An Analogy — India’s 1961 Goa op and Russia’s conflict in Ukraine

[Russia foreign minister Sergey Lavrov making a point at the Raisina Dialogue]

The first anniversary of Russia’s unfinished “special operation” in Ukraine coincided this year with the G-20 Foreign Ministers Meet, which last made available foreign dignitaries for the annual gabfest grandly dubbed the “Rasina Dialogue” that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) funds and sponsors. In other words, this is an out-and-out MEA affair that some Joint Secretary or the other should have orchestrated more carefully considering the session with the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov on Febeuary 4 almost blew up into a diplomatic incident.

In a session dealing with the Ukraine conflict, the host Sunjoy Joshi, ex-IAS, took on himself the role, embarrassingly, of an uninformed Inquisitor, grilling Lavrov with deliberately provocative questions entirely blaming Russia for the military intervention in Ukraine that revealed astonishing ignorance of the post-Cold War history of great power politics, Ukraine and NATO expansion. Indeed, Lavrov, a consumate diplomat, was pushed into losing his cool. He publicly upbraided Joshi for not doing his “homework” before the session. Any workaday TV news reporter would have done a better job of reading up on material and asking thoughtful questions, rather than leading ones designed to rouse and rile the Russian minister, who reminded the audience that India’s “specially privileged strategic partnership” with Russia is unlike any relationship New Delhi has with any other country. [See ].

It raises an important Question: If MEA is paying the piper, Joshi ought to have been singing a tune more in line with India’s policy of artful equivocation on this issue. MEA failed properly to brief this out-of-his-depth host or even vet his list of questions. In the event, shouldn’t the Ministry’s superintendence of this annual event have been more direct and effective, rather than leaving the proceedings to the mercies of an ignoramus or, worse, a motivated ex-babu, who all but skewed Russian perceptions of India and its interests? The Indian government cannot afford these sorts of diplomatic snafus.


[Destroyed Russian tanks and armoured combat vehicles in the town of Bucha, Ulraine]

Now to tackle the great mystery of why the mighty Russian army is making such heavy weather of its annexationist intervention in Ukraine.

Given the flood of Western media reporting of developments in Ukraine over the past year that the Indian media gobbled up whole, an average Indian would be forgiven for thinking that Russia is backpedalling on the battlefield against the hard-charging Ukrainians amply supplied with all manner of military hardware, tactical and strategic intelligence, and unflagging political support from the US and the West. Let’s first be clear about where the Russian army is on the ground and how much of eastern Ukraine is in Russia’s possession. Russians now fully control much of the Donbas corridor — roughly the line Kherson-Kharkiv, habited by Russian-speaking people on the eastern periphery of Ukraine, which is the bridge connecting mainland Russia with the Crimean Peninsula captured by Moscow after a fast, uneventful, campaign in 2014.

As mentioned in my very first post on the topic in February 2022, the need for Russia to command the approaches to the Black Sea and its coastline, is a strategic imperative Moscow had to achieve at all cost. The first part of that objective was realized with the absorption of the Crimean Peninsula. With the Donbas corridor too captured with heavy loss of life and destruction of most of the large towns in it, Russia, for the first time is potentially more secure now than it has ever been since the unravelling of the old Soviet Union in 1992. It is not exposed anymore and vulnerable to possible US/NATO military interventions from the Dardanelles, with Turkey, a NATO member, as the staging area for a from-the-sea push against Russia’s relatively weak underbelly.

Fine. So, how come the ingressing Russian armoured columns lost over 500 tanks and the advance by the Russian army, generally, seems so tardy?

Plainly, the Russian army expected it to be cake walk. Rolling in leisurely as the tanks did over highways without a thought about being ambushed, they were sitting ducks for the Ukrainian anti-tank units firing off their Kornet portable anti-tank munitions from the old stock before being replaced by the newer NATO Javelins. The resulting disarray was as much among the forward troops as the command ranks, and manifested the absolute unpreparedness of the Russian army to fight an actual war. The turgid Russian military bureaucracy only compounded the problem of incomprehension up all the way to the Kremlin and down do the trooper who was promised a picnic but got lethal firefights instead. Kyiv’s resistance and President Volodomyr Zelenskyy’s emergence as a resolute wartime leader came as a rude shock to President Vladimir Putin, who was also surprised by the sheer volume of arms supply worth a stupendous $28 billion that the US funnelled into Ukraine emptying, in the process, the NATO stocks of shells and ammunition of all types, long range precision artillery, and even Leopard-2 tanks from the Polish and German inventories with American Abrams tanks awaiting transhipment. The American strategy to fight to the last Ukrainian is being well executed because, realistically, Ukraine has not a spitball’s chance in hell.

