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Wooing India is a waste of time

Boris Johnson in India today. Stefan Rousseau/AFP/Getty

Boris Johnson is in India today, says Sunny Hundal in The Independent, trying to persuade its PM, Narendra Modi, “to join the Western alliance against Putin”. It’s a waste of time. India is far more aligned with Russia than the West realises: $36bn out of the $54bn it’s spent on arms imports over the last 20 years went to Russia, and that makes it “reliant on Putin for spare parts, maintenance and upgrades”. It’s not out of choice: India was “hampered” from buying better American weapons by sanctions imposed by Bill Clinton in 1998, after New Delhi tested multiple nuclear weapons.

But the Indo-Russian relationship isn’t just a marriage of convenience. “It is an ideological and cultural marriage too.” Modi and Putin both aim to hijack democracy and create “an authoritarian ethno-state”. In Putin’s case this is around white Russians; for Modi, upper-caste Hindus. Before he became PM, Modi was banned from entering both the UK and the US due to sympathies with Hindu extremists. “Modi has not forgotten that slight.” Like Putin, he resents America and Britain; both he and the Russian believe “the persecution and subjugation of minorities” is within a country’s rights. The West “will need to threaten Modi with sanctions and show some resolve” if it wants him to get in line. It’s the only language an authoritarian understands.