Special Forum Issue

“The Russia-India-China (RIC) Triangle”

A View from Russia


Russian policy and influence are failing across Asia. Russian analysts, if not the regime, know this and have long warned about it even if they must do so obliquely because the government disregards these warnings. The accelerating erosion of Russia’s decades-long partnership with India that owes much to its alliance with and rising dependence on China exemplifies this. The Russia-India-China (RIC) troika is a Russian concept and key to its vaunted Greater Eurasian Partnership (GEP). Yet neither China nor India is particularly invested in this triangle’s success. Although expectations for RIC were dashed in 2020; they persist despite evidence of its failure. Unwilling to acknowledge reality, Russians cling to a delusion that RIC could become the vital nucleus of a regional and global order supplanting Washington’s liberal international order.

The convergence of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg and the G20 summit in New Delhi underscores powerful trends in Asia’s international relations: India and China’s ascent and growing rivalry, India’s increasing turn to the West, the deepening Sino-Russian alliance entailing growing Russian dependence on China, and the consequent erosion of the long-standing Indo-Russian partnership. This article argues that the simultaneous Indo-Chinese rivalry and Sino-Russian alliance occurring against this backdrop, further undermine the Indo-Russian partnership while Indian ties with the West grow quantitatively and qualitatively. The Russo-Chinese alliance thus undermines Russia’s independence and partnership with India.1 Russian commentators largely reject this conclusion but convey a mixed picture of the forces impacting the RIC, which, when juxtaposed with the accumulating evidence, validates this assessment. 2

Russian publications maintain this troika confirms multilateral success in Asia. Sometimes, they lament that India’s ties to the United States or the Quad are undermining the triangle, but they accentuate India’s “strategic autonomy” as proof it retains a high priority for Russia. Regarding Sino-Indian ties, Russians complain that Russia cannot affect them, but find hope in bilateral trade levels and seemingly shared efforts to boost the non-Western world against the existing US-dominated order. Constrained from criticizing either Beijing or New Delhi, Russian writers struggle to substantiate their arguments that the RIC keeps advancing as the nucleus of a new regional and world order. Two Indian decisions sustain Russian hopes for RIC: India’s rejection of sanctions against Russia as it substantially boosts trade; and acquiescence to the Sino-Russian push to expand BRICS at the Johannesburg summit. Despite other, more worrisome moves in 2023, especially at the May G7 Hiroshima summit and the Modi state visit to the United States, Russia’s narrative maintained an optimistic but increasingly unsustainable outlook on RIC.

Three pieces of disconcerting news in mid-2023 could have shattered expectations were they not consigned to narrow coverage. First, a late August Chinese map designating as China’s the entirety of Bolshoi Ussuriysky Island, utterly defying Russia’s 2004 demarcation concessions that supposedly had ended the border dispute, shook confidence in Sino-Russian relations.3 Second, the same map, claiming much of India’s territory, roiled Sino-Indian relations as did Xi Jinping’s failure to attend the G20 summit in New Delhi. Finally, Modi’s meetings with Joe Biden stimulated doubts about Russo-Indian relations and showcased India’s tilt toward the US.

To understand Russian views, I focus attention on Sino-Russian relations, Sino-Indian relations, Chinese relations with Central Asia (at the intersection of the three countries), defense, and the big picture regarding coverage of the RIC, BRICS, the SCO, and Russia’s “Turn to the East.” Moscow long deluded itself that it could balance China and India in constructing an Asia- Pacific regional security edifice opposed to Washington’s alliance network based on the concept of an Indo-Pacific region.4 Evidently Russia believed that Indo-Chinese rivalries could be addressed politically and resolved in ways uniting all three states around the security principles raised by Russia in a recent strategic statement that India and China presumably share.5 However, China’s “wolf warrior” diplomacy and overt pursuit of coercive advantage over India in their border zone and in contested areas like Central Asia negated such visions. Although some pursue the chimera of consolidating ties where Russia holds the balance, such delusional ideas have run aground.6

Sino-Russian Relations in Russian Eyes

In 2022-23 Sino-Russian relations tightened. Though the trend towards alliance predated the war with Ukraine, this war accelerated and deepened it. China has rescued whole sectors of Russia’s economy.7 Moreover, Putin long ago accepted China’s rising position, having said that, “the main struggle, which is now underway, is that for global leadership and we are not going to contest China on this.”8 Thus, French President Macron and Russian analysts warn of “vassalization.”9 This dependence on China makes Russia an unreliable partner for India.10 Continuing aggressive behavior in the Indo-Chinese border, Indian Ocean, South China Sea, and Central Asia while Russia equivocates or retreats from supporting India, accelerates the India-West rapprochement.

Meanwhile the Russo-Chinese de facto alliance, will grow concurrently at the expense of Russia’s ties with India, Japan, and South Korea.11 Russia’s increasing acquiescence to Chinese foreign policies, ultimately undermines Russian interests and partnerships. Furthermore, if such an Asian realignment takes shape on this basis of support for China, that will terminate Russian hopes of playing a significant role across Asia, supposedly its foreign policy’s main direction. 

Covering Sino-Russian trade and investment under sanctions, Russian authors acknowledge that. big Chinese international companies have been wary of Russia. Differences over integration in Central Asia, volatility in global energy prices, the previous meager scale of Chinese investment in Russian industry, high administrative barriers on both sides, the distances between industrial centers, the weak development of border-crossing infrastructure, and Chinese barriers due to Zero-COVID also hinder trade. The structure of the Russian economy remains a problem too as its exports’ composition remains unchanged. Russians highlight a fundamental disproportion between Russian natural resource exports and Chinese industrial exports and warn of trouble ahead because environmental policies reduce imports in China. Yet, the 2019 plan to reach $200 billion in trade by 2024 remains on track, and new border crossings have opened, notably due to Russian energy and metal exports and Russia’s turn to China for import substitution from the EU. Uncertain prospects for Russian economic growth will restrain Chinese investments as will currency fluctuations and possible changes in tax laws, Western sanctions, and infrastructure shortcomings. Yet, China’s weight in Russia’s economy and politics will continue to increase.

Although Putin will attend the October BRI forum in China and conduct talks on trade, economic cooperation, and the current geopolitical situation, the Chinese map incorporating all of Bolshoi Ussuriysky Island led one article to hint this visit should be postponed. Clearly, China’s map has stirred a hornet’s nest even as one Russian journalist inquired why Russia is silent toward China stealing part of Khabarovsk Krai in its official map, when countries like India and Malaysia are protesting about the same wide-ranging map. Andrey Ostrovsky is cited as questioning Russia’s silence, Aleksandr Lomanov as downplaying the problem by stating that there are no serious territorial pretenses here, and Endriu L’iung as saying we cannot call this an alliance although the two states have drawn closer due to the US sanctions.12 Clearly, a debate has been taking shape.