Still, why the Russian army’s lackadaisical approach in this conflict that Putin described as a “special operation”? Two reasons. Firstly, Ukraine has always been a problem for Russia, resisting assimilation to the maximum. And secondly, the Russian army always takes time to get up to battle speed. Let’s briefly examine each of these reasons.

There is Ukraine’slong history with Russia. And there’s Russia’s military troubles in Ukraine. Notwithstanding Putin’s claim of Ukraine being the “cradle of Russian civilization”, the largely Roman Catholic country has always nursed a separate and distinct cultural and political Tatar identity different from that of a Slavic Russia wedded to the Russian Orthodox Church. To go no further back than the civil war, the Bolsheviks and the Red Army had the most difficult time of it on the “south-western front”, meaning Ukraine. The revolutionary council of state for war presided over by Lenin and featuring, among others, Stalin and the founder and the first Political Commissar of the Red Army, Leon Trotsky, wrestled interminably with issues such as how much force to use against the rebellious Ukrainians without doing permanent political damage, how ruthlessly to fight the “White” Russian army massed around Kyiv and other major cities, and how to fight all out without alienating the Ukrainian masses — Lenin’s overarching concern, and with what consequences for the eventual Ukrainian Soviet in the nascent USSR. Perhaps, it is the kind of debate that preoccupies Putin and his advisers in the Kremlin today. Indeed, the indecision from the top got so militarily frustrating for the Red Army commander on that front — the redoubtable Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevski — inarguably the greatest military mind of the 20th Century who, for instance, first conceptualized “deep operations”, and whom Trotsky called “The reorganizer of the Red Army”, that he petitioned Trotsky to be allowed to prosecute a decisive war against the Ukrainian nationalists, or to be relieved of his command. (Tukhachevski and the cream of the Red Army General Staff were executed by a paranoid Stalin in the “great purges” and show trials of the 1930s.)

During the Second World War, Stalin’s Red Army had not only to face Hitler’s armies advancing on several fronts — Operation Barbarossa, June 1941, to occupy the European part of the Soviet Union, i.e., the line Archangel-Astrakhan, but had to deal with the rear area troubles in Ukraine (with its industry, grain, and oil fields) that Berlin had prioritised for capture, instigated by the Nazi-aligned nationalist armed groups under Stephen Bandera, and which forces also constituted the Ukrainian arm of the Gestapo. This to say that there’s an awful lot of bad blood between Russians and Ukrainians. Something akin to, yea, the Hindu-Muslim rift in the subcontinent!

The Russian army, historically, has been strategically surprised, taken time to react, to mobilize, and to get its forces up for a fight, before turning the corner and wiping out the adversary. It started in the modern era with Napoleon’s 1812 invasion of Russia, his march stalling on the outskirts of Moscow not little because of the withdrawal eastwards by the Czarist armies committed to a “scorched earth” policy of destroying any and everything the French army could possibly use, a situation aggravated by the onset of icy weather and not improved by its pyrrhic victory at the Battle of Borodino. It was exactly the pattern repeated some 129 years later by “General Winter” and the Red Army under Marshal Georgy Zhukov decimating the German land forces and winning the war in Europe for the Allies.

It is this history of the Russian army’s pattern of success the US and NATO do not want to be victimised by — the reason why US and NATO will absolutely avoid having their “boots on the ground” even if Ukraine becomes extinct — which is not on the cards. Russia will have its Donbas bridge to Crimea, and that’s it.

