New Delhi: The United States is not amused by the Crimean leader, Sergiy Aksyonov’s visit to India, who joined the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, on his official tour of the country. India says it had no prior intimation of Aksyonov coming along and there is no reason to doubt it. That said the United States has no business to decide on India’s visitors. It is also bothered by the nuclear and other deals signed on Putin’s visit. So what? America and the remaining Western powers are determined to isolate Russia and Putin for taking pre-emptive security measures in Crimea and Russified Eastern Ukraine. India has no reason to side with them and against Russia. If the West wants to start a new Cold War with Russia, India cannot be part of it.

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on American CIA, Saudi and Pakistani provocation, the United States demanded of India to denounce Russia. Indira Gandhi rightly and correctly refused. She took an even-handed position of speaking against all foreign intervention and interferences, which included diabolic CIA activities in Afghanistan. The updated historical narrative is that the Soviet Union walked into a trap in Afghanistan set by America. The world knows the lasting consequences of American devilry. It brought jihadi terrorism to South Asia; sowed the seeds for the clash of civilizations; created the regressive mujahidin, Taliban and Al-Qaeda; and brought to life nasty comeuppance in the form of Osama Bin Laden, who challenged American might and psychologically wounded it.

What wrong did Indira Gandhi do 35 years ago when she called the US’s bluff on its bogus outrage over the Soviet action in Afghanistan? In Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, the story has repeated itself. In the Crimean War (1853-56), the West (principally Britain and France) ganged up against Russia in favour of Turkey that had acted against the Orthodox Church. Two of the West’s most fearsome conquerors, Napoleon and Hitler, took it as their birthright to invade Russia, with the Nazi dictator barely able to conceal his loathing for the “lower” Slavic races. In the present commemoration of World War II victories, the Soviet Union’s dominant contribution to stopping the Wehrmacht campaign is underplayed by the West. Expanding NATO tried to breach Ukraine and threaten Russia, doing a sort of Napoleon and Hitler on the sly. Putin hit back in Crimea and elsewhere. Any leader who has Russia’s interests at heart would do as Putin did. Crimea and the region of the Caucasus saw bitter and heavy fighting in the Second World War when the heart of the Soviet Union was aggressed. Crimea’s naval base of Sevastopol is critical to Russia’s Black Sea interests. It has been so in every modern war fought in the region. Why should India ignore all this history and blindly support the West in its determination to dismantle Russia?

The expectations from President Putin’s summitry with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, all the same, were modest, given that the previous government backslid on ties with Russia. But Modi strenuously has attempted to revive them. The civil-nuclear, hydrocarbon and helicopter deals do tell their own stories, but India’s embrace of Russia in its hour of need is particularly significant. What went unnoticed or rather unreported during the BRICS summit in Brazil in July was Prime Minister Modi’s private assurance to President Putin to stand by Russia when it was wanting for friends abroad; he hinted more publicly at Russia’s support for the Bangladesh Liberation struggle and the obligation it generated. This writer was never in doubt that Modi would upgrade ties with Russia. But the prime minister also understands the imperatives of balancing ties, especially with the United States, whose President, Barack Obama, is the chief guest at the Republic Day celebration. Narendra Modi has shown an extraordinary capacity to work with a variety of world leaders. Somewhere, he has captivated Obama, because you see a glimmer of Modi’s influence on America’s strategic decisions related to South Asia. Narendra Modi is India’s smartest prime minister for foreign policy in a long while.

Nevertheless, he has his task cut out for him in taking along the United States and Russia in India’s rise. Being an ideas man, Narendra Modi may have a way to bridge US-Russia differences. Ideally, a Russia-US summit should sort things out, as it usually did in the Cold War. The trouble is that while Putin is in control of Russia, Obama is losing America, with his popularity rating sharply plunging. While mended Russia-US relations may not necessarily assist Obama with making a name in history, one can never be sure. Modi could help, although he may never volunteer. That is the path to take than for the United States to be cross about India-Russia ties and a Crimean traveller who dropped for a visit unannounced. Except for the Bin Laden operation, Obama has shown no dash in his presidency, despite his gifted mind. His visit to India in January may give him an opportunity to rectify things a little.