Le Monde also observed Russia’s silence,13 remarking that when Moscow finally replied, the foreign ministry statement was quite matter of fact:
The Russian and Chinese sides adhere to the common position that the border issue between our countries has been finally resolved—its settlement was marked by the ratification in 2005 of the Supplementary Agreement on the Russian-Chinese state border on its eastern part, according to which Bolshoi Ussuriysky Island was divided between the parties. The delimitation and demarcation of our common border has been completed along its entire length (almost 4,300 km [2,670 miles]), including in 2008 on Bolshoi Ussuriysky Island.14

Ivan Zuenko writes that under Xi we see a rise in revanchism and nationalism, after a “century of humiliation.”15 China sharply distinguishes between “Tsarist Russia,” treated as a bad colonial power and contemporary Russia, but the history of bilateral relations potentially divides them, since they judge key developments differently. Cooperation today proceeds despite history.  Although Zuenko grasps China’s recent stagnation, he repeats the official optimism that China will not challenge Russian interests despite mounting evidence that this is already happening.

As noted below, other Russian publications take note of perceived assertive moves by China, taking advantage of Russia’s preoccupation with Ukraine. As Rozman and Christofferson argued, global goals overlap but regional goals keep clashing.16 Yet, the bottom line is refusal to admit any serious problem in Sino-Russian relations. Russia now desperately needs China.

Sino-Indian Relations in Russian Eyes

Russians walk a tightrope, both praising India and criticizing the Quad, of which India is a vital member. Not openly critical of China, they can hardly comment extensively on how its policies toward India are undermining RIC. Hopes rested on claims that India would be wary of the US.
Yet India’s regional clashes with China are critical in understanding why India gravitates away from Russia in search of a more reliable partner. Alexander Korolev observes that,
India’s threat assessments are driven by categorically different considerations. India is less concerned with China’s alleged global ambitions and systemic challenges to the West. Instead, for New Delhi, the most significant security threats from China are all related to geopolitically proximate challenges “close to home,” which dictates a different pattern of behavior towards China.17

One question addressed in Russian sources is whether the US will successfully wean India away from Russia. For example, Maksim Suchkov saw three challenges obstructing plans to draw India into the US orbit: the lack of timely US help during the epidemic; the US pullout from Afghanistan, which led India to lose trust; and US “instrumentalized” treatment of India against China, rejecting the autonomy of India. US economic pressure on India versus China threatens to cause irrational losses, forcing an unwanted choice between the two. India’s leadership prizes strategic autonomy and, despite difficulties with China and limits on cooperation with Russia, wishes to remain outside of any bloc, says Suchkov, dismissing Indo-US rapprochement in critical spheres.18 He asks if India can preserve its autonomy as a player in the “first league” or shrink to a “West Germany” of the 21st century, a buffer state for containment of a US opponent.

Separately, Russians were warned that beyond arms and energy little content exists in the Indo-Russian partnership and that in the Asia-Pacific region Russia backs a Sinocentric approach that undermines its ambition to function as an independent center in forging a multipolar world based upon its “Turn to the East” and the GEP. Nivelita Kapur explained that despite Russia’s close diplomatic cooperation with China and India, Russia’s weakness reduces its influence. As the Quad and AUKUS coalesce and the Asia-Pacific morphs into the Indo-Pacific, opposition to these developments enjoys little support either for the “Turn to the East” or the GEP, whose prospects remain cloudy. A new regional order is taking shape in Asia with consequences for Russia, whose possibilities as a great power there are limited, Kapur warned Russian readers.19

Growing tension with the West influenced Russia’s presence in the Asia-Pacific region in two respects: worsening Russia’s economic position and deepening dependence on China. These trends contradict Russia’s interests in diversifying ties with Asian states. Indeed, Russian views of the Indo-Pacific region and the Quad emerge from an anti-Western prism. Even before the Ukraine crisis, Russia lacked the resources to reexamine its Eastern policy. Today, it is severed from the West without having a big role in the East. Russia’s difficulties in all three economically dynamic regions of the world: the Asia-Pacific region, America, and Europe, belie its pretensions to great power status. Having decided on the goal of multipolarity in Asia, Russia has not created the conditions for this. This limits Indo-Russian ties as do Russia’s closer ties to China. India seeks economic growth, resolution of problems with Pakistan and China, preeminence in the subcontinent and stability in neighboring states. Since Russia cannot offer India alternative military or economic relations unlike the US, Indo-Russian relations stagnate, argues Kapur.20

Sergei Velichkin optimistically contends that India will continue pursuing its own interests despite diplomatic pressure exacerbated by massive placement in Indian mass media of Western disinformation vilifying Russia. These interests underscore growing bilateral economic ties that will supposedly prevent declining ties with Russia. India is broadening commercial, political and other relations with Russia, even while developing closer ties with the US, Japan, and major European states to strengthen its position vs. China. With most of the “Global South” rejecting unipolarity and Western domination and facing problems resulting from the West’s sanctions, India faces the task of becoming its leader to clarify its great power position, a world center, and a force for a multipolar global structure. As host of the G20, India aims to avoid Ukraine and focus on economic matters, given its central ambition of internal economic development. China, not the West, is India’s biggest trade partner and potentially biggest source of investment. It is even possible that India will seek a “grandiose deal” with China, Velichkin concluded, making an argument that flies in the face of abundant evidence of Sino-Indian rivalry raised by Russians.21

Danil Bochkov said that Sino-Indian economic relations combine cooperation and competition. If they strive to cooperate on security and reform of the international economic order, they conflict on the border, India’s unwillingness to accept BRI, and over China’s growing military presence in the Indian Ocean. Neither accepts the other’s ambitions to control sea lanes. Yet, given bilateral trade ties and overlapping interests in reforming international financial institutions and boosting the voice of the “Global South,” they are inclined to lower the level of conflict. Economic ties help reduce tensions despite trade imbalances, investment issues, mutual distrust, and economic and political competition for leadership in the Indo-Pacific region. Distrust with China results from border clashes, mutual regional pretensions as China’s military influence spreads, the Pakistan factor for India and the US factor for China. The securitization of economic relations with China obstructs trade. Nonetheless, the article stresses that positive trade dynamics stabilize bilateral relations, while urging increased trust to avoid losses from reduced trade.22

Kommersant on September 3 reported that the G20 ministerial talks in Delhi could not issue a final communique on the Ukraine crisis to Russia’s satisfaction. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov asserted there that the Quad does not create stability in the Indo-Pacific region, leading only to further militarization. Kommersant on September 7 emphasized threats to China from the Quad. Such views risked alienating India, dismissing its efforts to win support against China’s tactics.

The above samples of Russian coverage on Sino-Indian relations and the Quad show what a bind Russians are facing. They acknowledge serious problems impacting Russia’s desired outcome but feign that a positive result lies within reach, avoiding blaming China and insisting that India’s strategic autonomy national identity will, in the end, trump any national security imperatives.