To most Indians and Indian policymakers unschooled in military history, perhaps, an analogy may drive home the point — India’s grab of Goa in Winter 1961. The Indian military prepared for it as if it was some major operation. The 17th Infantry Division and 50th Para Brigade were fielded along with three Indian warships, and all the air resources the Western air command required. This array of forces was pitted against a skeletal Portuguese military group comprising some 8,000-10,000 troops, one sloop. one patrol boat, and two passenger transports at Dabolim, the sole air base. The size of the Portuguese army units can be explained by their having to put down guerilla actions carried out by the Azad Gomantak force, and the Goa Congress materially supported by India. Nehru had given sufficient warning of forcefully taking Goa — as Putin had made known his plans to annex the Donbas corridor. It prompted US President John F Kennedy to plead for some time to convince the Portuguese dictator, Antonio Salazar, to decamp gracefully. Nehru decided to force the issue but his regime’s instructions to the military were to achieve the goal with minimum damage and loss of life. Just how worried Nehru was about not harming the Goan people may be guaged by the order to the Western Air Command to damage the Dabolim runway but not the terminal building. In the event, on December 18, IAF Canberra sorties dropped 63,000 pounds of explosives with partial effect because that night a Portuguese Constellation aircraft with military and civilian families took off safely for a low level escape to Karachi, outwitting Indian radar!

[Portuguese POWs in Goa — do they look as if they were fighting?]

Now consider what would have happened had NATO heeded Salazar’s calls for Western military intervention to thwart Nehru’s designs. No disrespect to the Indian armed services, but they’d have been up against it had NATO cleared and then secured sea and air supply corridors channeling armaments, troops and air and naval platforms and generally military reinforcements to Goa. Would the Indian army, navy and air force, realistically, have managed to even put up a fight, considering they didn’t against the more primitive Chinese PLA less than a year later?

It puts the Russian intervention in Ukraine in perspective, does it not?

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
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31 Responses to An Analogy — India’s 1961 Goa op and Russia’s conflict in Ukraine

  1. Amit says:


    I too was surprised by the line of questioning by the Chairman of the ORF, as anybody who has followed the war in India will know the history behind it and the role the US has played. But after the discussion I was left with a feeling that it may have been a deliberate ploy – this discussion with Russia was not friendly and the Quad statement at the end of the event was not friendly. I was left with a feeling that this was a deliberate ploy.

    Russia has been quite anti Quad in its messages and the message from India was equally vociferous. However, I think that all this is public bantering, Both Russia and India are playing a very realist game, and I do not think either will abandon the other. Some public posturing by India to please the US, and some hard hitting responses by Russia in response to aggressive questioning. At least that’s my take.

    To imagine that an ex IAS officer and a Distinguished Fellow of the ORF to not know the recent history of the conflict would be quite unbelievable! Sarkari tarkari itni sadi to nahin hogi!

  2. Email from Dr V Siddhartha, former Science Adviser to Defence Minister

    Tue, 7 Mar at 12:38 pm

    Your take on Joshi was spot-on.

    And, of course, trust the BBC to salami-slice and post: Russian minister laughed at for Ukraine war claims. While there was, in fact, more applause from the audience for all else Lavrov said.

    BUT, Re: “… In the event, shouldn’t the Ministry’s superintendence of this annual event have been more direct and effective, rather than leaving the proceedings to the mercies of an ignoramus or, worse, a motivated ex-babu, who all but skewed Russian perceptions of India and its interests?” ;

    the usual Catch-22: A “guiding hand” will be made visible in buddhi-sievi Dilli; and be slammed by the Khan Market gang with something like: “Even if you are paying the concert organiser, it is for him to decide what raga he calls to be sung ..”


  3. Ayush says:

    The host to be sure was certainly blabbering nonesense like a CNN anchor aka CIA spokesman.Though ,this certainly is not surprising.The host ,after all ,must surely have kids and grandkids living the “American dream” in New York or California!He does not want his visa to get revoked(exactly what Lavrov pointed out).American leverage over the bank accounts containing ill-gotten wealth and possible expulsion of the progeny of our high-ranking babus is exactly what prevents us from taking any big-bang strategic decisions (full-yield megaton tests ,for instance) that will gurantee our strategic security for eternity,buy time to build up our conventional military and at the same time greatly rile-up the Americans.The cesspool of a bureaucracy that the British left behind is a greater enemy of today’s India than China.

    His unbelievable ignorance is not “deliberate ploy” as some suggest.His ignorance is characterisitc of all MEA babus.99% of them have never read any detailed,objective case-study on the 1969 USSR-China standoff, the chronology of the events that led to the Russia-Ukraine war among other major events.They certainly don’t understand the “military side” of any major crisis.It is due to this ignorance and vulnerability(described above) that our MEA babus negotiate sell-off after sell-off with the Americans.

