By Haider Abbas
The fast escalating situation on the Ukraine-Russia border is keeping the world on its tenterhooks, as France President Emanuel Macron was on a visit to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 8, to anyhow douse the fire, and which has yielded ‘nothing as yet’ despite the five-hours talks between the two. What is the overall position which has every potential to blow into a third-world-war, needs to be examined, particularly, as China and Russia have decided to fight-each-wars, officially declaring it at the Beijing Winter Olympics, to finally lock horns with US and NATO allies at Ukraine ( with Russia and at Taiwan ( with China)
Ukraine was once a part of the erstwhile Soviet Union, which Russia wants to take back, and the same is what China considers for Taiwan, all the while as NATO and US support both Ukraine and Taiwan against Russia and China. This is what may be called as a tipping-point of the whole geo-politics to spill out and convert into a full-blown nuclear war too, as all the major players have been nuclearly armed since long. A small mistake can lead to thus anything, as about 1,06,000 Russian troops have got deployed at the Ukraine border. What is stunning is that after the meeting ( February 8) the overall position has just refused to de-escalate or which may get even worse. Till now the reports suggest for no improvement.
It is leant from various media sources like The Independent, on February 8, that Putin had expressed his utter dismay to Macron and he vehemently opposed any possibility of Ukraine joining the military alliance with NATO and that NATO should desist or else face a full-scale war with Russia. With this kind of a posture it can easily be calculated of the relations between Russia and NATO are teetering on the brink of a war. On the other side, NATO has started to assemble its forces in Poland, Romania and Lithuania amid warning of tough-sanctions on Russia. It may be added that former Soviet states like Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania have already joined NATO, which means that of the 30 member countries (in NATO), five now are border states with Russia, and which Russia does not at all feel comfortable with.
In this growing conflict, what emerges as a tough question is for India, which of course has every reason to worry about Pakistan, as Pakistan PM Imran Khan is soon to meet Vladimir Putin this month, and it is most likely that the outcome of this Putin-Macron meeting would also get discussed, as Putin has also long backed the Muslim sentiment on the anti-Islamic campaign which has been raging through Europe and US since around two decades, with anti-Prophet Muhammed cartoons etc.
A Pakistan-Russia bloc is what may be on the cards which clearly will be against France and it would not be a good-news for India , as India had been a long-term ally of Soviet-Bloc for about six-decades. Will Russia drift from New Delhi? While Russia also finding the Arab world also getting close to it? As Pakistan has played well into making Arab states to start to ally with Russia-China coalition, which was displayed at the Beijing Olympics, as Arab states presence in Beijing has not gone well with US. It is also ironic that at Beijing India had to cut a sorry figure, as China decided to cock-a-snook at India, by making Qi Fabio, the torchbearer of the Olympic flame who had fought with India in the Galwan valley on June 15, 2020.
It may be mentioned that Imran Khan on his return from Beijing had his guest as Interior Minister from Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which shows the increasing closeness of Pakistan as KSA seem to be on its way-back from its earlier posture when it had got returned its 2 billion USD loan from Pakistan in 2020 and now by the end of 2021, KSA has given a loan of 3 billion USD to Pakistan, and as a result of it, Pakistan has acted as a bridge between China and KSA as well as UAE. It may also be recalled that at Beijing, Russia and China have expressed their joint solidarity for each-others-wars etc, therefore, it may well be construed that in a very near future, Pakistan will stand with Russia on Ukraine and also that Arab states may follow suit. How ill India adapt to it is what is awaited.
India is an ally with France as India recently got a fleet of Rafale fighter jets and France is an ally of Israel, which all is now making into a very interesting equation as India tends to stand with Europe against Russia ( as what seems to be) with Israel also on the same board, while Pakistan is against Israel and into the Russian fold, and in the overall world scenario today is that one cannot remain neutral as sides have to be taken, and once if Israel starts to chart its war on Masjid-Al-Aqsa ( Islam’s third holiest site) in Palestine, as its cardinal objective, Russia is likely to thwart it from its Air Force bases in Syria and this is now where Pakistan is all set to enter, as Pakistan shares the sentiment to save-guard Al Aqsa too. Will such issues hog the in-coming meeting with Putin and Imran Khan is to be seen too? India has as yet maintained a no-committal position on Ukraine vis a vis Russia.
The big question is now, how will India find Pakistan’s open support of Russia on Ukraine and with India not so vocal on it? Will it affect Russian-Indian relations, with particular reference to the long-term conflicts between Pakistan and India? Russian war on Ukraine is coming, and Macron could not break-ice with Moscow, despite the marathon 5-hours of one-to-one talks. This will therefore make the hog-light fall on India as India is now a strong ally to US which is to support both Ukraine and Taiwan, thus, making a catch-22 position for India.
It is quite obvious that India, even if unwilling will have to go with US, as US will counter Pakistan with India. If this war starts, then Ukraine will automatically engulf Europe with which it shares half of its borders along with Belarus etc, and with Iran also lending it support towards Russia as Iran had always been in its bloc apart from being averse to US from a long time. What however, do seem to be on the cards is a bloc not so friendly with India.
US on its part cannot see a scenario of Ukraine gone as that would make Russia reach with its nuclear arsenal the very door step of Europe, but the first fallout of this whole build-up is the moment this conflict is to start, Russia will put-on-hold its gas supply to Europe, which will lead to a chaotic internal situation in Europe as Russia supplies for around 40% of its natural gas to Europe.
The pleas of Macron who wanted to convey that the world has not as yet recovered from COVID-19 and it cannot afford a war, must have found Putin echoing the same, but with a question as to why NATO is dragging its feet in Ukraine, which was never a part of Europe but a part of the once Soviet-Union instead? . Perhaps, Russia is not to let Ukraine be used against itself by the NATO and US allies. This is now zeroing onto a next scenario, that if Arab states are to make moves towards China-Russia bloc, then the other bloc will be US, NATO, Israel and India. How India will find itself in this new conglomerate is what time is to tell, but what instead in this resent past has been found is that India has kept dithering the Chinese aggressions on it. Did the help come from US? Perhaps not.
For PM of India, Narendra Modi, it is time to reflect as to where India stands today, as foreign-policy is not a mere Photo Ops.