China-Central Asian Relations in Russian Eyes

India previously perceived Russia as a power that could “help secure its interests in the Eurasian landmass, particularly in Afghanistan, Central Asia, and West Asia.”23 Yet this linkage has failed to realize India’s objectives while China steadily gains at Russia’s expense, blocking Russian and Indian ambitions there.24 If India is blocked in Central Asia due to Chinese power, states will have little choice but to lean towards China given Russia’s declining capacity to protect them.

Reports about Chinese policy toward Iran also underscore Beijing’s readiness to outbid Delhi for influence, including in Central Asia.25 Cornelius Adebahr reports that recent developments in Sino-Iranian relations “Make Tehran a central part of the ongoing global realignment centered on China.”26 At the SCO’s New Delhi summit, India refused to sign the document on members’ economic strategy to 2030 that Iran and Russia signed, a document strengthening China’s position in the SCO and actively promoting Chinese initiatives like the BRI and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which India regards as anti-India.27 Indeed, Modi openly criticized China’s BRI and support for Pakistan’s threats to India there.28 

Voennoe Obozrenie covered the May 18-19, 2023 China-Central Asia C5 summit, suggesting that Xi is boldly seizing the global situation, building a new railroad that bypasses Russia through Iran or across the Caspian Sea, agreements that consummate a process of transitioning from a Russian to a Chinese sphere.29 Xi proposed a military alliance to the five states, offering $3.6 billion in support, which could go to Chinese arms—much cheaper than Russian ones—and participation in developing Central Asia, coordinating development and building big infrastructure products, naturally through Chinese companies. The bear no longer seems so frightening, readers were told. Russia is disinvited into either railroad building or a military bloc. China will establish its own zone of trade and influence. Relations with Russia will endure as secondary. Thus, Russia is quietly ceding Central Asia to China, making the EEU and CSTO a fiction. If experts insist that Moscow and Beijing are not competitors here, they ignore the fact that the two are not genuine military allies nor have they found a way to forge a region together.

Nurlan Gasymov focused on the same summit, calling it a “new era” in the region and announcing future, biennial C5 summits. Through April 2023 China’s trade with these states rose 37%. New rail and auto routes through Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan were promised. Thus, China is trying to take charge of regional security, deeming Russia busy elsewhere.30 Boris Nikolaev also assessed this summit and plans to bypass Russia with a new rail line and gas transport.31 The C5 signifies the formation of a new group within the SCO excluding Russia. Russia responded by gathering in Moscow the EEU council with the presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Belarus among others, although Uzbekistan (and Tajikistan not in the EEU) only attended by video. The same questions raised in Xian were discussed, but from the standpoint of Russia’s interests, including logistical centers, transit routes, and reduced tariff barriers. Two points on the C5 are stressed: the absence of Russia, allowing China to present its own strategy; and the possible competition with Russia in supplying hydrocarbons to China, impacting Russia’s budget and reflecting Chinese restraint on constructing “Power of Siberia-2” through Mongolia or its effort to extract more favorable terms. Russia now delivers 20% of China’s gas imports, but it would rise with the new pipeline and increased use of other lines. Beijing hesitates becoming so dependent on one supplier.

China’s role in Central Asia was assessed by Aleksandr Khramchikhin, recognizing the deep shadow of the events in Ukraine.32 Moscow’s multiple advantages are eroded. Countries see that Russia’s armed forces are not as strong as earlier assumed. Some states fear they could share Ukraine’s fate. Thus, China can dominate; rising economic influence automatically triggers a rise in its political influence. Xi Jinping remarked when visiting Kazakhstan in September 2022 that China’s eternal, all-around strategic partnership with Kazakhstan had no analogy in Chinese diplomacy, i.e., it surpasses ties with Russia. Rising political influence fosters increasing military influence, as is occurring. Most economic projects in the region are part of BRI, which Beijing seeks to secure, as agreements for joint “anti-terrorist” exercises aim at protecting Chinese economic objects. China can forge an image of guarantor of security for regional countries, replacing Russia and undercutting Indian influence as well, Khramchikin warily concludes.

Yet, former ambassador to China Andrei Denisov disregarded such evidence, arguing that China is a partner, not a competitor.33 Allegedly historical ties between Central Asian states and Russia are so weighty that concern about Chinese financial and economic ties, which Central Asia needs, is unfounded. China eschews any kind of political influence; instead asking Russia to ensure stability, including for ever-greater Chinese investments there. A division of labor exists, perhaps uncomfortable for Russia, which wishes its economic presence were greater. Asked if China considers Russia a partner in BRI, Denisov said, without doubt, noting that Xi invited Putin to participate as the main guest in the third BRI summit. He said Russia is ready to take part on equal footing, by proposing economic factors able to make the entire BRI more effective.

The Crisis in RIC, Problems with the SCO, Reconceptualizing the “Turn to the East”

On June 23 RSMD carried a Russia-China dialogue led by Kirill Babaev, Andrei Kortunov, and Feng Yujun, covering three quarters in 2022 and the first quarter of 2023. They noted that there is still no contract on the projected gas pipeline through Mongolia (Power of Siberia-2).34 Mutual investment levels are low. Acknowledged is the difference in Chinese and Russian treatment of US alliances, the former preventive in the Indo-Pacific and cooperative in Europe, the latter aggressive. While Russia seeks blocs, China seeks multilateral economic ties, even as both talk of “indivisible security.” China supports Russia’s self-defense moves and fills many trade slots left by the West’s sanctions. Russia welcomes Chinese thinking that this period marks an historical turning point, as if Moscow had led the way for both countries, and the fact that China has turned more negative toward the US, finding it using the Ukraine conflict for its Indo-Pacific strategy. The article is positive about increasing bilateral trade but wary about Central Asian ties.

Concerning regional issues in Asia, the authors write that Russia seeks 5+1 in ties to China with the EEU, yet China moves toward 1+1 with separate Central Asian states. Further, integrating multilateral organizations is proving difficult in the transition from globalization to regionalism. The BRI has debt risks; it faces political instability and geopolitical challenges. Russia treats RIC as the core of BRICS and the SCO, while recognizing China’s view that the RC dyad is decisive. The Ukraine crisis slowed RIC institutionalization, to the point of missing its 2023 meeting and failing to meet at the 2022 Samarkand SCO, as India focuses on tensions with China and worries about RC, thus damaging RI as it works with the West. While RI trade reached $38 billion in 2022, CI relations have stagnated, and India competes with China to lead the “Global South,” while refusing the yuan in energy deals with Russia and resisting supply chains with China.