    Things are certainly far better today than during the Manmohan era.Through almost optimal usage of soft-power and covert warfare we have reduced Chinese influence in our neighbourhood to minimal levels.The sabotage of BRI projects , in particular, the CPEC has been spectacular.The $60 billion dollars invested by Chinese in “capacity-builiding” of their loyal mongrel has been drained off the Arabian sea.Pakistan has been literally brought to its knees without firing a single shot(directly) through covert warfare.The years-long reorganization of the nearly deceased TTP and BLA has
    yielded very rich dividends.Pak has been repaid more than ten times over in the same coin for every terror attack that occurred under the Modi regime.The vast expanse of Western Pakistan is now reduced to a lawless wasteland.Pak being neutralized for at least the near future is allows to quiety focus our limited resources agaisnt China.Work can still be done on further improving the HUMINT network in TIbet which was until recently non-existent.What I would like to see from the MEA is to play hardball with the Americans.Given the resources and potential that Today’s India possess,it is possible for us to drive a hard-bargin with the Americans’ in which they allow us to test Megaton weapons, permanently silencing China and also not get sanctioned.

    • Amit says:

      @Ayush, I don’t agree with your statement that 99% of babus are ignorant of what’s going on in global affairs and international relations. I’ve personally interviewed bureaucrats in the Central government, and a couple of state governments for a policy project I worked on a few years back.

      While my experience is anecdotal, I found that most JS, Additional Secy’s and Secy level bureaucrats are actually quite smart and knowledgable (usually IAS officers). I’ve also had good experience with top level bureaucrats who lead energy agencies etc. Most of the interviews I did were in the Transportation, Science and Tech and Heavy Industries ministries/departments, not defence. Having said that, it’s true that when it comes to decision making it’s political. All that knowledge and intelligence is substituted by politics.

      At the state level, the quality tends to drop significantly and sometimes even the top level is corrupt and highly political.

      I also have IITian classmates who are IAS and IPS officers who are good. So I would not buy the argument that 99% is bad.

      Regarding the Lavrov discussion, I’m not saying I’m right. I however felt that it was a deliberate ploy. The entire list of interview questions was from a Western viewpoint. I find the argument that the Chairman of ORF is ignorant to be unlikely – though I’ve not found his observations (in some ORF videos) as insightful as the President of the ORF, who I believe is quite good.

  4. Sankar says:

    ” India’s grab of Goa …” – Gee, “grab”?

    Nothing could be further from the reality here, and it warrants to set the record straight.

    Once the UN came into existence after the second world war, the UN decided by passing resolution, that all the European powers must relinquish their colonies by giving independence. Accordingly, the French and the Dutch who had their parcels of land in the Indian subcontinent, decided to withdraw and handed over their territories to the newly formed Indian Union which emerged from the British Taj. There was no hassle there.

    But the Portuguese would not budge. Delhi made a series of requisitions to Lisbon to hand over Goa, Daman and Dieu over a period of time in 1950s. But nothing worked, and interestingly, Pakistan was backing up Portugal against India in this matter all along in the world forums. So ultimately, Delhi had no choice but to serve notice to Lisbon to vacate after a decade passed. This was the origin of the Goa operation. Actually, there is more to it than I can go into here. But it is worth mentioning, that once India liberated Goa, Pakistan claimed half of Goa in the UN!

    I do not find any analogy of the Goa action of India with the Ukraine operation of Russia.

    • Sankar@ — You have misread, or missed out on the obvious that I did not think needed belabouring.

      There’s a whole history of JFK-Nehru I merely alluded to in my post. The UN Charter and resolutions, etc mean next to nothing and only countries like India have deemed them of value — the reason why it took until Modi for India to rid itself of 370 and other impedimenta we erected in our own path. My point in referencing the Goa op was simply to point out why UKR conflict is now so intractable — unending replenishment of its mil stores, something Portugal could have easily done had it forced NATO to come to its aid.

      Nobody else has analogised thus because the commentariat and the people, generally, don’t know mil history and cannot connect the similarities and summon a historical perspective on anything.

