Chief of Army Staff Gen. Bipin Rawat vowed last week that India will pursue an independent policy in all regards, and the government had earlier said months ago that it will not go along with Trump's unilateral imposition of energy-related sanctions against Iran next month. This was recently reiterated during the past week, too, but there are now growing concerns that India will face the punitive wrath of American sanctions for its defiance.
In principle, the US is poised to sanction countries that purchase Russian weaponry through last year's CAATSA law, though the recently passed loophole in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019 allows for waivers on a case-by-case basis so long as the recipient country proves that it's reduced its overall purchase of Russian arms and/or cooperates with the US on security matters that are critical to America's strategic interests. India is thought to satisfy both of these requirements and might therefore be eligible for a waiver. Similarly, the case can be made that the US might waive the sanctions related to its continued purchase of Iranian resources so long as the state reduces those too, which Reuters reported that New Delhi is deliberating.
The prevailing theme that's progressively playing out is that India is trying to balance — or in its domestic political parlance, "multialign" — between the world's Great Powers, including competing pairs such as the US & Russia and the US & Iran. This is indeed the world's trickiest geostrategic balancing act because of the enormity of what's at stake, with India having attempted to position itself as the ultimate Eastern Hemispheric pivot. For as much as it cooperates with the US, it's also retaining its high-level strategic cooperation with Russia and Iran. Although unstated, the tacit motivation behind this seems to be to prevent China from proverbially ‘gaining the upper hand' on it in the future, though never before has India's balancing act been put to the test like this.
Andrew Korybko is joined by Vivekanand Tripathi, Indian political commentator and social media activist, and Dr. Chandra Rekha, Research Fellow at The Indian Council of World Affairs.
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