Has India taken a step forward in countering China in the Indo-Pacific region despite not having high stakes in the area? Has it decided to be a stooge for the US in its game of one-upmanship over China?
This question has become ominous and relevant in the backdrop of the recent technical stopover of a contingent of the French Air and Space Force.
The French contingent of planes including three Rafale jets landed at the Sulur base in Coimbatore in the southern Indian state of Tamilnadu.
It was a 16,600 kilometres long deployment from France to the French territory of New Caledonia in the Pacific Ocean.
French Ambassador Emmanuel Lenain said in a statement, “France is a resident power of the Indo-Pacific, and this ambitious long-distance air power projection demonstrates our commitment to the region and our partners. It is only natural that to carry out this mission, we rely on India, our foremost strategic partner in Asia.”
The deployment of the French Air and Space Force from France to New Caledonia in the Pacific Ocean was a part of the mission of long deployment and air drills in the Pacific region.
Indian Air Force will join Australia, the US, the UK, Singapore, Japan, Indonesia and South Korea in the multilateral drill.
This military development needs to be viewed along with another significant and unprecedented development taking place more than two years ago.
The Indian Express has published in detail how a meeting of a high-level delegation consisting of the top-notch officials from ministries of defence and foreign affairs held meeting with the NATO officials.
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), a conglomerate of 28 European powers and two countries from the American continent is poised to counter Russia and China. What began as a 12-member bloc for stopping the then USSR in 1949, has developed into a defence behemoth capable of destroying the whole world. It has set its eyes on China, but Russia continues to be its arch enemy.
The North-Atlantic alliance is no more restricted to the defence of Europe. From the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Indian Ocean region, it can carry out operations and attack anywhere in the world.
Before holding talks with India, the 30-member bloc held strategic talks with China and Pakistan. It offered talks to India only to strike a balance.
The Indian envoy in Brussels arranged the meeting. It was a political meeting and neither the Trans-Atlantic alliance nor India made any defence commitment.
NATO emphasized that Russia and not China was the main threat to the Trans-Euro security considering the aggressive steps taken by Moscow in Ukraine.
It also was of the opinion that Russia should be contained and its policy towards Ukraine and Medium Range Nuclear Missile Treaty was a threat.
While India emphasized terrorism and maritime security, the Trans-Atlantic alliance stayed focused on Russia.
India continues to be largely dependent on Russian defence equipment. Though it has purchased weapon systems, fighter jets and warships from other countries as well, New Delhi depends on Moscow.
And NATO wants to contain Russia. Will India join the bandwagon and betray its old and trusted friend?
France, an important member of NATO and a close ally of the US, is expanding its wings in the Pacific Ocean region.
The Trans-Atlantic alliance may seek Indian help to contain Russia and France may use it in strengthening its presence in the Indo-Pacific.
Will India change its foreign and defence policies to be a pawn in these hands?