The Indian Crossroads: Will Modi Choose Putin Or Trump?

India just imposed reciprocal tariffs against the US in response to the ones that Trump just applied against steel and aluminum imports.

According to a filing that the Indian government made to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the tariffs on almonds, apples, certain motorcycles, and walnuts are intended to compensate for the estimated $240 million a year that India is expected to lose because of Trump’s tariffs, which represents a stunningly independent move from the Great Power that’s hitherto been doing everything that it could to remain in the US’ “good graces”. India’s 2016 LEMOA logistics deal with the US unprecedentedly made the two countries military-strategic partners, and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson even spoke about plans for them to remain so all throughout the 21st century. That said, the economic relationship between them has lagged far behind their military-strategic one, with India failing to attract US investors to its so-called “Make In India” domestic development program.

New Delhi may have thought that it could woo American factories from neighboring China amidst the deteriorating trade ties between Beijing and Washington, but much to its surprise, Trump remained true to his campaign pledge that he wants US companies returning back to the homeland and not to simply “re-offshore” elsewhere. As a result, India no longer considers itself to be as indispensable to the US’ 21st-century plans to “contain” China like it previously thought that it was, seeing as how the economic dimension of this grand partnership is being deliberately neglected in favor of focusing solely on its military-strategic aspects. India’s plans for becoming a world power are unsustainable without the strong growth that would be afforded by a 1990s China-like economic partnership with the US, and its decision makers are now beginning to fear the consequences of indefinitely remaining the US’ “junior partner” for the rest of the century.


It’s with these worries in mind – as well as the ever-present threat of CAATSA sanctions should it go forward with its planned S-400 missile deal with Russia – that Prime Minister Modi paid informal visits to his Chinese and Russian counterparts in providing India with the option of a Eurasian “rebalancing” in the event that its pro-Atlantic pivot of recent years fails to yield the expected comprehensive – and especially economic – dividends. There’s still a lot of lingering distrust between India and China that probably won’t ever fully go away, which is why India’s new strategy might be to rely on Russia as a means for “balancing” its relations between the US and China in a bid to clinch better deals from each. Unfortunately for India, the US will inevitably force New Delhi to choose between it and Russia.

The “best-case” scenario of siding with the US over Russia is that India will remain among the most privileged of Washington’s “junior partners”, while the worst-case eventuality is that it will be provoked into a border conflict with China. As for the Russian angle of this equation, the most advantageous outcome is that Moscow brokers a deal between India and China to combine their competingAsia-Africa Growth Corridor” and Silk Road megaprojects into a single hemisphere-wide multipolar connectivity network, while the “worst” that can happen in this scenario is that Russia remains the “balancing” fulcrum for managing India and China’s continued competition in Afro-Eurasia. India is therefore at an historic crossroads that will determine its strategic trajectory across the coming century, and it’ll probably have to make an irreversible decision by the end of this year.

The post presented is the partial transcript of the CONTEXT COUNTDOWN radio program on Sputnik News, aired on Friday Jun 22, 2018:

DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution. 

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  1. Walter DuBlanica

    Always appreciate your articles Andrew. Keep up the good work.

  2. Andrew, always like your great analyst of geopolitical issues. However, you have missed a point on India Africa AAGC competition with China BRI:

    China is building BRI for multi strategic reasons including exporting its excess industrial capacity & mega infrastructure building expertise, securing of resources, investment of excessive reserve esp USD, and to grow new market to fuel its continuous growth.

    Whereas foolish (though cunning & untrustworthy) Indian is splashing its scared limited few resource to build others infrastructures while neglecting its own dilapidated one, with no industry capacity to export or to take advantage of new import route for secured resources. India infrastructure building capability is absolutely inferrior & unreliable to compete with China’s or other countries, except on low price but screwed with lengthy time with infamous bad quality. It will lost all its investment in BRI competition while its domestic broken infrastructures & industries decay further with time.

    So China doesn’t need to bother or joint India for its BRI, but to strike out its own. Alternatively, it can make full free riding usage of Indian paid Africa infrastructures for its export & import while India bleed to maintain them.

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