Is India forcing partner countries to take sides in US-China cold war?

Indian media spreading fake news about Russian-Chinese rivalry in Mali as part of the effort, writes Andrew Korybko

Russian-Chinese rivalry

India seems extremely uncomfortable with the fact that Russian-Chinese ties remain strong in the aftermath of the recent Galwan incident between the neighboring Asian powers, since the South Asian state can’t bring itself to accept its Eurasian partner’s “balancing” act between them both.

The country’s strategists are pursuing a zero-sum foreign policy influenced by their government’s new American patron, whereby they seek to pressure all of India’s partners to “choose a side” in the New Cold War between the US and China, exactly as New Delhi has already done in support of the former against the latter.

Moscow’s “middle ground” between it and Beijing is therefore regarded as completely unacceptable by Indian decision-makers, who want Russia to more assertively back India in its ambitious competition with China across the vast Afro-Pacific (“Indo-Pacific”) space.

Read more: India’s Latest Infowar On Russia Concerns Fake Chinese Territorial Claims

In pursuit of this grand strategic objective, Indian media — which is influenced by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Hindu nationalists to an extremely strong degree — has taken to spreading fake news about Russia and China in recent weeks in the hopes of driving a wedge between their country’s nominal Brazil Russia India China South Africa (BRICS) and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) partners.

This isn’t the first information warfare attack

Attention to this divide-and-rule meddling was drawn earlier this month in another article which importantly noted that there’s really no reason for India to have commenced this international influence operation in the first place since bilateral ties with Russia are already excellent and arguably, even more promising in the long-term than Russia’s ones with China.

The article warned that carrying out such crude infowar attacks against the Russian-Chinese Strategic partnership risks backfiring on India, since Moscow might begin to trust it less and suspect that New Delhi might even be carrying out this campaign at the behest of its new patron in Washington.

The Frustrated Indian falsely claimed that Moscow’s increasing role in Mali shows that Russia doesn’t give two hoots about China’s interests in the Sahel region, reaffirming that Sino-Russian ties are all about expediency and not the friendship of any kind

That in turn might derail the promising prospects that these two historic partners have across the coming century should Russia come to regard India as an American proxy for spoiling its greater Eurasian partnership between the supercontinent’s many countries.

India should immediately cease these unfriendly actions in order to avoid ruining its strategic relations with Russia, but alas, this friendly advice hasn’t been heeded and yet another infowar narrative was recently propagated by that country’s media.

Mali’s latest military coup

“The Frustrated Indian”, a popular Indian media outlet with over 1.2 million likes on Facebook, published a piece earlier this week about how “The coup in Mali is a death knell to China’s BRI ambitions and it’s not the US, but Russia behind it”.

The article conforms with the western mainstream media narrative that Moscow might have been behind the West African de-facto failed state’s recent military coup since two of its organizers recently received training in Russia (though the third was trained in France). That interpretation of events is highly speculative since it assumes that the authorities ordered those trainees to carry out this regime-change operation upon their return home.

Read more: China domesticated the “India tiger” thanks to a reckless Modi

That’s likely not the case, since the fact is that the spark for the latest military coup was long-simmering. There was dissatisfaction among the rank-and-file over pay which coincided with rising anti-government protests following a disputed parliamentary election several months prior, held against the backdrop of the authorities’ years-long but failed French-backed war on terror.

There were already enough preexisting tensions in society to predict that a coup might have once again been in the works in this unstable country which last experienced such a regime change only eight years ago.

What’s ‘the frustrated Indian’ so frustrated about?

Even so, repeating the mainstream media narrative about Russia’s speculative role in the latest Malian coup is one thing, but building upon it by presenting everything in terms of a non-existent Russian-Chinese rivalry is something altogether different and coincides with the infowar pattern.