  5. Sankar says:

    “… host Sunjoy Joshi, ex-IAS, took on himself the role, embarrassingly, of an uninformed Inquisitor, grilling Lavrov …” –

    Well, so ignoramus he is not being such a highly achieved officer.
    So, what is going on???

    MKB has got the sniff of it as here:

    To quote:
    “A plausible explanation could be that after being threatened with a regime change orchestrated by the western intelligence — starting with the BBC documentary, followed by the Hindenburg report, and culminating in George Soros’s prognosis of a “democratic revival” in India — the ruling elite panicked.”

    Right thinking Indians must never forget, that Kashmir is with India today because of a series of Soviet vetoes in the Security Council in the 1950s. And even the 1971 war India fought and won by standing on the shoulder of the Soviets. Putin’s Russia is the modern day of Soviet Union.

  6. Sankar says:

    Professor Karnad@:

    1. “UN Charter and resolutions, etc mean next to nothing and only countries like India have deemed them of value …” –

    Not in my evaluation of the resolutions on “de-colonisation” in that era. As a consequence, one by one countries in Africa became independent and their colonial masters (European countries) lost their stranglehold as well as their standing as world powers. (The only exception was Portugal.) This led to the rise of the “Third World” – a great movement. The UN resolutions went far beyond India’s concern and were successfully carried out.

    2. “… something Portugal could have easily done had it forced NATO to come to its aid”-

    I would not expect NATO’s role here. I refer to the “Suez crisis (1956?)”. When the Anglo-French got involved (effectively NATO) militarily, to thwart Nasser’s nationalization of Suez Canal, Nehru had approached Moscow to rescue the situation and the Soviets sent their long-range bombers to Egypt. The Anglo-French military pact simply backed off. The US did not want to get involved.
    With that hands-on military experience NATO would not have dared to mess up with India for the sake of Portugal.

    Nasser paid back his debt to Nehru on the Goa operation. Lisbon did send their navy to back up Portugal in Goa as the situation was heating up. As their flotilla passed the Mediterranean, Nasser let them enter the Suez Canal. But once in the canal he closed the Canal for any passage out, effectively trapping the Portuguese Navy in the Canal. This is European news.

    3. ” It prompted US President John F Kennedy to plead for some time to convince the Portuguese dictator …Nehru decided to force the issue..” –

    Thank God Nehru did for India’s sake. What happened for Kashmir in 1948 – do the Indians have memory? The US and Britain advised India to take Pak’s aggression to the UN for peaceful resolution and assured Nehru to look after India’s case but setting an invisible trap. In the event they did look after India’s interest when the UN passed the resolution to declare Pak as the aggressor and must vacate its forces from Kashmir. But, but, but … they added the caveat that an election must be held to determine to fate of the Kashmiri people!

    Had Nehru gone along with Kennedy, eventually Portugal would have been out “peacefully” most likely, but what would have been the fate of Goa? As I have noted in my previous post, Pak was claiming half of Goa once it was liberated by India. And as an enfant terrible of the Americans would have in all probability succeeded to grab one half of Goa.

    4. There is enough information and data floating around the European news to convince that Russia has been provoked by NATO and the US behind the scenes to take military action in Ukraine.

    As such I fail the see the analogy here with India’s Goa action.

    • My salient point re: Goa op was that had NATO decided to open resupply corridors to Goa, the Indian
      military would have been in trouble. The rest of the stuff you bring up rests on some very questionable pieces of info you have gleaned from somewhere that I neither have the time nor inclination to refute and, in any case, as pointed out is not relevant to my main argument.

  7. Ayush says:

    @Dr karnad
    As far as I am aware, some alarmist informed people fear a PLA thrust into RALP(Rest of Arunachal Pradesh) in the last quarter of this year.It also happens that the months of Oct-Dec are perfect campaigning season in the Eastern Himalayas.Militarily speaking, RALP is a low-hanging fruit for the PLA.This is due to lack of basic communication infra in the region.There has certainly been great improvement in everything since 2020,but one simply cannot expect the Indian army to withstand a determined PLA assault here.Also,RALP is unlike the heavily fortified Tawang,North Sikkim and Eastern Ladakh sectors all of which have reinforced with a large network of invulnerable underground tunnel complexes for housing ammo depots and command posts.The Indian army is laying a massive network of optical fibres for secure comms along with satellite terminals.However,Chinese can easily penetrate several dozen kilometers in this sector(RALP).And from what Jaishankar recently said,”You cannot fight a larger economy”,along with the American dictated “rules of engagement” set down before us(no megaton nuke tests),the PLA will genuinely assume that they can go in whenever they want and the geriatric Modi busy with 2024 poll preparations will meekly accept defeat(like Nehru) without ordering any counter-offensive ,using tacnukes or even using the IAF.



