Taking advantage of the concern of India and the growing proximity between Russia and China since the former attacked Ukraine to invite sanctions and the latter tried to bail it out, an American secretary has urged New Delhi to get arms from the US to reduce its dependence on imports of military hardware from Moscow. Visiting US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland said in an interview yesterday that US was ready to help India move away from dependence on Russia for defence supplies.
Nuland said she had met External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and her counterpart Harsh Vardhan Shringla to discuss the Russia-Ukraine war. “Unfortunately, Indian students got trapped, and they were able to get out, but unfortunately one Indian lost his life which was very tragic,” the American under secretary told The Indian Express.
“Russia itself and President Putin have become so much more aggressive even as we spent months and months and months — the United States or allies and partners, Ukraine itself — trying to find a negotiated solution to this problem, before Russia invaded and President Putin spurned those efforts,” the American under secretary of state for political affairs said.
While the performance of American military hardware has left a lot to be desired in battlefields across the world — when the US had invaded Afghanistan under George W Bush, for three months their bombs from fighter aircraft kept missing Taliban targets — the American secretary furthered the propaganda of inferior Russian arms. “… is Russia (going to) actually be a reliable supplier for India, a supplier you want to have? Look at how poorly Russian equipment is performing on the battlefield,” Nuland said.
“Some 60% of their surface-to-air missiles are not even operational, they have lost vast amounts of equipment. Sanctions are going to make it harder to have financial relationships, and, most importantly, Russia has lost so much equipment so quickly in this conflict. So, are they actually going to have the supply lines? What we have been saying is, among other things, we have had over this last month, this massive US and allied partner-led effort to source Soviet-made equipment and other equipment for Ukraine,” the American under secretary said.
Nuland then made her sales pitch: “So if we can help provide that for Ukraine, we can also provide alternatives for India to make this transition that you yourself are seeking to make. It was a very rich discussion. You don’t want to get trapped in a dependency with a guy like Putin, and there are alternatives and we are eager to be your partner.”
But Vikram Mittal, writing for Forbes, is not impressed by the American claim of more losses on the Russian side. “An invading army should expect three times the losses of the army on the defence, if the two armies are equally matched. These numbers suggest that the two militaries are fairly equally matched and that neither side necessarily has a technology advantage.”
Is the US losing its focus from the international trade route of South China Sea where China has territorial ambitions? The American under secretary said, “What is the Indo-Pacific strategy really about? It’s about ensuring that we have a free, open, prosperous, technologically-open Indo-Pacific. And what we are fighting for, in the Russian Ukraine context, what is Ukraine fighting for — it’s the right to be a free, open and prosperous society. So essentially, what we are trying to do as democracies, is ensure that our way of life — all of these tenets of international law, of human rights, of sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries, non-coercion, non-aggression — whether it’s in the Indo Pacific or whether it’s in Europe, prevail, and then our kids get to live in that kind of world…So that’s what we are — we are all about and India is a lynchpin to so much of that.”
Nuland was asked about China’s comparison of the Nato operations in eastern Europe with the Quad in Asia Pacific. She said, “Obviously, China is trying to seek an advantage for itself in this conflict, as it always does. But again, what threatens China most: open and free societies who offer their people a different way of life than the Communist party of China offers for Chinese people.”
“So NATO is a defensive alliance, of voluntary alignment of countries who asked to join together to defend themselves. In the Indo-Pacific strategy, we are talking about the great democracies of the region, working together to protect themselves and to advance prosperity, and free and open commerce and navigation and all of these things. All of the things that the autocrats want to change, want to threaten. So I’m not surprised that the Chinese are trying to draw parallels here. Because, in both cases, we’re talking about trying to keep the world free for democratic governance,” the American under secretary said.
Finally, when asked whether Russia or China was a bigger threat, Nuland obfuscated. “
The worry now is that they intensify their efforts together. They learn from each other, whether it is how to coerce a neighbour economically, or militarily. Whether it’s about how to go in the UN system and undercut the rules of the road that the US, India and other democracies have built to favour freedom. Whether it is that they let each other off the hook by financing each other’s militaries,” she said.
“All of these things are worrying. But I also think that this is an energizing moment for the democracies, because now we see very clearly what we are up against,” the American under secretary added.