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Andrew Korybko

American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China's One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare

As a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement and the newly envisaged Voice of the Global South, not to mention the fast-growing major economy with the world’s largest population that’s on the pace to become the third-largest economy by 2030, India is a geopolitical force to be reckoned with. Indian diplomacy hopes to serve as an example for the diverse collection of developing countries that it nowadays envisages leading through its newly formed Voice of the Global South platform.

The Russo-Indo interplay serves to simultaneously balance Russia’s relations with China and India’s with the West’s, which prevents either from becoming disproportionately dependent on their other partners and thus risk a reversion back to Sino-U.S. bi-multipolarity, which only benefits those superpowers. If Russia became dependent on China, India might then become dependent on the U.S. to maintain the balance of power, and vice versa if India became dependent on the U.S. first.

Their special and privileged strategic partnership therefore keeps tri-multipolarity trends alive with the intent of having everything eventually unfold to the point where complex multipolarity (“multiplexity”) finally becomes a geopolitical reality. The self-interested stakes that those two superpowers have in this outcome explain why some Western and non-Western forces alike have sought to maliciously misportray India’s principled neutrality and geopolitical balancing policies with the objective of driving a wedge between it and Russia. Those efforts will fail, however, since these traditional partners have a complementary vision of multipolarity that they’re actively pursuing in tandem. Neither Russia nor India would be at risk of becoming disproportionately dependent on China or the US correspondingly due to their complementary balancing acts, which will supercharge tri-multipolarity processes and make multiplexity an inevitable reality instead of a political fantasy.

Last month’s Multipolarity Forum in Moscow, which coincided with the Second Congress of the International Russophile Movement, brought together hundreds of like-minded thinkers from across the world. They convened to discuss the most effective ways to accelerate multipolar processes amidst the global systemic transition which was unprecedentedly sped up by Russia’s special operation. In this context, it’s worthwhile to raise wider awareness of the Indian vision of multipolarity.

As a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement and the newly envisaged Voice of the Global South, not to mention the fast-growing major economy with the world’s largest population that’s on the pace to become the third-largest economy by 2030, India is a geopolitical force to be reckoned with. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has promulgated a policy of principled neutrality and great power balancing.

This has taken the form of India refusing to take sides in foreign conflicts while multi-aligning between major countries like the U.S., Russia and China with a view towards maximizing its options so as to reap the most beneficial dividends for its national interests. The most prominent examples of this are India’s redoubling of relations with its traditional Russian partner since 2022 alongside comprehensively expanding ties with its non-traditional partners in the U.S.-led West’s “Golden Billion”.

The grand strategic goals are to maintain India’s growth trajectory via the import of discounted Russian energy and courting the West to near-shore production from China, preemptively avert Moscow’s potentially disproportionate dependence on Beijing, and manage tensions with its northern neighbor. The unresolved Sino-Indo border dispute continues to poison ties and exacerbate their security dilemma, which could risk a war by miscalculation, but prudent diplomacy has thus far staved off that scenario.

To be clear, India’s great power balancing policy of multi-aligning between major countries isn’t aimed against China, but rather at keeping economic growth on track and reshaping military-strategic dynamics to de-escalate regional tensions, which no responsible stakeholder wants to worsen. These imperatives are predicated on developmental and peaceful intentions, not in the pursuit of zero-sum goals, but have been maliciously misportrayed by some Western and non-Western forces alike.

Indian diplomacy hopes to serve as an example for the diverse collection of developing countries that it nowadays envisages leading through its newly formed Voice of the Global South platform whose worth was proven throughout the course of its G20 chairmanship that championed their interests. The idea is to inspire the majority of the international community to follow suit with similar policies in order to restore stability and certainty to the increasingly chaotic global systemic transition to multipolarity.

EAM Jaishankar recently warned about the risk of “Great Power collaboration” at the expense of comparatively medium- and smaller-sized powers in what can be interpreted as an allusion to the Damocles’ sword of America and China cutting deals behind others’ backs as part of a “New Détente”. Prior to 2022, International Relations were moving in the direction of Sino-US bi-multipolarity, which can be summarized as the informal division of the world between those two.

