India’s Strategic Confusion: Running with the hare and hunting with the hounds


Jawad Falak

India recently withdrew from Kavkaz 2020 multinational exercise to be held in Russia in the third week of September, citing logistics difficulties due to covid-19 pandemic as the reason for its withdrawal. However, in reality India has backed out of the multinational exercise while conflict between the two Asian nations simmers across LAC in Ladakh. Apparently this symbolic has been taken by the BJP government in order to show that it is “resisting” China on the world stage. In reality it shows that Indian Strategic Confusion is increasing day by day with its tendency of running with the hare and hunting with hounds.

The KavKaz 2020 also referred to as Causasus-2020 is a strategic command and staff exercise including combat, air defence, naval, special forces and support elements. Which will be held at Dongus training ranges in Russian Southern Military district. The invitation for participation has been extended to at least 18 countries including China, Iran, Pakistan, India and Turkey apart from other Central Asian Republic part of the SCO.

Withdrawal from the exercise puts India on a collision course with Russia which places great importance to such exercises as these highlight its strategic outreach and relevance across the world. By withdrawing from the exercise. India has played into US campaign to weaken Russian influence in the wake of the Ukraine crisis. In an attempt to mollify the Russians, Indian Navy on Sep 4-5 has conducted merely a “Non-contact, at sea only” passage exercise under the title ‘Indra 2020′ with Russian Navy Ships which were on transit to their home port Vladivostok from Hambantota, Sri Lanka.

Russia is not the only foreign power India is trying to woo but also the USA which has become Moscow’s greatest tormentor in the recent times. Ever since the continuous military setbacks at the hands of the Chinese in occupied Ladakh, India has been counting the socalled QUAD, a purported military alliance of Japan, Australia, US and India with the aim of containing China. This not only upsets Russia which views any American backed military endeavor as dangerous but also flies in the face of BRICS a group of nations including Brazil, Russia India, China and South Africa that seek to replace the current US Led unipolar world order which is sabotaged by Indian attempts to climb into US camp against China.

Russia and China are not the only countries who bear the brunt of Indian strategic confusion but the USA does as well. While India clamors for USA military assistance, it continues buying Russian military equipment like Su30s. Mig 29s and the S400 air defense system by the dozens. These purchases trigger the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act or CAATSA which could lead to sanctions on the Indian military and inevitably drive the USA and India apart. While initially it gave waivers to India in the past, now the US has signaled that it would not dole out anymore favors to the South Asian nation. The United States government has already hinted India to reconsider its military acquisition from Russia warning that such purchases could trigger sanctions under CAATSA.

It is not only big power relations that are stymied by Indian strategic confusion but also its regional relations. SAARC which was formulated with the aim of promoting cooperation among South Asian nations has been hamstrung due to Indian vendetta against Pakistan as well as bullying its other neighbors. Its own initiated regional programs like BIMSTEC have similarly been sabotaged by its grandiose claims and unreasonable demands from other nations.

India’s strategic confusion arises from its perception of itself as a great power and eternal civilization whose friendship is indispensable to the world. This delusion was bolstered by the exceptional treatment it received at the hands of the USA and USSR during the Cold War and later on US favors such as a nuclear deal despite non conformation of several parameters This strategic confusion has manifested itself in other domains as well such as the military capability which has been hampered by what scholars Stephen Cohen and Sunil Dasgupta have termed as “arming without aiming.

In the end, India’s prevalent strategic confusion is rapidly eroding its standing amongst the nations of the world The time of favors to India is rapidly coming to an end due to dynamic geopolitical changes and the redrawing of alliances which make the Indian government’s approach “to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds’ obsolete in the modern world. Pakistan can exploit this scenario in order to cement ties with countries like Russia and also fortify its position in the emerging world order.

Jawad Falak is and MPhil student at National Defence University, Islamabad and is a resident research associate at Maritime Study Forum.