Russia-Ukraine crisis and India’s position.

After Russia invaded Ukraine, India abstained from the Ukraine crisis, saying, “matter of regret that path of diplomacy was given up”.

Grabbing this opportunity, many Western liberals tried to drag India into the conflict, demanding to know India’s position. The mindless Modi-baiters-turned geopolitics experts have also joined in dissing the Indian Govt for not standing with Ukraine for the right cause and calling their own Govt cowards for abstaining from UNSC resolution. 

Undoubtedly, it is one of our biggest diplomatic challenges, and at this time, such clueless demands must be debunked.

Prime Minister Modi spoke to Vladimir Putin, reiterating that “differences between Russia and NATO can only be resolved through honest dialogue.” PM appealed for “an immediate cessation of violence and called for concerted efforts from all sides to return to the path of dialogue.”

PM Modi also had a conversation with Ukraine President Zelenskyy. The Prime Minister expressed “India’s willingness to contribute in any way towards peace efforts and also conveyed India’s concern about the safety and security of Indian citizens present in Ukraine.” PM Modi expressed his deep anguish in extremely measured words reiterating his call for an immediate cessation of hostility and returning to dialogue.

What is happening in Ukraine today is a reminder of how important it is for India to choose its interest first without willing to back down in the face of international pressure. The U.S. and E.U. played a significant role in the demilitarization of Ukraine, feeding insidious and perverted false hopes. In 1994 Ukraine gave up its Nuclear Weapons program in return for a security guarantee by U.S., U.K. & Russia. The sad reality is Ukraine should not have given up its nuclear arsenals, trusting Russia and USA, more so in the context of Russia’s antagonism against Ukraine. The West led Ukraine down this path, and now the result is visible to all – a wrecked Ukraine.

When Vajpayee undertook the nuclear test at Pokhran, Ukraine was one of the first countries which strongly protested against India going nuclear. The U.S. banned trade with India after Nuclear tests at Pokhran. Not any surprise that the opposition leader, Sonia Gandhi, denounced Indian nuclear tests. However, that is immaterial today.

Yesterday, in an incoherent move, Biden admin presented China with intelligence on Russia’s troop buildup, hoping that Xi Jinping would step in, Chinese officials rebuffed the U.S. and shared the information with Moscow. It reminds when in 1998, Vajpayee Govt told the U.S. that nuke tests were a necessity because of a threat from China. The Clinton administration had promptly made a secret communication public to embarrass India. What the U.S. did to India; China has done to U.S. Karma!

India has one of the most troubled neighborhoods in the world. We have two hostile neighbors – China and Pakistan. When Kargil started, the U.S. and the West asked India to observe restraint, which means to accept Pakistan’s occupation. After India refused to accept this “advice”, the West took a more explicit stand. When China threatened India in the Galwan Valley, there was not one response from U.N. or NATO.

Geopolitics is a fine art. 

Ukraine’s invasion by Russia does will not have any impact on India and Russia security partnership. The threat from China and the lakhs of Chinese soldiers on the Himalayas will continue to shape our views. Indian position primarily depends on the reliability of our partners – what support India gets, from Russia or the U.S., in the light of PLA threat in Ladakh and Arunachal. India should also maintain good relations with all, focused on its priorities. Did the U.S. ever break ties with PRC or Pakistan? 

Russia has been a friend in need for seven decades. The U.S. and E.U. are more of friends with benefits. The next question of the deep state attacks the Modi administration every other day on every issue – “What do we get for being in the QUAD?”

On the Indian geopolitical chessboard, the three significant issues are – the strategic space in Eurasia, the dynamics of the Indo-Pacific, which are not very neatly segregated strategic theatres, and India’s rise as an economic power center.

Even as India partners with the U.S. in the Indo-Pacific, the relationship complicates in Eurasia due to crucial differences in the dynamics in the region, especially in India’s co-operation with Iran and Moscow. These complexities add uncertainty to the India-Russia bilateral.

India is a rising economic power, and the Russian economy cannot provide it with the investment opportunities and commercial partnerships required. On the other hand, the U.S. is well placed to facilitate India’s rise with finance and technology.

Despite that, India cannot afford to compromise its security relationship with Moscow as no other country assisted it in building its defense capability to the extent that Russia is already doing – lease of a nuclear-powered submarine; missile systems like Brahmos; or the sale of the S-400 missile defense systems. The Indian leadership understands what are its priorities with reference to its security interests.

However, if any offer comes from the U.S. and the E.U., that India cannot refuse, such as:

  • Full defense co-operation against any hostility.
  • Top of line defense technology without caveats.
  • Full market access and unambiguous Financial Relationship.
  • Pressure on Pakistan to give up Kashmir claim.

Then India must think of ending its strategic autonomy principle. 

India’s partnership with the U.S. in Indo-pacific and with Russia on the continent is a delicate balancing act that will continue to co-exist, and India will have to walk a tightrope between these geopolitical realities with a clear focus on India First.

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