10th April 2022
Diplomacy as a tool of foreign policy is undertaken by nation states in order to traverse in the international arena, which is as strategic as it is promiscuous. The proficiency of the diplomacy so undertaken further determines the rank and position of nation- states in international politics and attributes security and standing to them, though on an impermanent basis. As there is no constant state of peace and stability, the change in circumstances either in soft politics or in hard politics domain evokes a change in the national interest and priorities of nation-states and that is what truly defines the feature of international politics. India’s diplomacy works no differently and has traversed a long path in its foreign policy journey, the foundation of which has been set and altered by policy makers from time to time. New Delhi has been able to craft its own niche and has come a long way from its policy of non-alignment of Cold War years to strategy autonomy, a terminology which finds itself in the lexicon of Indian foreign policy makers in the post 1990s which saw monumental changes in India’s domestic politics and its international engagements. The graduation from non-alignment to multi-alignment in what came to be known as strategic autonomy is now more than a recent concept and has gained considerable weight in the evolving Russia–Ukraine war.
The fact that it is a “European war” and not “Asian war” does not discount any nation state of its consequences and India is no different in that respect. If India shares cordial relations with Ukraine, then its relationship with Russia is more crucial, which dates back to Soviet era years and still continues by the way of considerable dependence on Russian military supplies and sensitive technology , something India cannot afford to overlook. The Russia-Ukraine war has been understood as a proxy war between the Russia and the US, so that the latter could avenge the former of the gains it made during the annexation of Crimea, which was actually the cornerstone of uneasiness and cold relations between the West and Russia. On the other hand, the eastward expansion of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has rendered Moscow insecure and considering the breakup of Soviet Union as a fatal mistake, Russia vows to exercise its influence on Ukraine as part of its age-old ambitions. In the midst of this complex geopolitics, India intends to follow a path, which best suits its strategic interest but also helps maintain robust bilateral relations with all powers concerned.
India’s diplomacy vis-à-vis the Russia-Ukraine war has seen New Delhi abstained from all the UNSC, UNGA and UNHRC resolutions condemning Russian aggression on Ukraine. Considering India’s intricate relations with Russia ranging from India’s dependency on Russian defence supplies to long standing support on the Kashmir dispute, condemning Russia does not seem a viable option and as such India’s fence sitting or to say a “neutral” stand is at best justified considering the strategic interest involved. In the present scenario where around forty countries have induced a sanction regime on Russia and are delinking the same from global economy, India has followed an independent path in dealing with Russia and has not succumbed to pressures from the West that has called out India’s stand as either disappointing or being shaky.
India’s democratic credentials is being used as an argument by the West to delink India from Russia and become dependent on the former is somewhat dubious as in the times of complex interdependence, linkages take as much time to break as they require to build. Therefore, any such schooling by the West to India is portraying a myopic picture, considering that EU is an active buyer of oil and gas from Russia and expecting India to diversify its sources like the EU in coming years does not seem a feasible option. Moreover the current Russia-Ukraine war has witnessed a robust partnership between Russia and China, much to India’s insecurity and a friendship stated above which has “no limits” could render India at a disadvantageous position if it condemns Russia for its territorial aggression.
Opposition against China is one the many reasons which brought to fore an informal security grouping like the QUAD and the current Russia-Ukraine crisis exposes how four members of the grouping sail through the international arena on different paths with US , Japan and Australia on one side and India on the other considering its interest involved with Russia. In fact, ranging from media interviews to high-level visits by foreign ministers and dignitaries, India has been warned of the “consequences” and is expected to alter its foreign policy posture in line with the West time and again. Strategic autonomy is aspired by every nation state but the context and values underlying it is something which diversifies the course of action of nation states in the long run and the ongoing war is testimony to that.
Moreover, India is not the lone state adopting a neutral stand. None of the Gulf States apart from Kuwait has condemned Russia is testimony to the fact that realpolitik always prevails and no matter how “promising” the ally is or how strategic the partnership is. Much said and done, the world will keenly watch the rupee-rouble mechanism, which India and Russia has agreed to follow post the visit of Russia’s foreign minister and how it will impact New Delhi’s relation with the West as it tends to go beyond its sanctions regime.
*The Author is pursuing Masters in Politics and International Relations from Pondicherry University and is and currently a Research Intern at the Kalinga Institute of Indo-Pacific Studies.
Disclaimer: The Views in the Article are of the Author