The crisis in RIC, the three authors note, is only partly compensated by a strong RC dyad in the SCO and BRICS, sustaining the GEP. Docking the BRI with the EEU is key to integration of Eurasia, but it is not being coordinated well, if at all. CR need to coordinate in BRICS, which has been negatively influenced by the Ukraine operation and sanctions, but China sees risks in the SCO as some entrants take a narrow approach just to get benefits and hesitate to oppose the West or seek a strong regional entity. Although China seeks SCO coordination in Central Asia, Russia is less cooperative, and India uses the SCO to balance the Indo-Pacific and Eurasia. While the BRICS and SCO are key to CR transforming the world order, the impact of secondary sanctions is big, and consensus on resolving internationalization-regionalization differences is low, despite the “Global South” finding the G7, IMF, and World Bank discredited. Even as they insist that CR are closer together from developments over the past year, the authors see no shared Eurasian vision, Russia being more hostile to the Indo-Pacific than China, and offering only energy and agriculture to China, while raising concerns about a trade imbalance. The candor in this joint article by Russians and a Chinese reveals RIC discord and its spillover in clashing RC visions.35

Fyodor Lukyanov discussed the 2023 virtual meeting of the SCO, complaining that it lacked revolutionary initiatives.36 The SCO since India and Pakistan joined has gained prestige but faced complicated internal processes. Russia constantly discusses the SCO, the most influential organization in Central Asia, gaining currency now due to Russia’s isolation in the West. It could become a counterweight to the anti-Russian coalition, but only Russia and Iran are in fierce conflict with the West. Others seek constructive relations with the US, EU, and Washington’s East Asian allies. Even China shuns direct confrontation, as do India, Pakistan, and Central Asia. They favor preserving a balance, minimizing risk, sticking to their own interests and treating bloc consciousness as a legacy of the Cold War. Another popular Russian idea is to universalize the SCO, but it is a regional entity, focused first on transport-logistics and economic projects.

A.V. Torkunov and D.V. Strel’tsov proposed an alternative to sharp polarization in East Asia, even recalling the decade of the “Turn to the East” in new ways. Russia needs a balanced relationship with China focused on its own interests. Tilting toward China and depending heavily on gas exports to it endangers Russia’s status as a neutral power able to mediate conflicts.37 They say, Greater Eurasia must be coupled with infrastructure development devoid of ideological considerations and with intensified diplomacy in the SCO, BRICS, RCEP, and the East Asian Summit. Traditional political discourse in Russia holds that Russia does not merge into any microregion but is unique. Cooperation within the SCO and BRICS is essentially political; economic projects there proceed on China’s initiative and with its financial support. Russia has not become a major economic actor in East Asia. The risk of “buyer dictates” damages Russian suppliers’ negotiating position. Even after February 2022 the situation remains unchanged, and ties with China have not compensated for losses in Western technology and capital markets. Russia needs oil and gas trade more than China, leaving a poor foundation for resolving future problems. Giving China critical significance in its foreign policy priorities, Russia loses room to maneuver with other Asian partners and risks losing its status as a neutral power remaining aloof from conflicts in the region or an “honest broker.” This occurred after 2014 when Russia had to limit its activity in Asia, minimizing multi-vector actions due to ties to China, readers are told.

Examining the institutionalization of BRICS. Kirill Babaev and Sergei Lavrov described how many countries wanted to join since 2022, signifying the deep transformation of the world order and distrust of the West as a guarantor of stability and economic development.38 Yet, its potential as a bloc for global cooperation remains far from realization. Some are skeptical about the lack of results since BRICS began, seeing no economic bloc or real international organization here despite non-Western agreement on multipolarity. There is no conception of a strategy of development, economic cooperation, or a common economic space. There is a need for a strategic document or manifesto, spelling out the call for a just and equal world economic order, raising the influence of developing countries. As chair in 2020, Russia introduced elements of a strategy to 2025, and it will chair in 2024 with the prospect of a more concrete document. It should be conceived as a future economic bloc, the basis of a new world order, readers are told.

On August 24 in RGRU, Evgenii Shestakov called the BRICS summit, which added six new members, as just the first step. Prior to the summit Delhi reportedly intended to oppose the plans for expansion, but Shestakov denied such rumors before saying that modernization of BRICS means successfully realizing a geopolitical project to defend the interests of the “Global South.” China was most interested in adding new members since that would strengthen the BRICS’ position in world affairs and attack US hegemony. Criteria for entry were “weight and authority,” but equally important was their voting record and whose resolutions they supported since this is not just an economic-political club, but in Sergey Lavrov’s opinion, above all a collective of like-minded believers. Does Russia think India fits that bill?39

The BRICS and G20 Summits of the Summer of 2023

These summits revealed the increasingly visible ideological and regional tensions that divide Russia, China, and India. The BRICS’ planned enlargement despite Indian reservations, the Indo-American proposal at the G20 to build a trans-continental railway from India to Europe, excluding Russia and China, and India’s proposal to include the African Union in the 2024 G20, highlight these cleavages.40 These summits also reveal wide gaps between the Sino-Russian understanding of a multipolar world and India’s conception of that phenomenon. Although Russian and Chinese thinking about Asia is dominated with the idea of multipolarity; their thinking about multipolarity invariably comes second to protecting national interests, particularly sovereignty.41 Multipolarity cannot entail any sacrifice of sovereignty. Consequently, Russian thinkers unrelentingly attack what they assert to be Washington’s alleged belief in an apparently ongoing unipolar moment.42 China and Russia strongly believe they have a right to intervene in their neighbors’ affairs as seen in Ukraine and Chinese interventions against India and in the South China Sea. Rhetoric of sovereignty aside, their insistence upon spheres of influence entails the diminished sovereignty of their neighbors. China’s recent map claiming territory in virtually all of its neighbors, including India, highlights the problems in its theory of multipolarity.43 Russia and China postulate an ostensibly multipolar world order as a means to enhance their sovereignty and influence.44 Obviously, some countries are more sovereign than others.

In practice, Russian invocations of multipolarity entail its membership in groupings like the BRICS where it can behave as an unfettered state actor globally or in the EEU and SCO institutions.45 It invokes a dominating or great power status to advance its supposed clout, but more importantly it does so to advertise itself at home and abroad as a great global power that Washington cannot isolate.46 Chinese support is essential to Russia’s self-conception as a great, sovereign, global power. “Russian cooperation with China in East Asia strengthens its claim to be an Asian state which also supports Russia’s more important goal of being a global power.”47  Growing support for Chinese political positions at the expense of its ties with India underscores the hollowness of Moscow’s proclamations of sovereignty, revealing its growing weakness. 

Sino-Russian proclamations of multipolarity also appear at the “presidium table” of world politics not the regional level. Indeed, Russian rhetoric evades the question of regional multipolarity in Asia.48 Nor does China acknowledge that either, as its great power chauvinism makes clear. Instead, its officials praise its ties with ASEAN, hardly a relationship of equals, as the most successful example of how Asian cooperation should go.49 Russia still conceives itself to be the leader in Central Asia even as its regional profile declines, yet also it dare not raise Chinese suspicions that Russia is challenging its ambition to be the leader of Asia and the “Global South.”50 These shared positions naturally contradict any concept of Asian multipolarity.

