A tight rope walk for India

India’s neutral stand may act as saviour to its strategic ties with both America and Russia
Permanent representative and Ambassador of India to United Nations TS Tirumurti speaks at the UNSC meet over ongoing tensions between Russia and Ukraine, in New York on Thursday.
Permanent representative and Ambassador of India to United Nations TS Tirumurti speaks at the UNSC meet over ongoing tensions between Russia and Ukraine, in New York on Thursday.File: ANI

America’s democracy is on the edge, and European Union is at war with Russia. But at the same time, India was in a quandary over an extremely difficult diplomatic choice; whether to support the aggressor or join the agitating nations to protect its prestige as democratic force in the eyes of world.

But finally it took a neutral stand to protect its relations with both warring powers.

Eventually the worst has happened as Russia ignored the world opinion and launched an air, military and sea attack on Ukraine which will affect the entire world including India.

Impact on the world and India

Analysts believe that India will be impacted due to sanctions as they could block violators from doing business with U.S. Banks, hence India must find ways to evade the dominant, dollar-based financial system like specialist European banks with no exposure to the US market which are willing to facilitate payments to Russia.

India can deepen its investments in Russian energy and resource assets to generate dividend income in Rouble. India can use it to pay Russia for defence hardware and other products.

As an alternative, there are ample precedents for introducing a dose of economic self-interest into American decision-making on the sanctions issue; and India will have to build its profile in the U.S. market with its corporations actively creating U.S. jobs as a goodwill gesture which can influence policy-makers to consider Indian concerns.

America and European nations will be badly hit due to attack on Ukraine as it will lead to economic consequences in the United States and across the world. Reports suggest that all major U.S. market indexes have slumped and unrest is bad for them, especially after some recovery from negativity of Pandemic.

Russia is a major exporter of natural gas and oil, so the conflict has also sent gas prices soaring and strict sanctions on Russia’s economy and its ability to produce goods would be adversely affected.

Some of the strategic department officials of United States opine that if America enters into a period of sustained conflict then investments around the world will be affected. United States 401(k) plans will take a dip, the price of fuel is going to go up.

Can nato be useful to Ukraine

NATO is helpless as Ukraine is not its member, hence America cannot ask allies to send forces to counter Russia. It is committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes if diplomatic efforts fail and it has the military power to undertake crisis-management operations.

Putin wanted commitment from European Union and America not to enrol Ukraine as a member in future which was turned down. As per charter, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) , a military alliance, was created in 1949 by the United States, Canada, and several Western countries to provide collective security to its allies.

The organisation was created after the Second World War to limit the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union which was later disintegrated in several states. It has got 30 members and North Macedonia had joined in 2020.

Kremlin says that the West is using NATO to intrude Russia’s authority and wishes it to cease its military activities in Eastern Europe. Russian President claims that US broke a 1990 security guarantee which was binding on NATO to expand eastwards.

NATO, however, refused to accept this argument saying that it’s a defensive alliance. But the fact is that a number of eastern European countries including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania and Bulgaria have joined the alliance during past two decades.

Russian oil and American economy

Russia was the United States’ third-largest oil supplier as of 2021, after Canada and Mexico. Russia supplied 7 percent of U.S. crude oil imports in late 2021 which is a significant number.

Republicans in US have used the conflict in Ukraine to call for expanded oil and gas drilling in their country which has been opposed by Biden who is trying to bring down the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

India’s test of diplomacy

`India faced its biggest test of courage to condemn aggressor, especially when it has been mobilising world opinion against China’s misadventures on the Line of Control.

India was in a fix over condemning Russia for attacking Ukraine which would have been at variance with its earlier stand of siding with Kremlin three times in a row in the span of six months including its soft approach adopted during QUAD foreign ministers’ meeting held at Melbourne, Australia.

Secondly, America had already put the ball in India’s court and expected it to stand up for the sake of democracy and principles to condemn an aggressor but neutral stand may save it from US retaliation? India is one of the few countries that have not condemned Russia’s decision of attacking Ukraine.

At the UN emergency meeting, India only mentioned about the escalation of tension between the two European nations and called on all parties to exercise “utmost restraint”. India has made it clear that it will not take sides which will be in the interest of our country and it will always reign supreme.

Thirdly, it was an extremely difficult strategic choice for India which needs both America and Russia to counter the security threat from China hence it cannot afford to alienate either of them.

Russia has already gone closer to China to face a big challenge from the United States which is a bad news for India but preservation of age old ties with Russia may act as a deterrent in this fragile situation in the region which can be attributed to the expansion policy of the Dragon.

Putin’s psychology

Russia President Vladimir Putin has projected the invasion of Ukraine as an action to defend separatists in the east from “genocide”. Experts say that Putin has always expressed his desire to take Ukraine back in Russia’s fold and yet to reconcile with disintegration of his country in 1990.

Putin had called Ukraine as the “crown jewel” of Russia a few years ago and described the people of the two countries as a single unit. The predominant reason of invasion could be growing closeness of Ukraine to west and NATO which was completely unacceptable to him.

Experts feel that India’s neutral stance may not be welcomed by US and European Union which would like straightway condemnation of the aggressor, especially quoting same principle which is applied to China when it indulged in misadventures in Ladakh, LoC, and Indian borders. West may describe it as ‘Double Speak’ though final picture will emerge after the US reacts to India’s neutral stand?

(K. S. Tomar is a national columnist and political analyst. He has six years’ experience of foreign posting for a premier English daily of India)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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