In the shifting geopolitical landscape post the Russia-Ukraine crisis, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi is likely to propose a Russia-China-India (RCI) oil/gas pipeline project during his upcoming New Delhi visit later this month.
The move is said to have been formulated in response to the US sanctions against Moscow not only hitting the economic interests and businesses of Russia but also hitting India and China hard, top sources privy to the development said.
The possible proposition of the RCI Pipeline project comes in the backdrop of the Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) Pipeline not taking off due to security risks posed by a destabilised Kabul and the perennial anti-India stance of Islamabad.
The TAPI has been under discussion for nearly three decades. However, India is unlikely to go ahead with any such proposal without gauging the possible impact on domestic audiences as well securing national interests, according to officials. Taking advantage of its sanctions against the Kremlin, the US has been seeking to leverage with New Delhi to further enlarge its defence procurement from Washington which has even threatened India with sanctions under Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) for the acquisition of S-400 missile defence systems from Russia, the sources said.
However, New Delhi is in no mood to budge and spoil its decades-long strategic relations with Moscow, especially with a firm realisation here that not only American defence assets are costly but investments in technology transfers in India by the US in the sector are low as compared to Russia, they said.
During the likely visit of Yi, a proposal of Alternative Payments System (APS) between Russia, China and India to offset the impact of the sanctions against the Kremlin, including the removal of Moscow from the SWIFT payment system, is also likely to come up. Initially, Russia, China and India could be the part of the proposed APS and subsequently more countries can join the grouping, shifting the global order in the process by shaking off the dominance of the American Mastercard and Visa.
The three countries have a combined population of nearly three billion out of the global population of 7.9 billion and a corresponding captive market with a sizable consumer base.
Counter-terrorism and defence analyst Dr Rituraj Mate said, “China’s proposal of RCI Pipeline Project is based on a double game with Beijing gaining the contract for installation of the pipeline on the one hand and getting royalty from India on the other hand.”
“Once the pipeline comes to fruition, oil and gas prices will decrease in India and also improve New Delhi’s bargaining leverage with other energy supplying countries. This will help Beijing in improving its image in India. The pipeline will also increase China’s goodwill in India,” he said. At the geopolitical level, China will get another lever to arm twist New Delhi into submission to fulfil its larger dominance in the region and push global strategic ambitions. Beijing will just have turn the knob of the supply line, squeezing India’s energy needs instantly, he added.