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Is it time for India to come up with Non-Alignment 2.0 in its foreign policy conduct?

By Shubham

The Levada Centre, Russia's only non-governmental polling agency, has recently come up with a survey which counts India among Moscow's top five allies - after Belarus, China, Kazakhstan and Syria, a Times of India report said on Thursday, June 28.

Although the findings have been revealed by a pollster which Russia labelled as a "foreign agent" in 2016, the fact that India still has a significant proximity with Russia in an age of transformed geostrategic and political orientations, makes things quite interesting for international observers.

Is it time for India to come up with Non-Alignment 2.0 in its foreign policy conduct?

It is interesting because of the fact that Pakistan has shown more leanings towards Russia in current times when India's distance with Moscow's arch-rival - the US - has diminished. The Levada Centre's polling has said that Pakistan is yet to become as close to Russia as it is perceived.

India's recent admission in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) as a full member and an informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi last month besides New Delhi's snubbing Washington's warning to go ahead with its deal of procuring S-400 Triumf advanced Air Defence Systems from Moscow are indicators that the relations between the two traditional allies are far from deteriorating, as many had suggested.

India is a friend for Russia in today's circumstances

For Russia, India is a key ally to back it in its strategic rivalry with China, even if they are common members of platforms like SCO and BRICS. Moreover, in a drastically changing international milieu after the arrival of President Donald Trump, Russia finds it convenient to see Washington's current incumbent choosing enmity with most of the countries around the world - including its tasted allies.

The US's aggressive stand on trade; its dubious role in Syria and the polarisation in the western camp over Trump's bizarre policy initiatives (Iran deal or high tariffs on imports) have enabled Russia to find like-minded nations and India is one among them, hence helping reignite the lost charm in the bilateral equations between New Delhi and Moscow.

India's relations with US are not in the pink

For India, however, this is a time which necessitates a balanced approach to foreign policy. While its relations with the US underwent a drastic development after the 9/11 days with the US choosing it as a trusted friend who would be crucial if not an alternative to Pakistan, the US's traditional ally which helped it execute plans in the strategic central-southern Asia region; the excitement started to seem a distant past after Trump took over the reins.

His administration's tough calls on visa and immigration and tariffs and also diktats on trade (like with Iran) have put New Delhi-Washington ties under some stress and it is natural that India is now looking to water its external relations with other powers like Russia and China.

These are complicated but exciting times and New Delhi will require approaching things cautiously. It will be unwise for it to put all its eggs in one basket - be it of the West or the 'East'. It should balance between issues by treating them on merit and usher in an age of a polished version of the Non-Alignment policy it had pursued in the past.

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