The new Russian Ambassador to India, Nikolai Kudashev, is a Chinese-speaking career diplomat who’s a far cry away from the Indophile that his predecessor Alexander Kadakin was, but that’s a good thing because he’s perfectly positioned to balance his country’s interests with India and China.
Russian President Putin finally appointed a replacement to the late Ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin, choosing Mr. Nikolai Kudashev to fill his place as the head of the Russian Embassy in New Delhi. The decision came as a blindside to many in India, who never even heard of the current Deputy Director General Secretariat of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) until his recent appointment, but a few details about this seemingly mysterious man have emerged since then. According to the MFA website, Kudashev is fluent in both Chinese and English, and he used to serve as an advisor, senior advisor, and envoy to the Russian Ambassador to India from 1999-2005, which overlaps with the late Kadakin’s first term as Ambassador from 1999-2004.
As such, Kudashev isn’t unfamiliar with India at all, even if Indians are unfamiliar with him, though this is probably because he kept largely out of the limelight and conducted his work behind the scenes. Not speaking Hindi like Kadakin did, he was much less interesting to Indians and their national media. Accordingly, he was also unable to establish the same sort of rapport with the country as Kadakin did, which is why his term of service in India was unmemorable for many, though that doesn’t by any means suggest that the work he was carrying out wasn’t important; to the contrary, ambassadorial advisors have enormous responsibility when it comes to the comprehensive conduct of bilateral relations between their home country and the host nation in which they’re serving, and it should be assumed that Kudashev played a key, if largely unacknowledged, role behind Kadakin’s early success.
That’s not all that there is to know about Kudashev, however, since he subsequently went on to become an Ambassador in his own right to insular Asian countries such as the Philippines, Palau, the Marshall Islands, and Micronesia. He also became the Deputy Director of the Department for New Challenges and Threats since 2005, proving that he’s presumably very keen on following emerging trends across the world and is a forward-looking strategic thinker in his own right. These two additional professional qualifications – an Ambassador to four insular Asian countries and his analysis of new challenges and threats – pair excellently with his Chinese language skills in making him a qualified expert on Russia’s “Pivot/Rebalancing to Asia”, which it shouldn’t be forgotten was motivated as a response to the New Cold War that the US unleashed following its orchestration of “EuroMaidan”.
The Russian-Chinese Strategic Partnership has since become one of the fulcrums of the emerging Multipolar World Order because of the shared challenges and threats that both Great Powers face from the US, and it’s because of men like Kudashev that Russia has been able to so masterfully carve out its place in the 21st century as the supreme balancing force in Eurasian affairs. However, in order to maintain this irreplaceable geostrategic position, Russia needs to manage the American-engineered rivalry between India and China, which Kudashev – as the Deputy Director of the Department for New Challenges and Threats – would have understandably foreseen and is assumedly well acquainted with. For these reasons, he’s actually the perfect replacement for Kadakin because he’s in a much better position to balance Russia’s interests vis-à-vis both India and China, especially as regards the latter two’s presently tense standoff in the Donglang Plateau.
The fact that Kudashev isn’t an Indophile and doesn’t speak Hindi actually work to his advantage in this regard because Russia no longer needs a man like Kadakin as its Ambassador to India. Instead, it was imperative for Russia to place a behind-the-scenes analytical mastermind in this role who equally understands Russia’s interests with both India and China, hence why Kudashev is the perfect fit for this position. Kadakin loved India so much that he would have had difficulty fulfilling this role, and moreover, even if he did attempt to do so, it might have come off as forced and insincere to his host audience because of the Indophile reputation that he had rightly earned throughout his many years of service. Furthermore, Kadakin didn’t have the level of expertise on China that Kudashev has, so it would have been extra challenging for him anyhow.
Although India made no secret about its unprecedented military-strategic partnership with the US through last year’s LEMOA deal and the country’s official designation as the Pentagon’s “Major Defense Partner”, Kadakin may have persuaded his superiors that it’s not too late for Russia to still “save” India from an all-out pro-Western pivot, and truth be told, if any man had a chance at doing so, it would have been Kadakin, who is universally endeared by all Indians as an unforgettable friend of their country. Regrettably, his sudden passing in January left Russia with a gaping diplomatic void in India that was quickly exploited by unipolar elements of the Hindutva-led “deep state” (permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies) which managed to convince the country’s leadership to shed any preexisting Kadin-encouraged reservations about their decisive redirection towards the US and confidently embrace this grand strategic trajectory. The outcome, as is well known by this time, is that India is now on the verge of war with China.
In such a radically changed geostrategic environment where the multipolar world is hanging in the balance as India threatens to break up BRICS and sow dissent within the SCO, now is precisely the moment for an experienced forward-looking strategist with keen knowledge of Russia’s relations with India and China to take the helm as Moscow’s top man in New Delhi. Kudashev doesn’t have the soft power edge that Kadakin did, but in this case it’s irrelevant – the Indian side has clearly moved past the golden age of “Rusi-Hindi Bhai Bhai”, and Kadakin’s passing marked the end of that era. Nowadays, it’s more important for Russia’s Ambassador to India to have an impartial understanding of Indian-Chinese relations as opposed to being an open Indophile, since that’s the only way that Russia will be able to properly balance between these two Great Powers and have a chance at averting the US’ grand designs for turning one against the other.
The odds are certainly stacked against him, and the geostrategic atmosphere in India has darkened tremendously since Kadakin’s passing, but if Kudashev can succeed in his newest mission and pull off the seemingly impossible by striking a perfect equilibirum between India and China, then Russia’s 21st-century role as the supreme balancing force in Eurasia will be ensured for years to come, and the supercontinent just might be able to surmount the simmering rivalry that the US is provoking between these two Asian Great Powers.