The pragmatic policy of principled neutrality towards the Ukrainian Conflict is practiced by dozens of Global South governments that collectively comprise the vast majority of humanity. It isn’t unique to China or India, though the world’s two largest developing countries have definitely pioneered it by virtue of their sheer size and resultant sway in influencing their comparatively medium- and smaller-sized peers to follow suit.
At the outset of the US-led NATO proxy war on Russia through Ukraine, nobody doubted that China would at the very least practice such a policy, if not outright support Moscow. Beijing ultimately remained committed to principled neutrality instead of flirting with the second scenario due to how exposed its export-driven economy is to Western sanctions, ergo why it tacitly complies with many of their unilateral restrictions against Moscow. Even so, its present policy is still worthy of praise.
As for India, expectations were actually the opposite. Considering its growing military-strategic convergence with the US over the past decade, many predicted that it would possibly jump on its aspiring patron’s anti-Russian sanctions bandwagon. The opposite ended up happening in fact since India was driven to redouble the Russian dimension of its tripolarity grand strategy in order to preemptively avert its strategic partner’s potentially disproportionate dependence on China.
This outcome simultaneously advanced and complicated Chinese grand strategy. On the one hand, it kept India at a comfortable arm’s distance away from America after Delhi bravely defied Washington’s pressure to unilaterally concede on its objective national interests by condemning and sanctioning Moscow. This thus prevented that rising Asian Great Power from becoming the declining unipolar one’s “junior partner”, which could have led to extremely dangerous military-strategic friction with China.
On the other hand, however, India’s proud reaffirmation of its strategic autonomy in the present bi-multipolar intermediary phase of the global systemic transition to multipolarity accelerates the evolution to tripolarity, which reduces the viability of China’s superpower trajectory. In brief, the unexpected emergence of a third pole of influence like the one forming between Russia-India-Iran challenges China’s influence in the Global South that Beijing earlier took for granted.
The chain reaction of systemic consequences that the inclusion of this previously unforeseen factor can credibly lead to as predicted in the preceding hyperlinked piece about China’s superpower trajectory could result in the People’s Republic ultimately having to settle with becoming the economically strongest Great Power in the international system instead of the standards-setting superpower. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it might still not be what its decisionmakers had in mind years ago.
Nevertheless, the tangible and mutually beneficial pros of India’s principled neutrality towards the Ukrainian Conflict far outweigh the speculative and zero-sum cons of this policy. China seems to have accepted this too as evidenced by both civilization-states’ recent decision to mutually disengage their military forces from the disputed frontier while pledging their shared desire to jointly build the Asian Century that isn’t possible if there exists any unfriendly, harsh, and hostile competition between them.
Absent progress being made on the Asian Century scenario, which is the natural outcome of China appreciating India’s principled neutrality and associated reassertion of strategic autonomy in the chaotically evolving world order, America could more easily divide-and-rule this pivotal part of Eurasia. Had India submitted to becoming the declining unipolar hegemon’s “junior partner”, then aggressive military means might have been employed for sabotaging China’s superpower trajectory.
Instead, this trajectory appears to be peacefully drifting in the direction of China becoming the economically strongest Great Power in a system of complex multipolarity (“multiplexity”) as a result of the structural consequences connected with India’s principled neutrality towards the Ukrainian Conflict. The perception of China as a Great Power among equals instead of an aspiring superpower will also help heal the distrust that India came to have of the People’s Republic over the last decade.
With time, those two might therefore make more meaningful progress on the Asian Century scenario than just the positive rhetoric that their representatives recently exchanged, the latter of which is commendable in and of itself but still not sufficient for substantially reforming the international system. In any case, the present course of events very strongly suggests that the global systemic transition to multipolarity will accelerate, even if takes time for its final form of multiplexity to manifest itself.
By Andrew Korybko Via https://oneworld.press/?module=articles&action=view&id=3340