Modi disastrously bungled India’s famous policy of so-called “non-alignment” over the past year and ensured that the summit between Pakistani Prime Minister Khan and US President Trump was an unprecedented success in changing the strategic chessboard in South Asia.
Afghanistan, Trade, And Kashmir
All of Eurasia is still trying to process the grand strategic implications of what just took place on Monday during Pakistani Prime Minister Khan’s unprecedentedly successful summit with US President Trump, which saw the American leader praise his counterpart for “extricating” the Pentagon from Afghanistan, committing to invest even more in the South Asian state, and even surprisingly offering to mediate the ongoing Kashmir Conflict. Each of these three main components of their partnership — the military, economic, and political — have been supercharged like never before, thus suddenly changing the strategic chessboard in South Asia.
India lost the War on Afghanistan and won’t be able to turn the landlocked country into its “strategic depth” springboard for scaling up the Hybrid War on CPEC, especially not after it has to contend with the fact that its American military-strategic ally intends to become an indirect de-facto stakeholder in this flagship project of China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) through its promised Pakistani investments. The “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” attitude that America is taking towards CPEC naturally inclines it to mediate the Kashmir Conflict in order to ensure the long-term success of this initiative, representing a major strategic defeat for India.
Making A Fool Out Of Modi
But therein lies one of the most curious reactions to the Khan-Trump Summit, and it’s that India denied that Modi requested the American leader to diplomatically intervene like Trump said he did. It could be that Modi really did “betray India’s interests” like the opposition claims happened, or it might just be the case that Trump wanted to put pressure on him to welcome the US’ involvement in Kashmir while simultaneously humiliating the Indian leader as clever vengeance for the “hard ball” that he’s playing with America regarding trade and the S-400s.
Whatever the truth may be, one thing is certain, and it’s that none of this would have even been possible had Modi not disastrously bungled India’s famous policy of so-called “multi-alignment” over the past year, which laid the basis for the Pakistani-American rapprochement. The US had previously assumed that its military-strategic alliance with India was proceeding smoothly due to their shared interests in “containing” China, but then Modi blatantly tried to extract more benefits from Trump by attempting to play America against China & Russia, which instantly destroyed the nascent trust that was building between the two leaders.
Losing The “Golden Opportunity”
Modi had the “golden opportunity” last year to ensure India’s lasting alliance with the US had he accepted his country’s junior partner status and took the deal that was on offer at the time, which was speculated to have involved New Delhi rejecting Moscow’s S-400s in exchange for Washington’s analogous air-defense systems as well as distancing itself from Beijing. Lo and behold, however, Modi proceeded with the missile deal and flirted with the possibility of enhancing trade relations with the People’s Republic while meeting with President Xi during the G20, which flew in the face of the spirit of the US-Indian alliance.
That’s not to say that India was serious about pivoting towards both Eurasian Great Powers, but just that it was too obvious to the US that New Delhi was trying to exploit its relations with Moscow and Beijing as leverage to ultimately get a better deal from Washington. Indian strategists terribly misread Trump, who earned his riches in the cutthroat industry of New York real estate, and didn’t think that he’d react the way that he did by intensifying pressure on their country and asking for even more from them than before. Had they followed America’s recently troubled relations with Russia and China, however, they’d have known how he operates.
Trump’s Modus Operandi
Trump’s modus operandi is to make an offer to his counterparts that’s tilted towards the US’ favor (seeing as how he’s negotiating from what he believes to be a position of strength) and then worsen the terms concurrent with putting even more pressure on them than ever before if they reject the original offer. This in turn creates an unpredictable situation that “The Kraken” (“the agent of chaos”) masterfully manipulates to his country’s advantage by exploiting the opportunity to reshape the strategic situation at his rivals’ expense, thus leading to a far-reaching revision of the status quo that more often than not ends up being to the US’ benefit.
The only recourse that Russia and China have if they want to stop this process in the event that they can’t successfully guide it in the direction of their own interests (a feat that’s much easier said than done considering that the US controls the chaotic dynamics) is to enact a series of “face-saving” concessions under the euphemism of reaching a so-called “New Detente” or “trade deal“. Those two aforementioned Great Powers have much more resilience than India, however, and are also more or less aligned in their strategic visions too, which is why their leaders can hold out longer in trying to resist Trump’s pressure than Modi can.
The Worst Time To Play “Hard Ball”
For as much as India made a big Bollywood show out of its recently reinvigorated relations with Russia and China, it drastically reduced its share of Russian weapons purchases by 42% over the past decade and remains adamantly opposed to BRI on the basis that CPEC runs through Pakistani territory that New Delhi claims as its own per its maximalist approach to the Kashmir Conflict. It’s already gone too far with American and “Israeli” arms imports to reverse the ongoing trend, and the US just beat out China to become India’s top trading partner, yet India wants to play “hard ball” at the exact moment when it’s most dependent on the US.
The only reason that this is happening is because Modi disastrously bungled India’s “balancing” act, while PM Khan executed his country’s own with the utmost perfection in order to become the global pivot state, a position that no one could reasonably doubt after Pakistan proved that it’s capable of proactively maintaining excellent relations with all relevant Great Powers without them being at the expense of one or the other. India’s “multi-alignment”, meanwhile, is always reactive and aimed against an implied third party, which defeats this policy’s very purpose and defiles the art of diplomacy.
Pakistan Pioneers The Proper “Balancing” Policy
Pakistan, having much more experience working with the US, understood exactly what Trump’s modus operandi was right away and therefore swiftly worked to advance the joint goal of brokering peace in Afghanistan once America signaled it was ready in order to relieve the Hybrid War pressure that was previously placed upon it. That was a refreshing surprise for the US since it had grown used to its rapprochement outreaches being rejected by Russia and China or taken advantage of by India in a naked attempt to get even more than what was originally offered, which explains why Trump took such an immediate personal liking to Prime Minister Khan.
There isn’t much that India can do about this either since it’s caught in a dilemma purely of Modi’s own making. The US, Russia, and China each know the dire situation that India is in, meaning that they’ll try to take maximum advantage of it depending on whichever one Modi turns to for relief from this predicament. Washington wants full capitulation on the military-economic fronts, while Moscow wants to regain its former standing in New Delhi’s arms market at Washington’s expense. Beijing, meanwhile, is eager to integrate India with BRI, which critics have warned could impede Modi’s signature “Make in India” industrialization plans.
India intended to be the “friend of all”, but ultimately ended up being trusted by none at all and made it vulnerable to being taken advantage of by everyone after Modi bungled its “multi-alignment” policy. Pakistan, on the other hand, succeeded in every way that India failed by proving that its possible to maintain excellent relations with the US, Russia, and China without these bilateral partnerships coming at anyone’s expense. Instead of Pakistan being the one that’s “isolated” like India always loves to claim, it’s none other than India itself which has been relegated to this position, with there being nobody to blame for this debacle but Modi.
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.