washington’s international standing in general. Even though U.S. sources report no official prompts from Biden to get Modi to explicitly denounce Moscow during the call, foreign media outlets have been quick to pounce on the implications of a faltering U.S. administration unable to rally support. “The U.S. has been escalating methods to court and pressure India to take a stronger position against Russia,” according to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mouthpiece People’s Daily. However, these attempts are expected to fall flat as “India has its own strategic orientation which was obvious in the Ukraine crisis—India will not act like Japan or Australia.” Readers will likely ask: why does it matter what the corrupt state propaganda slave of the CCP says? Because the tactless Biden administration has enabled this argument to be made in the first place. Instead of haranguing countries to follow its (as of yet) unsuccessful bid to halt and punish Russia by hamstringing their own economies, Washington should have been conducting a realistic evaluation of the broader geopolitical implications of its international anti-Kremlin crusade. The current situation with India—the second most populous country in the world and a heavyweight actor in the global community—perfectly exemplifies how the latter approach alienates essential allies. This weakens the U.S. position relative to China, especially in the broader Asian region. Strengthening the relationship with New Delhi should thus be a primary consideration. An easy place to start would be an official announcement that Washington will waive sanctions over India’s $5.5 billion purchase of Russian S-400 missile-defense systems. These are deemed essential to deterring any potential hostile action from Beijing and, thus, securing India’s territorial integrity. Allowing the payment to proceed unimpeded will not undermine the U.S. relationship with India—quite the opposite. New Delhi has proven itself to be an astute geopolitical actor that values its own national security interests above moralizing over abstract principles. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, on Dec. 6, 2021. (Press Bureau of India) This was demonstrated a day after the Biden-Modi meeting when Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh reaffirmed his government’s commitment to maintaining a geostrategic balance between Washington and Moscow. “I don’t think Russia will affect India-U.S. ties. The U.S. knows that India and Russia are natural allies and that our relationship is very stable,” stated Singh in an exclusive interview with the Hindustan Times. Wh

China Looms Over Biden-Modi Meeting

News Analysis

President Joe Biden’s virtual meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 11 has significant geopolitical ramifications for the entire Southeast Asian region.

It is evident that, like next-door neighbor China, India has chosen not to fall in line with the U.S.-led punitive regime against Russia over its military actions in Ukraine. New Delhi notably joined more than 50 other countries in abstaining from the April 7 vote to suspend Moscow from the United Nations Human Rights Council. It has also refused to impose any sanctions.

During the call, Biden brought up the issue of India’s oil imports. New Delhi has continued to benefit from purchasing discounted Russian Brent crude due to Western energy sanctions.

“I would not see it as an adversarial call,” reported White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

Adversarial or not, the dialogue between Biden and Modi didn’t result in any tangible benefits for the U.S. position in the region. If anything, it further exemplified how the United States has developed its geopolitical strategy on the foundation of form over substance, righteous-sounding rhetoric over beneficial action.

Consider that Russia comes in behind countries such as Oman and Nigeria as the ninth top source of imported oil for India. While New Delhi has increased supplies from Moscow due to the discounted prices mentioned above, the amount is still bound to be minuscule compared with the top destinations for Russian energy exports.

As stated by Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, “[India’s] total purchases for the month would be less than what Europe does in an afternoon.”

Given a basic geopolitical cost-benefit calculation, does Biden scolding an important ally in New Delhi over an insignificant amount of oil serve as a net benefit for the U.S. position?

Epoch Times Photo
The results of the votes to expel Russia from the United Nations Human Rights Council are seen on a screen during a continuation of the 11th Emergency Special Session on the invasion of Ukraine on April 7, 2022. Belarus, China, Iran, Russia, and Syria were among the U.N. members that voted against the resolution, while India abstained from voting. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Additionally, the implicit push to get India to condemn Russia also reflects poorly on Washington’s international standing in general. Even though U.S. sources report no official prompts from Biden to get Modi to explicitly denounce Moscow during the call, foreign media outlets have been quick to pounce on the implications of a faltering U.S. administration unable to rally support.

“The U.S. has been escalating methods to court and pressure India to take a stronger position against Russia,” according to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mouthpiece People’s Daily. However, these attempts are expected to fall flat as “India has its own strategic orientation which was obvious in the Ukraine crisis—India will not act like Japan or Australia.”

Readers will likely ask: why does it matter what the corrupt state propaganda slave of the CCP says? Because the tactless Biden administration has enabled this argument to be made in the first place.

Instead of haranguing countries to follow its (as of yet) unsuccessful bid to halt and punish Russia by hamstringing their own economies, Washington should have been conducting a realistic evaluation of the broader geopolitical implications of its international anti-Kremlin crusade.

The current situation with India—the second most populous country in the world and a heavyweight actor in the global community—perfectly exemplifies how the latter approach alienates essential allies. This weakens the U.S. position relative to China, especially in the broader Asian region.

Strengthening the relationship with New Delhi should thus be a primary consideration. An easy place to start would be an official announcement that Washington will waive sanctions over India’s $5.5 billion purchase of Russian S-400 missile-defense systems. These are deemed essential to deterring any potential hostile action from Beijing and, thus, securing India’s territorial integrity.

Allowing the payment to proceed unimpeded will not undermine the U.S. relationship with India—quite the opposite. New Delhi has proven itself to be an astute geopolitical actor that values its own national security interests above moralizing over abstract principles.

Epoch Times Photo
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, on Dec. 6, 2021. (Press Bureau of India)

This was demonstrated a day after the Biden-Modi meeting when Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh reaffirmed his government’s commitment to maintaining a geostrategic balance between Washington and Moscow.

“I don’t think Russia will affect India-U.S. ties. The U.S. knows that India and Russia are natural allies and that our relationship is very stable,” stated Singh in an exclusive interview with the Hindustan Times.

When asked whether India would seek to diversify its defense acquisitions following Russia’s Ukraine operation, Singh responded with an ambiguous “wait and watch.” Clearly, New Delhi is prioritizing its own interests above unqualified loyalty to one foreign power instead of another.

Some may argue that allowing India to benefit from cheap Russian energy and to increase defense ties with Moscow is cynical. Still, the fact remains: China is a peer competitor with the economic and military resources to erode the U.S. international position.

Despite Russia being the most nuclear-armed nation on the planet—a fact that should urge restraint by foreign powers acting in Moscow’s immediate geographic proximity—the Kremlin simply does not possess the same strategic capabilities.

The United States does not have to condone Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military operation; however, scolding other countries for their inability to follow Washington’s punitive regime serves no geopolitical purpose.

The previously mentioned article from People’s Daily is a microcosm of how China seeks to exploit this type of flaw in the U.S. approach: the only countries that will abide by Washington’s strictures are traditional allies (Australia and Japan), but powerful developing countries (China and India) no longer have to fall in line with a hegemonic United States.

In tandem with the continued resistance of Ukrainian citizens, the U.S. economic sanction regime has, thus far, stopped Putin from swiftly achieving all of his objectives in Ukraine. Focusing on relatively minor third-party energy deals or demanding that every country repeat the U.S. talking points will do nothing to end the bloodshed sooner. Instead, the primary goal now is to support productive peace negotiations that conclude in a sustainable political agreement.

It remains to be seen whether the Biden administration can accomplish this without actively souring relations with essential allies and strengthening China’s relative position while they’re at it.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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"Dominick Sansone is a regular contributor to The Epoch Times. He focuses on Russia-China relations and U.S. foreign policy."