Russia and Indo-Pacific: Why Delhi is so interested in cooperation with Moscow

Ashley J. Tellis

In mid-March, the first virtual summit of the countries participating in the Quadripartite Security Dialogue (USA, Japan, Australia and India) took place. Ashley Tellis, Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment, talks about the role of this format in Russian-Indian relations and the reasons why Delhi seeks to attract Moscow to participate in the political processes of the Indo-Pacific region.
Many Russian experts believe that the US is trying to institutionalize the Qua-dripartite Security Dialo-gue. Recently, at the invitation of President Joe Biden, the first virtual summit of the quartet (Australia, In-dia, USA, Japan) was held, and US Secretary of De-fense Lloyd Austin recently visited India. Some even argue that things are moving towards the creation of an “Asian NATO.” What’s really going on? How will India’s participation in the Quadripartite Dialogue and the development of the Indo-Pacific Strategy affect relations between Moscow and Delhi?
The very fact that the United States held the first virtual summit of the countries participating in the Quadripartite Security Dialogue testifies to the gradual institutionalization of this format. Perhaps over time, it will become the m-ain platform for the United States and its democratic a-llies in the Indo-Pacific reg-ion to work out solutions on many important issues. But I do not think that this will be followed by the creation of a military alliance.
Each of the four members has a very multifaceted relationship with China and will develop them based on their own interests. They all recognize the importance of working with each other to maintain order based on common rules, but they are hardly prepared to create anything like a military coalition. The United States has long signed bilateral agreements on security guarantees with Japan and Australia, but it is still very, very far from the transformation of the four into a full-fledged military bloc.
Delhi’s participation in the Quadripartite Dialogue is interesting because the United States in any case assigns India a key role in its Indo-Pacific strategy. Therefore, it is not surprising that India is so visible in the negotiations that the US is leading about the future of the region.
But for Delhi, too, the Quadripartite Dialogue is primarily a platform for diplomatic contacts and coordination of efforts, a future collective institution aimed at strengthening order based on common rules. Of the four participants, India is probably the least prepared to imagine that the four could turn into a military alliance. Therefore, Delhi will continue to cooperate with the rest of the quartet to prevent Chinese hegemony in the Indo-Pacific region, but will not use the Quadripartite Dialogue as an instrument of military confrontation with China.
Indian diplomats, journalists and experts recently tried to convince Moscow that Russia should get involved in the political processes of the Indo-Pacific region. How realistic is this? And how do you think the views of New Delhi and Washington differ on this issue?
Yes, Indian diplomats are very persistent in seeking Russia to become part of a broader Indo-Pacific interaction, since Delhi fears that otherwise Moscow will get even closer to Beijing, in which India is completely uninterested.
Delhi would prefer that relations between Russia and China were not as close as they are now, and that Moscow develops contacts with other countries of the quartet, rather than being isolated from the Indo-Pacific region, being left alone with Beijing.
How effective are Moscow’s efforts to establish contacts and establish a dialogue between Delhi and Beijing? Is the RIC format useful, in your opinion – Russia, India, China?
I believe that Moscow’s efforts to establish a dialogue between Delhi and Beijing are useful, but their importance should not be exaggerated. As you know, the trilateral summit with the participation of Russia, India and China gave Delhi and Beijing an opportunity to meet and agree on de-escalation measures on their border. But the fact that such results were achieved at this forum was largely an accident.
In my opinion, the Russian direction occupies a very important place in India’s foreign policy, but at the same time, Delhi understands that Russia has completely different goals with respect to China than India.
India sees China as more of a competitor, perhaps even an adversary, while Russia does not see him as such. It can be expected that India will make every effort to involve Russia in the political processes of the Indo-Pacific region, since only in this way can it somehow alienate Moscow from Beijing, which, of course, is the main source of concern for Delhi today.