Neutrality Since the Nehruvian Era


• India’s response to Russia’s invasion on Ukraine, condemnation of the civilian killings without any name calling, and abstention from UN votes is not fundamentally different from the historically cautious neutrality followed since the Nehruvian Era.


• India has followed this policy of neutrality since then, including in the Soviet attack on Hungary(1956), Czechslovakia(1968) or Afghanistan (1978) or the American invasion on Iraq(2003).
• In today’s context not just India there are other countries which are following similar sort of neutrality.
• South Africa, another major democracy, abstained from the UN votes The United Arab Emirates, a close American ally in the Gulf that hosts thousands of U.S. troops, abstained from a vote in the UN Security Council. Israel, the U.S.’s closest ally in West Asia, condemned the Russian attack but refused to join the sanctions regime and said no to sending its defence systems to Ukraine.
• Turkey, a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally, did the same and is mediating between Ukraine and Russia.

Reason for Selective Targeting:

• The US which has built a narrative that Russia’s attack on Ukraine is an attack on “the free world”, this narrative will have less weightage if the world’s largest democracy i.e India is not with it.
• From an economic point of view, sanctions on Russia were imposed largely by western countries.
• Only three Asian nations have backed the sanctions — Japan, South Korea and Singapore. China, the world’s second largest economy, would not abide by the American sanctions.
• If India also continues to trade with Russia, working around the payment curbs, that will invariably blunt the effect of the sanctions on the Russian economy.

How India Looks at the New Global Order:

• India recognises three major powers and several intermediate powers when it looks around the world.
• The United States remains the world’s most powerful country, but its ability to influence global geopolitical outcomes has dwindled significantly.
• China is rapidly developing and attempting to do so, but Russia is a wounded bear with imperial longing.
• It is economically weak, but it is still a powerhouse in terms of land mass and military might.
• Without making moral judgments, two of these three are India’s partners and one is a rival.
• The question that India (as a middle power) must answer is why it should take a side in a conflict in Europe between two of its allies, which could leave its competitor stronger in the end. In this case, neutrality is the best option.

What India wants?

• A Weakened Russia may align with US’s national interest but that is not what India wants, India is as much a continental power as it is a maritime power.
• Hence Russia and other Central Asian Nations are necessary for its continental security and interests.


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