      I believe you are just scaremongering people in this forum. Can you kindly provide any resources/information to prove your view point ??


    Dear Dr Karnad

    I would love your views on the Iran Saudi Arabia deal and how the Chinese made this possible with their soft power.

  9. Amit says:


    Regarding your comments on Russia always taking time to ‘warm up’ and defeating their enemy. It is true that they did this in 1812, 1918 and 1945. In both the world wars they had allies. I think in 1812 they fought alone but had to ally with Prussia, Britain and Austria to finally defeat Napoleon in 1815. However, they lost the Crimean war in 1853 and the war against Japan in 1905. This time they are fighting a proxy war with NATO, but have signalled in RT that military alliances could form if the war drags on (and not in their favour).

    Additionally, given the higher strategic importance of Ukraine to Russia, its motivation is much higher than the U.S., where politicians are already saying it is not of high strategic interest. But the US is now caught in a dilemma. If it appears to back off, it will lose relative power and influence. This will intensify the security competition between China and the U.S. On the other hand, if Russia retains territory, it is likely to retain its power as its economy does not seem to have declined significantly – this scenario seems plausible.

    On the other hand, if India continues to grow economically and modernise militarily it will also emerge as a great power and the world will be more multi polar as it so wants. To contain China, Japan could go nuclear and be another great power in the coming years.

    However, according to research done by Professor Mearsheimer, examining the last 200 or so years of great power wars, unbalanced multi polarity is unstable (and Asia will be unbalanced as China is far more powerful than any other Asian state for the foreseeable future). And leads to high probability of war and high deaths. It seems like the world is doomed for war!

    The sad part is that even if there were no Ukraine war, Asia would have been unbalanced and multi polar, and doomed for war! We live in VERY interesting times!



      Well from the perspective of countries on the periphery of India in South Asia, the South Asian region has always been unbalanced because of the overwhelming presence of India.

      So for Asia to become multipolar, you need to specify what actually you have in mind. Does it mean bringing in China in a greater way in South Asia to present a better strategic balance ? I would love your observation in this one.

      • Amit says:

        @Debanjan, I’m talking about great power imbalance in Asia and potential for great power wars. If Russia comes out of the war relatively stable, then we have Russia, India and Japan who would be great Asian powers in a few years, while China would be the potential hegemon who is much stronger militarily and economically. Without the US, this will be an unbalanced multipolar situation, which according to research is highly prone to war.

        The US is already finding it difficult to be the offshore balancer given its entanglement in Russia. My point is that the emerging multipolar order in Asia is unbalanced and prone to war (I would refer you to The tragedy of Great Power Politics by Prof. Mearsheimer for detailed research on this).

  10. Amit says:


    A generally respected and reasonable principle (gramp) in foreign foreign policy is that the global system is anarchic. Another gramp is that great powers try to maximise power and are engaged in security competition with other great powers to further their self interest. The US foreign policy mandarins seems to have abandoned their gramps! They don’t seem to have a clue of their self interest!

    Now one can say that if your biological gramp has some raw intelligence, one can follow him. I never thought that gramp Trump would have this intelligence! I might even vote for this gramp!

    If we all followed our foreign policy gramps, the world would be a safer place! Wouldn’t that be an act of basic intelligence?

  11. Amit says:

    Correction…gramp = generally respected and meaningful principle…



    I feel that what you would like to see is a sort of modified QUAD comprising India Japan Russia and US (a combination of present and future great powers) coming together to balance the middle Kingdom whom you consider as the potential hegemonic unbalancing factor in the emerging geopolitical order in Asia.

    I feel there are just too many contradictions in what you would like to see. Your basic assumption that Russia coming out of this war in Ukraine relatively stable is almost entirely dependent upon Russia being much more integrated with the Chinese economy. The current trade volume between Russia and China is about 200 Billion USD and it is expected to grow further. Another significant aspect of this is that Russia almost completely preferring using the Yuan the Chinese currency over the US Dollar to conduct this trade and even insisting India to use Yuan to pay for the oil we have been purchasing from the Russians.