India sees multipolarity quite differently, also aspiring to leadership of the “Global South”51:
Now when India calls for a “multipolar world,” it makes it abundantly clear that multipolar Asia is a necessary prerequisite for a multipolar world. In essence, the Asian order is fragmented. The phenomenal rise of China does not mean that Beijing can act as the local Mafia. Asia is a playground of contestation, with various emerging and middle powers quietly protective of their identity and sovereignty. The U.S. and India are working together to uphold this reality and ensure stability.52

India’s vision of multilateralism safeguards all of its partners’ independence and connects multilateral or plurilateral agendas with like-minded partners on specific issues.53 India now prioritizes self-serving alignments with multiple powers over alliances, e.g., for diversifying arms sales and energy imports. Thus, “cooperation occurs only where there is convergence.”54 For example, despite continuing to buy huge amounts of discounted Russian oil and gas, India’s Minister of Energy, Singh Puri stated that India is not dependent on anyone and that India now acquires energy from 39 sources including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE.55 

India’s multipolar world or vision is much more open and liberal than the Sino-Russian vision of multipolarity embodied in the BRICS which has been increasingly politicized as a forum for anti-Americanism rather than an association of like-minded and economically similar states. China, supported by Russia, insists on dragging it into being a vehicle for an anti-American financial-political war under the rubric of de-dollarization and transformation of the international economic-political order against U.S. interests.56 As a recent report indicates, the BRICS departure from its original economic logic undermines the purposes for which it was created:
The institutionalization of the BRICS—“Dreaming with the BRICS”—insofar as it had a basis in economic theory, was founded on the theory of absolute convergence, which has been consistently rejected by the data. The evidence pulled together here demonstrates that this is not a cohesive group in economic terms that might evolve into a convergence club with common interests. Rather, the recent political renaissance of the BRICS rests largely on what they are against—US hegemony (including dollar hegemony).57

Likewise, de-dollarization, a prominent Russo-Chinese objective, does not work.  As this report observed, “The Russia-India bilateral initiative to trade in own currencies never got off the ground because their bilateral trade was not balanced, and Russia did not want excess rupees.”58  One reason for this failure is Russia’s increasing dependence on China:
[T]he Chinese yuan’s growing influence over the Russian ruble, and its potential to spill over to the rupee-ruble trade, had kept India worrying. As part of its newfound strategic relationship with China, Russia has been pushing for the yuan as its go-to currency for settling international trade payments, including those with India. Being China’s territorial and hegemonic adversary, India refused to settle payments in yuan to avoid exposing its volatile currency market to a highly regulated Chinese currency. However, Russia was able to transact in yuan with India on some occasions.59

Thus, the solidity of Sino-Russian economic ties as well as de-dollarization contradict Indian and actual as opposed to ideological- political Russian interests. Moreover, the BRICS’ recent decision to expand membership to six new countries, includes four states that are really economic basket cases who want Chinese subsidies or bailouts from their own improvidence.  Indeed, Argentina’s leading presidential candidate openly advocates attaching Argentina to the dollar, revealing the BRICS’ lack of a plausible economic agenda.60 Lastly the BRICS’ new members have in common only their attachment to China and their possession of vast energy or potentially green energy elements, suggesting a Sino-Russian design to ensure Chinese energy and raw materials supplies at cheaper prices while using de-dollarization much as Nazi Germany used its trade policy of tying foreign trade to its currency,  to convert neighboring states into satellites.61 De-dollarization represents an attack not just on the US but also on weaker states and their economic-political sovereignty in order to create imperial dependencies. Indeed, Russia’s accelerating dependency, is already eroding its de facto sovereignty vis-à-vis China.62

India aims to counter China’s BRI and its strategic implications. Hence, the surprising unveiling of a massive Asia-Europe railway and port project at the recent G20 summit.63 This railway aims to traverse India, the UAE, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Europe and enjoys substantial US backing. It represents a clear antipode to the BRI. Meanwhile both projects leave Russia standing at the altar of its dashed dreams of intercontinental transport. India, though it supported the BRICS enlargement, remains wary of such plans. It understands that enrolling new members mainly adds Chinese clients, including Russia, who depend upon Chinese investment and technology as their common denominator, and will thus follow China’s lead to its detriment.64

Defense Issues

Indo-Western and Indo-US military and technological ties are growing while similar ties with Russia steadily decline.65 Although India will not renounce its long-standing defense and economic ties with Russia; Indian policymakers are wary of Moscow’s growing alignment with Chinese rather than Indian policy preferences.66 Since 2014 Russia has sold China the latest defense technologies before selling them to India.67 Sales to China almost tripled from 2014-2018.68 Indian leaders will do their utmost to forestall an anti-Indian Sino-Russian axis to retain a meaningful space for close partnership based on shared strategic interests, among them balancing Chinese power, rather than one based on inertia or merely transactional relations.69 India’s refusal at the G20 summit to condemn the war against Ukraine highlights how far India will go in this direction.70 Giving up on Russia before diversification and indigenous capacity replace it contradicts Indian interests because it would lose a major power ally while China’s power continued growing. India’s reliance on large Russian oil imports also prevents an open break.71

Trends eroding Indo-Russian defense and overall strategic relationships have been intensifying for years, leaving inertia, energy imports that have jumped due to the war with Ukraine, and arms sales. Path dependence on Russian arms is slowly being eroded as India diversifies its sources of military sales and technology transfer.72 Diversification has been taking place for at least twenty years.73 Russian weapons often fail to meet India’s requirements, already discernibly 20 years ago.74 Moreover, Russia’s increasing requirements for fighting against Ukraine have already delayed critical weapons promised to India like the S-400 air defense system,75 and weapons have often not acquitted themselves well. These trends call into question Russia’s ability to provide reliable strategic support for India.76 This fact, plus Western armaments’ technological superiority, helps explain the new deals with countries like France and the US.77 But because Russia remains willing to transfer arms and technologies that remain unavailable elsewhere and because of India’s strategy of multi-alignment, India is loath to abandon ties.78

While Russian arms sales to China eclipse those to India in volume, scope, and quality, the joint Indo-Russian Brahmos missile project languishes due to Russian reluctance to sell it to China’s potential adversaries.79 Thus, India, having excellent ties with Vietnam, is negotiating this sale.80 Similarly, Moscow’s sale of weapons to Pakistan irritates New Delhi and undoubtedly owes something to Chinese influence in Moscow. “That a Pakistani aircraft designed with China but powered by a Russian engine hit Indian territory is the most visible aspect of how Moscow-Beijing cooperation threatens New Delhi.”81 Russians also tried to persuade India to join China’s BRI, perceived as an anti-India project.82

The Sino-Indian clash over their border and China’s aggressive tactics in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean reveal China’s imperial proclivities and Russia’s increasing inability to resist Chinese encroachments or effectively compete in these domains. China’s aggressive tactics in the South China Sea parallel the PLA attacks on Indian positions in the border. A Chinese military facility in Myanmar’s Coco islands, close to India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands, could pose a critical challenge. Russia has largely looked the other way in Southeast Asia and the South China Sea, not to mention the Indian Ocean at Chinese aggressiveness.83 Today the border issue is supposedly being negotiated. but India’s Foreign Minister Suhbramanyan Jaishankar stated that solving the border issue will be a lengthy process that requires ensuring “peace and tranquility” and desisting from acts of violence.84 China’s statements and Xi Jinping’s refusal to attend the G20 show no genuine interest in negotiating with India.85

China’s practices in the South China Sea remain inimical to India’s interests while Russia refuses to commit itself even as it sells weapons to Vietnam.86 Even though Moscow craves a greater role in the Indian Ocean, possibly to emulate China and India, its depleted resources due to the war probably preclude  attainment of those objectives.87 Meanwhile China continues to build naval bases and help Pakistan build naval power projection and logistical support for that from Gwadar that can only counter India’s ambitions in the Indian Ocean.88 Thus, India is on its own unless it affiliates with an alliance rivaling China that limits Chinese power projection into the Indian Ocean. 