Russia’s special operation could have reinforced that trend had the country become disproportionately dependent on China out of an absence of choice, which is why India might have moved to provide a complementary valve from Western pressure so as to avert that scenario. This, in turn, reshaped global trends in the direction of what can be described as tri-multipolarity whereby the top three forces in the world are now the U.S.-led West’s Golden Billion, the Sino-Russo Entente, and the informally Indian-led Global South.

The Russo-Indo interplay serves to simultaneously balance Russia’s relations with China and India’s with the West’s, which prevents either from becoming disproportionately dependent on their other partners and thus risk a reversion back to Sino-U.S. bi-multipolarity, which only benefits those superpowers. If Russia became dependent on China, India might then become dependent on the U.S. to maintain the balance of power, and vice versa if India became dependent on the U.S. first.

Their special and privileged strategic partnership therefore keeps tri-multipolarity trends alive with the intent of having everything eventually unfold to the point where complex multipolarity (“multiplexity”) finally becomes a geopolitical reality. In other words, it’s the pivot upon which International Relations presently depend, with its strengthening taking the world in the aforementioned direction while its weakening would revert the world back to Sino-U.S. bi-multipolarity.

The self-interested stakes that those two superpowers have in this outcome explain why some Western and non-Western forces alike have sought to maliciously misportray India’s principled neutrality and geopolitical balancing policies with the objective of driving a wedge between it and Russia. Those efforts will fail, however, since these traditional partners have a complementary vision of multipolarity that they’re actively pursuing in tandem.

They jointly revived the frozen North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) with Iran shortly after the special operation began and put the finishing touches on the Vladivostok-Chennai Maritime Corridor (VCMC) that was rechristened as the Eastern Maritime Corridor (EMC) last year. These Eurasian connectivity corridors ensure that Russia has enough options not to become disproportionately dependent on China in the economic sense and therefore risk the Sino-U.S. bi-multipolarity scenario that was described.

Furthermore, the VCMC’s evolution into the EMC could expand into the Arctic’s Northern Sea Route (NSR) to provide a safe way of facilitating Indian-European trade without having to risk transit through the unstable Red Sea region. It should also be noted that the NSTC includes a Central Asian component that will expand India’s economic influence in this region where China’s sway has recently grown. That will then enable Russia to gently and indirectly balance China’s influence there by way of India.

The combined effect of the NSTC and NSR-expanded EMC is to create what can be described as a Russo-Indo Ring (RIR) around half of Eurasia that loops through Southeast-East Asia into the Arctic and can then go back through Russia to India via Iran with a spoke cutting right into Central Asia. Upon its completion, optimization, and scaling, all of which will take some time to manifest, the Russian-Indian Strategic Partnership will reaffirm its role as the supreme balancing force in the global systemic transition.

Neither Russia nor India would be at risk of becoming disproportionately dependent on China or the U.S. correspondingly due to their complementary balancing acts, which will supercharge tri-multipolarity processes and make multiplexity an inevitable reality instead of a political fantasy. The RIR would also complete with China’s Belt & Road Initiative in a friendly, gentle, and non-hostile way that mutually benefits all third countries by maximizing their options per one of India’s top foreign policy tenets.

To key to actualizing this vision is for the tri-multipolarity paradigm to become the next “big idea” in Russian-Indian relations following Valdai Club Programme Director Andrey Sushentsov’s request for experts to brainstorm ideas about this in his article from October. All these plans are premised on these two sharing the same concept of International Relations at this crucial moment in history, after which they’ll act accordingly in line with its precepts instead of risk being distracted by chasing other concepts.

To that end, Indian thinkers should consider proactively engaging their Russian counterparts bilaterally and through various fora such as joint events as a way to popularize this paradigm, all with the intent of truly making tri-multipolarity the next big idea in bilateral ties. If they succeed, then the global systemic transition will continue moving towards multiplexity, and neither they nor the rest of the Global South would have to worry about the world returning to a form of Sino-U.S. bi-multipolarity in the future.


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