POSTING INDIA’S STAND ON THE UKRAINE WAR:
- The day before the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in February 2023, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) passed a resolution calling for an end to the hostilities. While 141 members and 7 members opposed the resolution, 32 countries chose to abstain. India was one of the countries that made the rare decision to abstain.
India’s approach to Ukraine:
- This is in line with the viewpoint that India has held about the conflict in Ukraine from the beginning. India has consistently abstained from UN votes on the conflict and has declined to condemn Moscow for the invasion, support Western sanctions, buy more Russian fuel at a lower price, or join Western sanctions.
- India’s stance has sparked a furious response from the West. Prior to the conflict, there was a great deal of talk among the strategic commentariat of the world about India’s irreversible shift towards the West. But, many questioned why the largest democracy in the world did not condemn Russia when the war broke out. Others claimed that India was “supporting” Vladimir Putin’s battle by obtaining Russian energy. Why did India go in a different direction from its partners in the West? To understand India’s standpoint, one must take into account her perspective on the conflict.
Democratic and autocratic regimes:
- Vice President Joe Biden and other Atlanticists view the confrontation between an authoritarian Russia and a “democratic” Ukraine as a slur against international democracy. According to this plot, anything less than a devastating Russian defeat would mark “the end of the international order”. To safeguard international law, the rules-based order, and global democracy, all democratic and law-abiding states should stand up to Russia and join the western alliance.
- A conflict between democracies and autocracies exists here. Naturally, the overwhelming majority of nations have supported UNGA resolutions calling for an end to the bloodshed. The United States has struggled to organise nations against Russia outside of UN votes that are not a part of the conventional western alliance system.
- Major democracies from Asia and Africa, like South Africa and India, have frequently sat out UN votes and refused to ratify the sanctions since they were enacted unilaterally by certain countries or groups without UN approval.
- Even a few members of the Western alliance system, such as Israel and Turkey, are hesitant to back Mr. Biden’s cause. The majority of these countries see the conflict as a European problem involving two former Soviet Union members that started after the Cold War ended. They place more value on the post-Cold War security structure in Europe than they do on global democracy.
Morality versus national interests:
- Even if there is no conflict between democracies and autocracies, there is still the moral question. There is no doubt that in this instance, Russia has transgressed Ukraine’s sovereignty. Additionally, it is clear that Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory is illegal under international law. How then can countries like India continue to do so?
- India has emphasised in front of the UN multiple times that the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all countries should be respected. Yet, choosing which route to take when it comes to specific actions in the event of a contradiction between moral views and national interests is a significant challenge for any country in international relations.
- For the United States and many of Europe, moral principles and foreign policy objectives in the Ukrainian war are in agreement. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin of the United States claims that although Europe wants to make Russia’s invasion expensive in the hopes that Moscow will be deterred in the future, the United States wants to “weaken” Russia. As a result, their moral position helps their tactical goal.
- Invading Iraq without authorization in 2003, the United States violated national sovereignty. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization turned a UN Security Council resolution to create a no-fly zone over Libya into a full-scale invasion in 2011. (NATO). American soldiers are now stationed in Syria without a permit.
- Or take Israel, which continues to build unauthorised Jewish colonies in the occupied West Bank and annexes East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights from Syria. The Golan Heights were officially annexed by Israel, and the US moved its embassy there. The US provides Israel with annual military funding worth billions of dollars while imposing severe sanctions on Russia. Another instance is Turkey, a NATO member, who illegally seized control of Syrian territory without receiving criticism from other countries.
- In other words, the West readily adopted national interests even when they ran counter to moral standards. Thus, why can’t developing countries like India put their own national interests first when making policy?
What Delhi yearns for:
What are the national interests of India in this scenario?
As it imports more than 80% of its fuel needs, India, the fifth-largest economy in the world, is comforted by the energy — cheap fuel — arriving from Russia. Yet, connections in the energy industry are essentially opportunistic; even if Russian supplies are disrupted, India might be able to find alternatives, albeit at a greater cost.
- In the previous five years, Russia supplied India with 46% of its defence needs. Although there is a compelling argument for India to diversify its defence import sources, doing so would take time.
- India should decide whether it should give up its influence over Russia by joining the western alliance out of moral obligation or whether it should keep it by developing new links with China at a time when Russia is increasing its ties with China, India’s main opponent.
- Worries over the continental security force In the aftermath of the disastrous US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, India will work with countries in the Eurasian landmass. Russia has a significant role in India’s continental foreign policy.
- India opposes the deterioration of Russia’s defences as well as the devastation and division of Ukraine. In order to stabilise the global economy and focus on more critical concerns like UN reform and climate change, India wants the conflict to stop promptly and for there to be a new balance of power in terms of security. India should continue to support a practical solution to the Ukraine issue while maintaining its realistic and pragmatic neutrality.