Ukraine-Russia Conflict: India Re-Asserts Strategic Autonomy

Viewpoint by Shastri Ramachandaran *

NEW DELHI (IDN) — Washington has failed to push India into taking a stand against Moscow in the ongoing US-Russia confrontation, where Ukraine is a victim of both the superpowers. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is indefensible, as war or the use of military force is unacceptable as a means of dispute resolution. Equally indefensible is the US and the US-led West using Ukraine as bait to set the bear trap of the war, in which Russia has now got snared.

It is terrible enough that Ukraine became willing cannon fodder in an entirely avoidable war, only to realise that neither the US nor Europe had the least intention of joining Ukraine in its military resistance against Russia; or embracing Ukraine as a member of NATO. And, Europe is sharply divided on the issue of EU membership for Ukraine. There is little left for Ukraine to cling to its delusion of being “European”; or, a frontline state of the “international community” and the world’s democracies that is required to stand up to the Big Bad Bear that is Russia. 

At a distance, India could see the senselessness of Ukraine not retreating from the brink—which Kyiv could have done by making plain its intention to stay out of NATO—and being made to serve as bait in the US-led geopolitical games against Russia. There is no way Vladimir Putin or any other Russian leader in his place would have countenanced Ukraine—some 300 kms from Moscow—emerging as a frontline NATO state and, consequently, a military base for the US.

India desisted from voting with the US on any of the Ukraine-related resolutions in the UN Security Council, General Assembly and the Human Rights Council to assert its independent line and interest in ensuring a diplomatic solution to the conflict through dialogue. India had sound reasons, including security and stability of the war-torn region, for abstaining on all three votes in the UN, and these reasons have been more than adequately articulated. However, like China, India has not explicitly objected to the US-led sanctions against Russia. Thus, India is not siding with either the US or Russia; nor is it voicing any criticism of the actions of these two countries. 

India’s vigorous assertion of its strategic autonomy, in this case, seems to have raised the hackles of influential lobbyists of the establishment at home and abroad. That is not surprising given New Delhi’s perceived ‘tilt’ towards the US of late, especially after the signing of the logistics agreement, the recurrent upbeat references to India as a “major” and the “most important” non-NATO defence ally of the US, and New Delhi being unduly circumspect in its dealings with Iran and Venezuela for fear of ruffling feathers in Washington.

(Paradoxically, the US itself is now wooing Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, for his country’s oil, less than two years after it was thwarted in its protracted, high-power efforts to topple him).

Besides India, other major countries that have refused to go along with the US in its conflict with Russia include China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Israel. This is attributed to the US efforts to isolate Russia, including by waging economic war, for maintaining its own supremacy in global affairs; and, this conflict predates Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The US has many scores to settle with Russia, and not all of its allies in Europe are with Washington on these. For instance, Europe has refused to join the US on sanctions against importing oil from Russia, although the Continent has unanimously condemned the invasion of Ukraine. Europe, like Ukraine, does not want to be trapped in the US war for supremacy over Russia.

Countries that have not picked sides in this US-Russia conflict that triggered the invasion of Ukraine have a better chance of mediating an acceptable solution to avoid another Afghanistan-like situation, but in Europe and with Russia mired in it. [IDN-InDepthNews — 11 March 2022]

* The author is Editorial Consultant, WION TV, and a former columnist and Opinion Page Editor of DNA. This article is being republished with the writer’s permission.

Photo: TS Tirumurti, India’s permanent representative to the UN, said India chose to abstain on the UNSC resolution on Ukraine because the path of diplomacy was given up. Credit: ANI | HT_PRINT

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