Despite many signs before the war of Russia’s interest in naval cooperation with India and heightened interest in maintaining a permanent deployment in the Indian Ocean, India must seek cooperation with members of the Quad and develop its own resources.89 Russia’s inability to compete in the Indian Ocean or resist China drives India to seek alternative arrangements there, where 120 foreign warships are plying the waters.90 This fact greatly facilitates India’s search for US, European, Australian, and Asian partners.91 India has also enhanced cooperation with Vietnam, championing Vietnamese naval modernization and overall trade development too.92


RIC symbolizes Russia’s desperate attempt to cling to claims of multipolarity in Asia. As Russia falls further into China’s embrace, India serves as the only power with the stature to validate its insistence that the “Turn to the East” is leading to the GEP rather than to an asymmetrical bond with China as the dominant tendency. In Russia’s 2021 National Security Strategy, which repudiated its Western heritage, ties were stressed to both India and China,93 the priority of an all-encompassing partnership with China along with a privileged, strategic partnership with India that included supposedly reliable mechanisms that guaranteed regional security and stability throughout the Asia-Pacific region.94 Russia confronts pressure from China’s encroachments on Indian and Russian interests that it cannot stop. China views Russia as a weakened “junior partner” that cannot be allowed to lose the war in Ukraine.95 Therefore it offers considerable covert support.96 While Russian foreign policy is increasingly subordinated to placating China, China does not hesitate when it can subordinate Russian interests to Sinocentric objectives. 

War in Ukraine, China’s enhanced aggressiveness throughout Asia and especially against India, Chinese covert support for Russia in its war, and superior Western economic-technological-defense capabilities are all eroding the basis for the Indo-Russian entente. India clearly feels China’s mounting strategic pressure in Central and South Asia, the border with China, and the Indian Ocean.97 While India may not sacrifice its strategic autonomy—its lodestar since 1947—it has joined the Quad and overtly turned to the US and the West. Russia increasingly cannot defend India’s let alone its own interests effectively. Therefore. India is seeking new partners who can better sustain India’s interests, especially defense, technology, and economic growth. 

In the censored Russian media, no direct criticism of China or even India is observable. Yet, on the SCO, BRICS, and other groupings involving these countries, we find considerable candor regarding problems that stem from China’s behavior or a divergence in Sino-Russian thinking. The sole explanation is the existence of widespread unease about China’s pursuit of regionalism that dashes Russian dreams. RIC is premised on a shared priority for undermining the liberal international order and forging across Asia an alternative Eurasian partnership. Sinocentrism is scarcely acknowledged in Russia despite the fact it is the principal factor rendering RIC little more than a façade. The Ukraine war has served to boost Chinese assertiveness, whether in Central Asia or on territorial issues. While Russians treat it as a force accelerating their drive for a non-Western order, it has exacerbated differences within RIC and China’s Sinocentric push. By painting itself into a corner, Russia only relies on China with no strategy for solidifying RIC.

India counts on Russia being neutral and playing the balancer against a unipolar or bipolar order. However, Russia keeps ignoring the role of regional states and their agenda for the Indo-Pacific region. Russia’s regional security architecture idea lacks concrete suggestions and gains no support. Although partnerships with countries such as India allow Russia to avoid total isolation since February 2022, Russia has not recognized the losses its conflict with the West can cause to its cooperation with the East. The future of its policies toward India and Asia depends on its ties to China and its success in exiting from Ukraine. Evidence of Russia’s decline also underscores that Russia’s Asian policy, its “pivot to Asia,” has turned out to be only a pivot to China.98 Russia’s war, support for North Korea, rupture with Japan, and alignment with China represent the foreign and defense policy causes for this failure. But its failure to reform its administration and economy to make itself attractive to Asian states is perhaps even more critical. As the failed rupees for rubles scheme shows, Russia’s economic incapacity undermine its capabilities. Given the impact of the war: sanctions, stagnation, increased repression, flight of human capital, isolation and greater dependence on China, and China’s aggressive anti-Indian policy, until and unless the war ends not only will India steadily move away from Russia, but Russia’s ability to play a major role in Asia will decline to levels not seen in centuries.

1. Alexander Gabuev, “On China’s Strategic Calculations After the Turmoil in Russia,” The Economist, July 3, 2023, https://www.economist.com/by-invitation/2023/07/03/alexander-gabuev-on-chinas-strategic-calculations-after-the-turmoil-in-russia

2. Mikhail Koroshikov, “Is Russia Really Becoming China’s Vassal?” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, June 7, 2023.

3. Dmitrii Novikov, “Китай «забрал» себе часть Хабаровского края. Почему молчит Москва?” News.RU, August 31, 2023.

4. Igor Denisov, “What Russia’s National Security Strategy Has to Say About Asia,” The Diplomat, July 14, 2021.

5. “Russia’s Updated National Security Strategy,” NATO Defense College, July 19, 2021, https://www.ndc.nato.int/research/research.php?icode=704

6. Stephen Blank, “Moscow’s Strategic Triangle in a Time of Transition,” Journal of East Asian Affairs, vol. 22, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2008), pp. 99-145.

7. Owen Walker and Cheng Leng, “Chinese Lenders Extend Billions of Dollars to Russian Banks after Western Sanctions,” Financial Times, September 3, 2023.

8. Ivan Krastev, “Robert Mueller Will Never Get to the Bottom of Russia’s Meddling,” New York Times, www.nytimes.com, November 1, 2017.

9. Alexander Gabuev; “Russia Becoming a Vassal of China amid Ukraine War: Macron,” Barrons, May 14, 2023, https://www.barrons.com/news/russia-becoming-a-vassal-of-china-amid-ukraine-war-macron-62a7a530.

10. Sumit Ganguly and Dinsha Mistree, “The Folly of India’s Neutrality,” Foreign Affairs, June 20, 2023.

11. Stephen Blank, “Liberalism’s Puzzle: The Russo–Chinese Alliance in the Light of Russian Aggression Against Ukraine,” Korean Journal of Defense Analysis, vol. 34, no. 4 (December 2022), pp. 555-77.

