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India, a country the United States and allies had hoped would be a bulwark of democracy against China, is becoming a problem.

The South Asian country is desperately poor, at just $2,400 gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in 2022. Yet it seeks to portray itself as an up-and-coming economic powerhouse.

It is increasingly authoritarian. Yet it wants to be seen as all things to all people, including the democracies.

Its prime minister, Narendra Modi, is prideful, highly nationalist, and has superpower aspirations.

That makes India’s relationship with more responsible powers, including the United States, increasingly strained, not least because of New Delhi’s too close relations with the world’s most dangerous dictators, Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia.

New Delhi is involved in various international initiatives led by Beijing and is financially complicit in Moscow’s war against Ukraine.

The three countries cooperate through joint membership in Beijing-led organizations, including the military-focused Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which is the closest that the three have to an alliance system such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). All three find ideological common ground in their socialist histories and the promotion of a “new multilateral” international system that they seek to exploit in leading the developing world against “imperialism” and the “West.”

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