“We are witnessing a distancing between New Delhi and Moscow”: analysis by Olivier Da Lage, guest in Toulon

“We are witnessing a distancing between New Delhi and Moscow”: analysis by Olivier Da Lage, guest in Toulon
“We are witnessing a distancing between New Delhi and Moscow”: analysis by Olivier Da Lage, guest in Toulon

Associate researcher at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations, specialist in India and the Arabian Peninsula, Olivier Da Lage, invited to Toulon by the Mediterranean Foundation for Strategic Studies, will give a conference this Thursday, June 27 (1) on the theme: “In the aftermath of the elections, what choices for India on the international scene?”

How can we explain the mixed results obtained by Narendra Modi?

By a certain attrition of power no doubt and also somewhat disappointing economic results, particularly in terms of employment. Voters from low and middle castes, who had been able to trust Modi in the past, also feel like they are being left behind. With 240 seats obtained, Modi no longer has an absolute majority. To govern, he is therefore obliged to make alliances, more particularly with two large regional parties in Bihar and Andhra Pradesh, which have obtained concessions on regional demands. But Modi’s loss of power is entirely relative: all of his main ministers have been reappointed in the new government.

Will Narendra Modi, who was accused of authoritarian drift, still have to put water in his wine?

The future will tell, but that is not the impression that dominates at the moment. Modi, by his character, has always decided alone, without consulting anyone. There’s no reason for that to change. At least not right away. The alliance is too new to be questioned. Especially since there will soon be regional elections which interest one of the two parties newly allied to Modi.

To stay on the authoritarian excesses of its Prime Minister, is India still the largest democracy in the world today?

Certain international indices – contested by the Indians – show a regression in this area in recent years. But these legislative elections showed that the BJP, Prime Minister Modi’s party, was not untouchable since it lost seats. Furthermore, there have been no more scandals or electoral cheating than in the past. The last election therefore validates that India is still a democracy. Imperfect certainly, but a democracy nonetheless.

With Pakistan and China as rather hostile neighbors, India is geographically isolated. Is this what explains its recent quest for alliances with Western countries?

For several years now, India, like Brazil and South Africa, has been almost an associate member of the G7. But she still refuses any alliance. A principle that goes back to its independence and its positioning as a non-aligned country. But faced with the Pakistani enemy, helped by China which considers Asia its own territory, India is obliged to move closer to the West. Militarily, it knows that it is no match for its powerful Chinese neighbor. Hence the signing of military cooperation with France, but also the United States, Australia, Japan…

What about relations with Russia? Are they suffering from the banning of Moscow by a large part of the international community?

Relations between India and Russia date back to Soviet times. The ties between the two countries are historic. Without exaggeration, we can even describe the Indian population as Russophiles. From there, we understand that India did not wish to condemn Russian aggression against Ukraine. But even if it is not accepted, we are witnessing a slow but progressive distancing between New Delhi and Moscow. And this for many reasons. First, the war in Ukraine showed that Russian weapons – which constitute 2/3 of Indian military equipment – are no longer as efficient as they once were. Moreover, faced with Ukrainian resistance, Russia needs its weapons more than ever. To get rid of this military dependence, India is therefore turning to the West: in this case France and the United States, but also Israel. The rapprochement between Moscow and Beijing has only reinforced this new geopolitical orientation.

A word on “Hinduness” reaffirmed by Modi and the tensions this causes with India’s Muslim minority. How is this perceived by other Muslim countries?

Apart from Pakistan, most Muslim countries are careful not to interfere in India’s internal affairs. This is what we call “realpolitik”. Moreover, despite a very harsh policy towards its Muslim community, India maintains very good relations with Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

1. The conference will take place on Thursday June 27 from 6:30 p.m. at the Toulon law faculty. Free and mandatory registration on the site www.fmes-france.org

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