Navigating the Triangular Ties: India, China, and the United States

The gaping need for long-term capital explains why many Asian and Eastern European heads of state "gladly expressed their interest to join this new international financial institution focusing solely on 'real assets' and infrastructure-driven economic growth”

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China's President Xi Jinping, Uzbekistan's President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Russia's President Vladimir Putin during the 22nd Summit of the SCO [Photo Credit: TASS]


Despite the best efforts by the US to influence India to bring the country within its orbit of influence, it is unlikely that India will forsake its deep-rooted friendship with Russia. India is unlikely to forget repeated vetoes by the Soviet Union during the Bangladesh liberation war. The History of Indo-Russian Friendship is deep and spans many decades. Besides the basis of the relationship suits the strategic needs of both.


In a recent article in the Foreign Affairs magazine, Ashley Tellis( May 1 2023) pointed out that during the Bush and Obama administrations, U.S. ambitions centered largely on helping build India’s power in order to prevent China from dominating Asia. As U.S.-China relations steadily deteriorated during the Trump administration—when Sino-Indian relations hit rock bottom as well—Washington began to entertain the more expansive notion that its support for New Delhi would gradually induce India to play a greater military role in containing China’s growing power. There are reasons to believe it will not. One must also remember that during the UN-sponsored vote to criticize the Russian invasion of Ukraine India was one of the countries that abstained to criticize the Russian invasion. India took the position that the issue should be settled without further spilling of bloodshed.


BBC in its report of 3rd March 2022 stated that India had to walk a diplomatic tightrope over Ukraine as it tried to balance its ties with Moscow and the West. Delhi’s first statement in the UN Security Council (UNSC) did not name any country directly but it said it regretted that calls from the international community to give diplomacy and dialogue a chance had not been heeded.It, however, stopped short of criticizing Russia. And before the UNSC voted on a draft UN resolution to condemn the invasion, Delhi faced calls from Russia, the US, and Ukraine “to do the right thing”. Ukraine and Russia even issued public appeals for Delhi to take a clear stand. India chose to abstain from the vote but a careful reading of its statement suggests that it did go a step further and indirectly asked Moscow to respect international law. India talked about the importance of “the UN Charter, international law, and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states”, adding that “all member states need to honor these principles in finding a constructive way forward”. Reuter’s on September 28 2022 reported that India was articulating its position against the Ukraine war more robustly to counter criticism that it is soft on Russia, but it still has not held Moscow responsible for the invasion and will not alter its policy on importing cheap Russian oil and coal.

In their first in-person meeting since the Feb. 24 invasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told President Vladimir Putin that “today’s era is not an era of war ” – the clearest position New Delhi has taken on the conflict. India’s foreign minister followed up at the U.N. Security Council, describing the trajectory of the Ukraine war as “very concerning” and the risk of a nuclear escalation as of “particular anxiety”.New Delhi’s shift, even though nuanced, reflected concern about the growing economic costs of the conflict and how it would affect India. Russia’s first mobilization of troops since World War Two marks a major escalation of the conflict that has thrown markets into turmoil and threatens a global recession. Moreover, India is worried the war is pushing Russia closer to China, which has fraught relations with New Delhi.   India also hopes its more robust approach would help it meet criticism by Western allies that it is too close to Moscow.

US National Security Advisor and European Commission On Trade Relations With China 

Washington Post(05-01-23)  reported that the US National Security Advisor Jack Sullivan acknowledged the fact that, despite the growing tensions and confrontation with China, trade between the two countries remains robust and reached record levels last year. And he echoed the rhetoric of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who has spoken of “de-risking” Europe’s supply chains from overexposure to China rather than fully “decoupling” from what, by some indicators, is already the world’s largest economy. The United States’ moves to curb trade with China in goods that could boost Beijing’s artificial intelligence and tech prowess are, in Sullivan’s framing, an exception rather than the norm. The world has to be aware of the Sino-Russian entente versus democracy practised mostly by the Western powers and also by emerging powers like India. The Sino-Russian compact would like to demonstrate that an illiberal system can deliver essential goods to the needy far more quickly than liberal democracies can. China has attracted many developing countries through its Road and Bridge Initiative.

Xi-Jinping and The Belt & Road Initiative Of China

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, known within China as the One Belt One Road or OBOR for short)is a global infrastructure development strategy adopted by the Chinese government in 2013 to invest in more than 150 countries and international organizations. It is considered a centerpiece of the Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s foreign policy.  The BRI forms a central component of Xi’s “Major Country Diplomacy” strategy, which calls for China to assume a greater leadership role in global affairs in accordance with its rising power and status. It has been compared to the American Marshall Plan. As of January 2023, 151 countries were listed as having signed up to the BRI. The participating countries include almost 75% of the world’s population and account for more than half of the world’s GDP. The Chinese government calls the initiative “a bid to enhance regional connectivity and embrace a brighter future.”The project has a target completion date of 2049, which will coincide with the centennial of the People’s Republic of China (PRC)’s founding. According to British consultants,  BRI is likely to increase the world GDP by $7.1 trillion per annum by 2040, and that benefits will be “widespread” as improved infrastructure reduces “frictions that hold back world trade”.

Supporters praise the BRI for its potential to boost the global GDP, particularly in developing countries. However, there has also been criticism over human rights violations and environmental impact, as well as concerns about debt-trap diplomacy. The Belt and Road Initiative addresses an “infrastructure gap” and thus has the potential to accelerate economic growth across the Asia Pacific, Africa, and Central and Eastern Europe. A report from the World Pension Council estimates that Asia, excluding China, requires up to US$900 billion of infrastructure investments per year over the next decade, mostly in debt instruments, 50% above current infrastructure spending rates. 

The gaping need for long-term capital explains why many Asian and Eastern European heads of state “gladly expressed their interest to join this new international financial institution focusing solely on ‘real assets’ and infrastructure-driven economic growth”.(WIKIPEDIA).  Already, some estimates list the Belt and Road Initiative as one of the largest infrastructures and investment projects in history, covering more than 68 countries, including 65% of the world’s population and 40% of the global gross domestic product as of 2017.  Development of the Renminbi as a currency of international transactions, development of the infrastructures of Asian countries, strengthening diplomatic relations whilst reducing dependency on the US and creating new markets for Chinese products, exporting surplus industrial capacity, and integrating commodities-rich countries more closely into the Chinese economy are all objectives of the BRI.While some countries, especially the United States, view the project critically because of possible Chinese influence, others point to the creation of a new global growth engine by connecting and moving Asia, Europe, and Africa closer together.

In the maritime silk road, which is already the route for more than half of all containers in the world, Deepwater ports are being expanded, logistical hubs are being built and new traffic routes are being created in the hinterland. The maritime silk road runs with its connections from the Chinese coast to the south, linking Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Jakarta.  All in all, the ship connections for container transports between Asia and Europe will be reorganized. Experts have compared the initiative to the post-World War II Marshall Plan.

Despite the apprehension expressed by e.g. Donald Trump’s Vice President Mike Pence warning developing countries of the debt trap by China many of these countries have embraced Chinese offer mainly because they lack funds for infrastructural development which they need badly. In short, the fear of a debt trap or not many developing countries are expected to sign up with China for the immediate gain they will receive through this alliance. 

Kazi Anwarul Masud

Kazi Anwarul Masud is a retired Bangladeshi diplomat. During his tenure, he worked in several countries as the ambassador of Bangladesh including Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea and Germany

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