Ans : Approach :
- Brief intro of Russia-Ukraine war.
- Dynamics with Russia & US.
- Way forward.
The recent Russian invasion in Ukraine has been a watershed moment in shifting the course of geopolitical developments. Russia’s declared goal is the “liberation of Donbas” – broadly referring to Ukraine’s eastern regions. The war’s devastating effects on humanity has created not only a political crisis but also a global moral crisis.
Dynamics with Russia :
- India has abstained from voting in the UN against Russia and is also not ready to follow the US-led economic sanctions on Russia. However, India has condemned the civilian killings and has urged to end violence through peaceful resolution of hostilities. India believes in ‘dispute resolution through diplomacy and by respect for international law, sovereignty & territorial integrity of states’.
- India’s so called ‘neutral’ stance is rooted in its strategic autonomy guided by its national interests :
- A weak and isolated Russia will not be good for India. Still, more than half of its military hardware comes from Russia. During the Indo-Chinese border skirmish, Russia’s defence supplies at competitive prices have proved strategically important. Although Russia has forged a closed nexus with China to attain a geopolitical balance, this has not affected the decades old Indo-Russian ties.
- If India antagonises Russia, it could lead to an even closer Russia-China axis, which India shall avoid at any cost. A stable friendship with Russia can open viable communication channels in manoeuvring its issues with China.
- Also, India is largely dependent on Russia for its energy security. Reportedly, Russia is willing to sell high grade oil at heavily discounted prices ($ 35 / barrel), of which India desires to buy 15 million barrels.
- Apart from defence and energy purchases, Russia is important for geopolitical reasons – India is both a maritime & continental power. Hence, strong ties with Russia, Iran & Central Asia will ensure India’s continental security, especially after US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Dynamics with US :
- The US seems antagonised at India’s ‘neutral’ stand. The US has lamented India’s position as “somewhat shaky”, besides warning India of “consequences” if it tries to subvert the sanction regime. The US seems disappointed at India’s lack of appreciation for US’s deep security interests in Europe. The US believes that if India prioritises its relations with Russia, it could impinge on the cooperation within the Quad. Also, it is sceptical about India diluting the sanctions by carrying on trade with Russia, which is a sheer violation of America’s hegemonic clout.
- Notwithstanding this, India is important to the US in the Indo-Pacific, as both perceive China as their biggest threat and are committed to cooperate to limit China’s rise as a ‘regional hegemon’.
- US is also India’s one of the largest trading partners, with robust defence partnerships through institutional arrangements like LEMOA, COMCASA, etc. Besides, new domains are also emerging in their strategic partnership like climate change, technology transfer, space, public health, cyber security,
- The recent 2+2 meeting represents the continuing upward trajectory in Indo-US bilateral cooperation, placing highest priority to ensure no further erosion of rules-based international order.
Both the US and Russia are India’s Strategic Partners. India, seeking recognition as a principled voice & responsible global power, may have to tread a fine line w.r.t its strategic backing of Russia. So, it is unlikely that any amount of western pressure can compel India to abandon its balancing act on the Ukraine war.