The Frustrated Indian falsely claimed that “Moscow’s increasing role in Mali shows that Russia doesn’t give two hoots about China’s interests in the Sahel region, reaffirming that Sino-Russian ties are all about expediency and not the friendship of any kind”, and that “While Putin maintains a strategic axis of convenience with Beijing as he wants to pull Russian economy out of Western sanctions, a spurt in Russian influence in any part of the world often comes at the expense of China”.

Read more: Indo-China crisis: Russia treading on a dangerous path of satisfying adversaries in the conflict

There is no plausible reason whatsoever to even countenance such a wild interpretation of events that not even the stereotypically Russophobic and Sinophobic western media has come up with yet. That says a lot about the devious intentions of Indian media nowadays that they’d go even further than their western counterparts.

The truth about Russia and China’s strategies towards Africa

It’s true that China envisions connecting the African coasts through a transport corridor that transits through Mali. It’s also equally true that Russia has recently regained its Soviet-era interest in Africa. That said, there isn’t any conflict of interest between these two strategically partnered great powers in that continent.

To the contrary, there’s actually a near-perfect complementarity whereby Russia’s “Democratic Security” outreaches there can help secure China’s New Silk Roads in exchange for a greater presence in those countries’ economies.

India, which never tires of repeating the misleading mantra that it’s the self-proclaimed “world’s largest democracy”, can always claim that so-called “freedom of speech” exists in the country and that it’s powerless to stop the media from publishing articles

Even if one cynically claims that the claims of overlapping grand strategies in Africa are “wishful thinking” and “too optimistic”, there’s still nothing of credence to claim that that the two are competing there, which would at “worst” mean that they’re independently pursuing separate policies that don’t have anything to do with each other’s main focus (security for Russia and infrastructure for China).

Why won’t the BJP put a stop to this counterproductive operation?

The whole purpose in pointing this out is to highlight the “wishful thinking” involved in the “reporting”, which could be part of India’s ongoing infowar to drive a wedge between Russia and China for New Delhi’s (and also Washington’s) advantage.

Whether or not that popular media outlet published the piece with this in mind is unimportant, since it still conforms to the earlier identified trend, which risks worsening the excellent state of Russian-Indian relations. Moscow will inevitably wise up to the game that New Delhi is playing.

Read more: Self-proclaimed ‘superpower’ India left red-faced by China

India, which never tires of repeating the misleading mantra that it’s the self-proclaimed “world’s largest democracy”, can always claim that so-called “freedom of speech” exists in the country, and that it’s powerless to stop the media from publishing articles which propagate the false narrative of a hemispheric Russian-Chinese rivalry.

That, however, wouldn’t be convincing since practically all the media in India nowadays take their editorial cues from the BJP, so the ruling party could simply signal to them to stop if it really wanted them to, and they’d all likely obey.

India’s expanding divide-and-rule influence

India’s infowar on the Russian-Chinese Strategic Partnership has spread to the West African state of Mali after previously targeting the Russian Far East city of Vladivistok and the Central Asian country of Tajikistan, which shows that it’s literally become hemispheric in scope over the course of just a single month.

This observation is extremely troublesome since it suggests that India is rapidly expanding the geopolitical ambit of its divide-and-rule influence operations against its two nominal BRICS and SCO partners, perhaps to curry favor with its new American patron or possibly even at its behest.

Read more: Cornered India can not expect Russian help after humiliation by China: Andrew Korybko

Nevertheless, India’s devious intentions are made clear after comparing its latest weaponized narrative on Mali with the western media’s, the latter of which is much milder after exercising the editorial self-restraint needed to avoid completely discrediting itself by speculating that the latest coup there was hatched by Russia in order to spoil China’s regional Silk Road plans.

If India doesn’t immediately cease its infowar against the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership, a task easily accomplished by restricting covert activities and having the BJP unambiguously signal to media surrogates that it is unacceptable for them to advance such narratives any longer.

Andrew Korybko is a political analyst, radio host, and regular contributor to several online outlets. This article first appeared on “One world: Global Think Tank” under a different title and has been republished with the author’s permission. The views in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

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