12. Dmitrii Novikov, “Китай ‘забрал’ себе часть Хабаровского края. Почему молчит Москва?” This paragraph and some others draw closely on “Country Report: Russia,” The Asan Forum, March, May, July, September 2023.

13. Frederic Lemaitre,” China Is Redefining Its Borders With Its Neighbors, Including Russia,” Le Monde, September 4, 2023, https://www.lemonde.fr/en/international/article/2023/09/04/china-is-redefining-its-borders-with-its-neighbors-including-russia_6122600_4.html.

14. David Brennan, “Russia Breaks Silence Over China Map Claiming Its Territory,” Newsweek, September 1, 2023, https://www.newsweek.com/russia-breaks-silence-china-map-disputed-islands-1823983.

15. Ivan Zuenko, “Kitai kak normal’naia strana: vosem’ tezisov o ponimanii Kitaia i Rossiisko-Kitaiskikh otnoshenii,” Rossiia v Global’noi Politike, July 1, 2023.

16. Gilbert Rozman and Gaye Christofferson, eds., Putin’s “Turn to the East” in the Xi Jinping Era (London: Routledge, 2024).

17. Alexander Korolev, China-Russia Strategic Ambitions in International Politics (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2022), p. 175.

18. Maksim Suchkov, “’Nezamenimyi’ partner dlia ‘nezamenimoi superderzhavy: Rol’ Indii v Amerikanskoi politike sderzhivaniia Kitaia,” Rossiya v Global’noi Politike, March 1, 2023.

19. Nivedita Kapur, “Indiiskaia dilemma Rossii: Pochemu buskuet ‘Bol’shaia Strategiia’ Moskvy v regione,” Rossiya v Global’noi Politike, March 1, 2023.

20. Ibid.

21. Sergei Velichkin, “India prodolzhaet sledovat’ svoim interesom,” Mezhdunarodnaya Zhizn’, No. 5, 2023.

22. Danil Bochkov, “Kak Kitaisko-Indiiskoe ekonomicheskoe sotrudnichestvo vliiaet na konfliktnyi potentsial dvystoronnykh otnoshenii,” Mezhdunarodnaya Zhizn’, No. 7, 2023.

23. Nivedita Kapoor, “Multi-Alignment Under ‘Uneven Multipolarity’: India’s Relations with Russia in an Evolving World Order,” MGIMO Review of International Relations, 2023, Vol. 16, No. 2.

24. Svante E. Cornell, “Centripetal vs. Centrifugal Forces and Emergence of Middle Powers in Central Asia and the Caucasus,” Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and Silk Road Studies Program, Silk Road Paper, June 2023, pp. 16-20.

25. Reuel Marc Gerecht and Ray Takeyh, “Iran’s New Patrons: Why China and Russia Are Stepping Up Their Support,” Foreign Affairs, September 7, 2023.

26. Cornelius Adebahr, “Iran is a Geopolitical Challenge for Europe,” Carnegie Europe, September 5, 2023.

27. Daria Osinina, “SCO: New Borders New Tasks,” Valdai Club, August 3, 2023.

28. Richard Javad Heydarian, “Shanghai Cooperation Organization Facade of Unity,” Asia Times, July 6, 2023.

29. Voennoe Obozrenie, May 2023, as reported in “Country Report: Russia,” The Asan Forum, July 2023.

30. Nurlan Gasymov, “Си Цзиньпин провозгласил «новую эру» на саммите Китай – Центральная Азия,” Vedomosti, May 21, 2023.

31. Boris Nikolaev, “Novye istochniki uglevodorodov dlia Kitaiia,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta, June 19, 2023.

32. Aleksandr Khramchikhin, “Pekin pribiraet k rukam strany Tsentral’noi Azii,” Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie, January 26, 2023.

33. Andrei Denisov, “Myi nuzhdaemsia v dobrykh i mnogoplanovykh otnosheniiakh s Kitaem. I Kitai so svoei storony tozhe ispytyvaet v etom estestvennuiu potrebnost’,” Mezhdunarodnaya Zhizn’, No. 6,2023.

34. Kirill Babaev, Andrei Kortunov, and Feng Yujun, “Rossiisko-Kitaiskii Dialog: model’ 2023,” RSMD, June 23, 2023.

35. Ibid.

36. Fyodor Lukyanov, “ШОС не содержит предпосылок того, чтобы в обозримом будущем стать антизападным фронтом,” RGRU, July 5, 2023.

37. A.V. Torkunov and D.V. Strel’tsov, “Rossiiskaia politika povorota na Vostok: Problemy i riski,” MEIMO, No. 4, 2023.

38. Kirill Babaev and Sergei Lavrov, “I vshir’, i vglub’: puti ukrepleniia institutsional’noi osnovy BRIKS,” Rossiya v Global’noi Politike, August 24, 2023.

39. Evgenii Shestakov “V BRIKS vstupiat eshche shest’ stran: itogi sammita v Iokhannesburge,” RGRU, August 24, 2023.

40. Danish Manzoor, “China Blindsided by Historic Challenge to Belt and Road Project at G20,” Newsweek, September 10, 2023.

41. Linda Jakobson, Paul Holtom, Dean Knox, and Jingchao Peng, “China’s Energy and Security Relations with Russia,” SIPRI, 2011, p. 5

42. Charles Krauthammer, “The Unipolar Moment,” Foreign Affairs, vol. 70, no. 1 (1990/1991).

43. “China agitates neighbors as it maps out territorial claims,” The Economic Times, September 5, 2023, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/world-news/china-agitates-neighbors-as-it-maps-out-territorial-claims/articleshow/103379961.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst.

44. Paul Stronski and Richard Sokolsky, “Multipolarity in Practice: Understanding Russia’s Engagement with Regional Institutions,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, January 8, 2020/

45. Ibidem.; Elena Chebankova, “Russia’s Idea of the Multipolar World Order: Origins and Main Dimensions,” Post-Soviet Affairs, vol. 33, no. 3 (2017), pp. 217-234.

46. Ibidem.

47. Elizabeth Wishnick, “The Sino-Russian Partnership and the East Asian Order,” in Gaye Christoffersen, ed., Russia in the Indo-Pacific: New Approaches to Russian Foreign Policy (Abingdon: Routledge, 2022), p. 121.

48. Artyom Lukin, “Russia and the United States in the Asia-Pacific: A Perspective of the English School,” in Gaye Christoffersen, ed., Russia in the Indo-Pacific: New Approaches to Russian Foreign Policy (Abingdon: Routledge, 2022), pp. 40-45.

49. “China-ASEAN Relations Are Most Successful, Dynamic Model In Asia-Pacific Cooperation: Chinese Premier,” CCTV, September 18, 2023, https://english.cctv.com/2023/09/18/ARTITp7YVR81c9XILsYef5Zy230918.shtml.

