OSINT Report: India, United States, Russia, Pakistan – The Contested QUAD II
The Indo Pacific QUAD, India, United States, Japan and Australia are being much debated ever since the first working level meeting was held in Manila in November 2017.
The contours of this QUAD are being worked out in the four capitals in varied ways and these may gather momentum in the months ahead if the goals and objectives are clear to these primary powers in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
Today many see QUAD including the Chinese official media designed to coral China resulting in uncertain commitment not just from India but also Australia and Japan given trade relations with Beijing.
However another QUAD in the region – India, United States, Russia and Pakistan is silently shaping geo-politics in the Asia Pacific which needs to be highlighted given likelihood of emerging contestations.
For convenience and clarity this is being referred to as QUAD II.
A contested QUAD II poses a major challenge for India given legacy of the, “Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership,” with Russia with heavy dependency for military technical support as 60 -70 % of the combat resources of the armed forces are of Russian origin.
There is a perception that Russia is expressing growing concern over expanding Indo US relations increasing the gap with Moscow.
However questioned in an interview by Nizavisimaya Gazeta (??????????? ??????) on April 9, 2018 on New Delhi’s shift westwards, India’s Ambassador to Moscow Ambassador Pankaj Saran’s said, “India does not move either away from anyone or towards anyone. The only direction in which India moves is forward”.
on the other hand vexed with growing Indo US proximity, Russia is seen by some as playing the Pakistan card with rationale of the role that country can play in containing terrorism apart from stability in Afghanistan.
Clearly it is nobody’s case to deny two sovereign states from engaging with each other and no doubt Russia’s geo-political compulsions are complex.
Ambassador Pankaj Saran in the same interview to Nizavisimaya Gazeta on how India perceives “thaw” in relations between Russia and Pakistan said, “Russia is within its rights to develop relations with all countries in the world. It is its sovereign right. We believe that Russia will not do anything that will harm its relations with India or the interests of India”.
The main concern for India is of defence sales which seem to be under discussion between Russia and Pakistan, if Pakistan’s defence minister Khurram Dastgir Khan is to be believed and include items such as the T 90 tanks and next generation fighters.
On the other hand India and Russia are negotiating major defence contracts such as the S 400 missile defence system amongst others, which would require support and clearance by the United States given imposition of Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) on Moscow.
Section 231 of CAATSA states that, the President shall impose five or more of the sanctions described in Section 235 of the Act with respect to a person the President determines knowingly, on or after such date of enactment, engages in a significant transaction with a person that is part of, or operates for or on behalf of, the defense or intelligence sectors of the Government of the Russian Federation. The President delegated to the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, the authority to implement Section 231 on September 29, 2017”.
The sanctions described in Section 235 of the CAATSA also include banking restrictions which assumes importance due to dollar trade of the arms deals. The Section states, “The President may, pursuant to such regulations as the President may prescribe, prohibit any transfers of credit or payments between financial institutions or by, through, or to any financial institution, to the extent that such transfers or payments are subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and involve any interest of the sanctioned person”.
Section 236 of the Act provides for Exceptions, Waivers and so on and India is hopeful of tapping this clear the trade deals with Russia.
The Pentagon may be favourable to green flagging Indo Russian deals which would require a waiver, however what would be the quid pro quo in such a scenario.
Will it be the remaining foundational agreements Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) also known as the Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA); and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA)which the United States is keen that India inks, but New Delhi has been reluctant to do so highlighting the impact that these would have on India Russia as well as India China relations.
Pakistan on the other hand is going through a difficult phase in relations with the US post repeated condemnations by United States President Trump in the South Asia strategy followed by the famous New Year Tweet. US aid to Pakistan stands suspended.
While China is an, “all weather friend,” Russia has the high technology military equipment that can match India’s conventional forces and is thus being wooed by Pakistan, hoping to exploit Russia’s apprehensions of growing Indo US proximity.
CAATSA and other developments denote that the US and Russia relations seem to be in a free fall with some hopes of a Trump Putin Summit to defuse the crisis.
Quite clearly QUAD II is a complex matrix that has the sound of uncertain geo-political drums?
Yet QUAD II may prove far more significant to India than the original QUAD and we will have to wait and watch how Indian diplomacy navigates this challenge?