The Platform

Adam Schultz

India finds itself in a precarious balance between the United States and Russia.

In a world of political theater prone to volatility, India’s rise to the presidency of the G20 isn’t merely symbolic; it’s a strategic masterstroke.

The spotlight on India intensified during the ASEAN summit in Jakarta, where it shared the stage with international heavyweights like the U.S., U.K., France, and Italy. The summit produced an unprecedented 120 benchmarks for international cooperation, signaling a gravitational shift in geopolitics toward the East. It’s a turn of the tide eerily reflective of the 1970s realpolitik era when India confronted a nexus between Washington, Islamabad, and Beijing.

In 1971, India’s former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was also steering her nation through a complex geopolitical labyrinth during the Indo-Pakistani War. Her landmark friendship treaty with the then-Soviet Union was a defining moment that not only solidified India’s international standing but also reverberates to this day. Her audacious support for Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Mukti Bahini in East Pakistan ultimately cleaved Pakistan in two and gave birth to Bangladesh.

Fast forward to today’s shifting alliances, and we find a global landscape punctuated by American disillusionment with Pakistan’s opaque ties to terrorist networks and escalating Sino-U.S. tensions over subjects like artificial intelligence and climate change. These disruptions offer India a unique vantage point from which to rewrite its own diplomatic script.

The threads of India’s current diplomatic tapestry are woven from historical partnerships and contemporary imperatives. Although the old India-USSR treaty laid the foundations for bilateral harmony, modern India finds itself in a precarious balance between the United States and Russia—two nations essential for safeguarding India’s national interests, especially amid the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Its tactical counter-maneuvers against Chinese military advances at Doklam and Galwan are adding complexity to India’s diplomatic dance. Coupled with precision counterterrorism strikes within Pakistan, these actions signify India’s burgeoning self-confidence on the global stage.

Caught in a diplomatic conundrum between its historical ally Russia and the burgeoning alliance with the United States, India has adopted a tactful neutrality, particularly as the Ukraine crisis unfolds. It has avoided taking sides, a move that is as diplomatic as it is strategic.

As global dynamics shift, India’s role in Southeast Asia becomes more crucial than ever. ASEAN countries, keenly aware of their fraught borders with China, are increasingly turning to India for robust security partnerships. The G20 presidency doesn’t just amplify India’s influence over economic alliances; it elevates India as a leading voice for the Global South.

Should Russia resort to extreme measures in Ukraine, including the possible use of nuclear weapons, the impetus for India to utilize its G20 platform to advocate for global peace will become increasingly urgent. In a world teetering precariously on the edge, India’s diplomatic nuance may well serve as the balancing act that these turbulent times demand.

India’s diplomatic maneuvers have been nothing short of a masterclass in strategic subtlety. From navigating fraught relationships between superpowers to managing its own regional security complexities, India is well on its way to projecting itself as an autonomous, strategic behemoth. The stakes are monumental for the world’s largest democracy, and the opportunities are equally expansive. It’s not merely a quest for global influence but a chance for India to articulate a fresh narrative for itself, echoing its ancient principle—“Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”: The world is one family.

In this ever-changing geopolitical arena, India is not just a participant; it is rapidly emerging as the fulcrum around which the table turns.

Dr. Sudhanshu Tripathi teaches Political Science at MDPG College in Uttar Pradesh, India. He also served as Professor of Political Science and Director (in-charge) of the School of Social Sciences at Uttar Pradesh Rajarshi Tandon Open University, from 2017 to 2021. His published works include 'India’s Foreign Policy: Dilemma over Nor Alignment 2.0' in 2020, and 'NAM and India' in 2012, and co-author of 'Rajnitik Avadharnayein' in 2001. Besides numerous articles and research papers in national and international online journals, he was on the Editorial Advisory Board of Third Concept Journal from 2018 to 2020. Dr. Tripathi remains engaged in teacher’s union and social welfare-activities as well.