50. Nadege Roland, “China’s Southern Strategy,” Foreign Affairs, June 9, 2022, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2022-06-09/chinas-southern-strategy.

51. Amaia Sanchez Cacicedo, “India’s G20 Presidency,” European Institute for Security Studies, Brief, NO. 17, September 2023, https://www.iss.europa.eu/content/indias-g20-presidency

52. Ved Shinde, “What Does India Mean by a Multipolar World?” Geopolitical Monitor, August 21, 2023.

53. Caciedo, p. 4.

54. Ibid.

55. Lee Ying Shan, “India Isn’t Dependent on Russian Oil, Indian Energy Minister Says,” CNBC, August 25, 2023.

56. Dan Ciuriak, “The BRICS as an Alternative Anchor for Global Economic Governance: A Comment,”, Discussion Paper, Ciuriak Consulting, July 14, 2023.

57. Ibid, p. 15.

58. Ibid,p. 13; K.A. Dhananjay, “End of the Road for India and Russia’s Rupee-Ruble Trade?” The Diplomat, May 22, 2023.

59. Ibid.

60. Ciuriak, Revised version, August 21, 2023.

61. Ariel Cohen, “China’s Fake Victory from BRICS Energy Expansion Global Energy,” Forbes, September 13, 2023; David E. Kaiser, Economic Diplomacy and the Origins of the Second World War (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015).

62. Emily De La Bruyere and Nathan Picarsic, “No Limits: What China Stands to Gain from Russia’s War With the West,” Hinrich Foundation, 2023.

63. Danish Manzoor, “China Blindsided by Historic Challenge to Belt and Road Project at G20,” Newsweek, September 10, 2023.

64. “Explainer: India in Tightrope Walk as Brazil, Russia, China Seek to Expand BRICS, BBC Monitoring, June 6, 2023; Dov Zakheim, “BRICS Expansion Is All About China,” The Hill, August 21, 2023.

65. Clea Caulcutt, “France Aims to Lure India from Its Main Arms Dealer: Russia,” Politico, November 25, 2022; Salmeer P. Lalwani, “A Big Step Forward in U.S.-India Defense Ties, United States Institute of Peace, June 6, 2023.

66. Sumathi Bala, “India’s Ties with Russia Remain Steady. But Moscow’s Tighter Embrace of China Makes It Wary,” CNBC, May 3, 2023.<

67. Kapoor, “Multi-Alignment Under “Uneven Multipolarity,” p.19.

68. Maximillian Ernst and Tongfi Kim, “Smart Balancers Kill Many Birds with Few Stones,” Naval War College Review, vol. 76, no. 2 (2023).

69.   Bala, “India’s Ties with Russia Remain Steady. But Moscow’s Tighter Embrace of China Makes It Wary.”

70. Tanika Godbole, “Was India’s Joint G20 Communique a Success?,” DW, September 11, 2023, https://www.dw.com/en/was-indias-g20-joint-communique-a-diplomatic-success/a-66777602.

71. Kapoor, “Multi-Alignment Under “Uneven Multipolarity”, p. 27.

72. Stephen Blank, Natural Allies? Regional Security in Asia and Prospects for Indo-American Strategic Cooperation, (Carlisle Barracks, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, 2005).

73. Ibid; Stephen Blank, “Arms Sales and Technology Transfer In Indo-Israeli Relations,” Journal of East Asian Affairs, vol. 19, no. 1 (2005), pp. 200-241.

74. Ibidem.

75. Bala, “India’s Ties with Russia Remain Steady. But Moscow’s Tighter Embrace of China Makes It Wary.”

76. Ibid.

77. Caulcutt, “France Aims to Lure India from Its Main Arms Dealer: Russia”; Lalwani, “A Big Step Forward in U.S.-India Defense Ties.”

78. Kapoor, p. 22.

79. Krzystof Iwanek, “Does China-Russia Cooperation Hurt India’s National Interests?” The Diplomat, April 25, 2023.

80. Inder Singh Bisht, “Vietnam Negotiating BrahMos Missile Purchase with India: A Report,” The Defense Post, June 14, 2023.

81. Ibid.; Stephen Blank and Younkyoo Kim, “Making Sense of Russia’s Policy in Afghanistan,” Russie.Nei.Reports, No. 24, Ifri, September 2018, https://www.ifri.org/en/publications/etudes-de-lifri/russieneireports/making-sense-russias-policy-afghanistan

82. Ibid.

83. Stephen Blank, “Paradoxes Abounding: Russia and the South China Sea Issue,” Anders Corr, ed., Great Powers Grand Strategies: The New Game in the South China Sea, Annapolis, MD. Naval Institute Press, 2018, pp. 248-272.

84. “Non-Alignment Non-Negotiable,” The Economist, June 17-23, 2023.

85. Alex Windham, Alberto Nardelli, Sudhi Ranjan Sen, “India-China Tensions Threaten to Leave Modi Empty-Handed at G20,” Bloomberg, August 31, 2023.

86. Hannah Beech, “Vietnam in Secret Talks to Buy Russian Arms,” New York Times, September 10, 2023.

87. Stephen Blank, “Russia’s Efforts to Play in the Indian Ocean Basin”, New Lines Institute, June 17, 2021.

88. Gaurav Sen, “China Is Helping Modernize the Pakistan Navy.  What Does That Mean for India?” The Diplomat, July 22, 2023.

89. Anurag Bisen, “India-Russia Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region, Arctic, and Russian Far East,” Manohar Paprikar Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, December 6, 2021.

90. Ibid.

91. Ibid.

92. Xuan Dung Phan, “Elevating Indo-Vietnam Maritime Cooperation In the Indo-Pacific Theater,” South Asian Voices, March 25, 2021, https://southasianvoices.org/elevating-india-vietnam-maritime-cooperation-in-the-indo-pacific/; Huyinh Tam Sang, “The Growing Importance of Vietnam to India’s South China Sea Policy,” Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs, April 1, 2022, https://www.airuniversity.af.edu/JIPA/Display/Article/2980923/the-growing-importance-of-vietnam-to-indias-south-china-sea-policy/.

93. “National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation,” July 2, 2021, http://scrf.gov.ru/security/docs/document133/,

94. Ibid.

95. Lee Ferran, “CIA No. 2: China Sees Russia As ‘Junior Partner,’ Likely Alarmed By Wagner Uprising,” Breaking Defense, July 13, 2023, https://breakingdefense.com/2023/07/cia-no-2-china-sees-russia-as-junior-partner-likely-alarmed-by-wagner-uprising/.

96. Office of the Director of National Intelligence,” Support Provided by the People’s Republic Of China To Russia,” July 2023.

97. Ashley J. Tellis, “America’s Bad Bet on India,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, May 1, 2023; Blank, Natural Allies?

98. E.G. Ryan Nabil, “Evaluating Russia’s Pivot to Asia,” Yale Journal of International Affairs, June 10, 2020.

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