    Another factor which in the current scenarios happens to be probably most crucial is the immensity of US hatred for Russia as a civilization nation. The long-term antipathy between the US and Russia has very serious levels of military, economical, geopolitics and even religious dimensions. It is really impossible for anyone to believe the US having any sorts of common interests with Russia at this moment. The political classes in the US are just too much invested in this hatred of Russia to ponder over other considerations.

    Russia and Japan also do have historical antipathies (although nothing compared to what the US has with Russia) and even at present they do have territorial disputes. Japan as a nation is nowhere near to be a great power considering her rapid demographic and long term economic decline. Russia is unlikely to consider Japan even a serious partner considering the current economic difficulties of Japan.

    What would be puzzling for many in India is that given these above mentioned factors, it is more likely for the US to come to some sort of temporary engagement for some common interest with neither India nor Japan (do not even consider Russia) but CHINA. Witness the cautious welcome and more importantly the lack of hostility that the US has shown towards the recent China-backed Saudi-Iranian deal. The reason could be that the Chinese are having much more capability both economically as well as diplomatically to deliver something useful for the Americans contrary to what either India or Japan can deliver. I believe this is the perception even now among the American policymakers.

    Given these above mentioned contradictory factors, I believe the dream QUAD that many of us in India would like to have (India Russia Japan and the US facing off against the Chinese) is unlikely to come about in reality.

    I would love your viewpoint on this one.

  13. Amit says:

    @Debanjan, while I would have liked the US to include Russia in an anti China coalition, I know that it’s not going to happen. Unless gramp Trump shakes up the deep state like he shook up the state department – even then he could not do what he wanted.

    And now that Russia is being integrated into China economically (mega gas pipelines), China has an added interest in not letting Russia lose. Also it weakens the potential anti China coalition.

    All this means is that it is unlikely the US will come out if this entanglement without a hit to its reputation and influence. It just makes balancing China more difficult. Unbalanced multi polarity like I mentioned earlier. Dangerous times!



      There is one thing on which US and China can come together although temporary basis and that is a resurgent Japan. Remember the Japanese are known for their revenge mindset and they also are the only powers to have been nuclear bombed by the Americans. I believe they are yet to forgive the Americans for the same.

      Now that the Americans are looking to outsource the security of Taiwan to partners like Japan, I believe Japan will use this opportunity to impose and expand her empire over US protectorate states like South Korea Singapore Taiwan etc. This will make Japan take revenge over US for the humiliations in the second world war.

      This will force the US to come closer to the Chinese (alongside the Russians) to join forces against Japan to save whatever remains of their beleguered empire in the Asia pacific region.

      This is how I believe things could unfold in future if a resurgent Japan comes to fore.

  14. Amit says:


    Thinking more about great power dynamics, it’s becoming clear to me that the US will not transfer top tech to India as it is a future great power competitor to the US. Having made the mistake of enabling China’s growth, it will not enable superpower India. Though it will enable balancer India as it cannot balance China on its own.

    However, there is a possibility of India gaining in manufacturing through the U.S. The industry here is sold on low cost manufacturing and alternate supply chains. So this aspect should be aggressively pursued.

    For India to gain top tech, it has to convince European powers and they are more likely to share top tech as there is no hegemonic competition with India possible in the coming decades. They would want a prosperous India for trade, and security competition is limited.

    As for China, it will try to prevent India’s rise. However, there is a possibility of making good with India, as it is in an intense security competition with the US. But, India and China can live peacefully only if China gives up the goal of Asian hegemony and focuses more on East Asian hegemony, while India tries to be the South Asian hegemon. Otherwise, China is doomed to be in a security competition with both the U.S. and India.

    • Gaurav Tyagi says:

      @Amit- Indian establishment just likes to talk big. They lack the courage to take drastic action and pro active initiatives.

      Putin has shown that wars haven’t gone out of vogue even in current times.

      Our Prime Minister on the other hand has given a clear hint to the Chinese by his utter nonsensical statement that this era is not of wars.

      Look at the lop sided trade between China and India as another example of Indian authorities just talking the talk nothing else.

      I am based in China and can tell you that for Geopolitically inclined Chinese, India is nothing but a big joke.

      The Chinese have set their bar higher. They like to compete with the Yankees.

      • Amit says:


        India talks big there is no doubt. But India is also not as pathetic as most Indians think. Indians themselves find it hard to characterise India, leave the Chinese. The truth is that China tried to bully India to submission, but it did not succeed. It doesn’t matter what the Chinese think.

        Regarding benchmarking against the US, I agree. That’s why I don’t think the Chinese will go to war against India first like many here are jumping up and down and proclaiming. Their fight is going to be with the US first, or some SE Asian country so that they can achieve some kind of shock and awe. Most likely, the takkar will be with the US over Taiwan.

        With India they tried and failed (1000 sq. km of land notwithstanding). Now they have a large state to their south west that will balance them and they can’t do jack shit to stop that. According to realism, this was bound to happen. The only way India and China can Co exist is if they reach some kind of understanding on which regions in Asia they dominate. But this is unlikely due to the nature of inter state relations.

        For the Chinese, the oil rich gulf is important, and India dominating the Indian Ocean is a highly fearful prospect. Right now the US dominates this region, but India has made it clear that it will be the net security provider in the Indian Ocean. As long as US India interests on China are aligned, the U.S. is fine with this. But if India were to become the South Asian hegemon as it desires (the South Asian ‘Monroe’ doctrine as the professor calls it), trust the US to also push back.

        In my view the Akhand Bharat slogan is precisely the South Asian hegemon concept. No one gives a damn about this kind of sloganeering as everyone thinks India talks big. But trust me, based on what I read and watch, this is the end goal India is working towards. In fact, as India grows richer and militarily stronger, realism predicts that this is an inevitable goal (its also happened in India before – Mughal India).

      • Ayush says:

        Chinese hubris , which was very apparent before 24th February last year, has been crushed the boot after seeing the spectacular thrashing Putin’s army has received in Ukraine.The Chinese military has been appalled to find out that the Russian model they had followed so far simply cannot win wars.Make no mistake, Putin will win the war but that is only because of the massive soviet-era stocks of 152 mm shells and the pathetic nature of his enemy.However, the point has been made that the Russian(and Chinese) approach to warfare doesn’t work.
        You must have noticed that Chinese tough-talk/rhetoric has dramatically toned down after watching the performance of the Russians’ in Ukraine.
        I understand the bitter predicament that the modi government faces.We are not a one-party autocratic state where the ruler does not have to fear about any political consequences.This and due to the fact that all of our babus’ progeny are based in western countries, they simply don’t dare to take any pro-active steps that will rile up the West.(any action that benefits our national interests).This includes delivering the final knockout blow to PaK and obviously full-yield megaton fusion weapon tests.The latter will deter any Chinese escalation whenever the Indian army mounts a local counterattack to retake the Depsang plains, which it is fully capable of.It will also deter any intervention (from both US and China) whenever we choose to complete the unfinished dismantlement of Pak.As you mentioned Putin, what he has done brilliantly is proven the fact that an arsenal of megaton nukes with decent delivery systems can induce sheer terror in the minds of the enemy political-military leadership and deter them from any kind of kinetic escalation from their side.The sooner modi government learns the better.It will enable us to retake depsang and in turn, hand out a strategic defeat to china.In fact, this will be a knockout blow to china’s so-called great power status which they have acquired with the west’s connivance and without any real effort(without major wars).It will fatal for their status( that of a regional bully)even in their own neighborhood as their bluff was called.

  15. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    Connect the dots. This is from last year;

    The latest development;

    Gupta Brothers got the aforesaid hits in South Africa. No extradition now.


    Dear Dr Karnad

    I am so disappointed in Modiji allowing the Japanese leadership to come to Delhi and condemn Russia (and China) for Ukraine. I believe this is something which should have been avoided. Why did we not succeed to stop that small tiny Island Japan to not rant against Russia in public ? I would love your views sir on this.

  17. Amit says:

    Here is a video of US Shenanigans in redrawing the maps in West and South Asia. It’s the S. Asia part that’s relevant to Indian security, but to me it seems like there is a full blown covert war going on regarding Pakistan. US, India and China are likely heavily involved…

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