India can criticise Russia’s Ukraine invasion 

News: Recently, India has been facing severe pressure from the west and especially from the US over its stand on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has repeatedly abstained on multiple resolutions critical of Russia’s invasion in the UN forums. In fact, it has not directly mentioned Russia in the statements criticizing the conflict. 

What has been India’s experience and response with respect to the Western Pressure so far? 

In 2018, India “zeroed out” its oil imports from Iran, after the U.S. warned India to drop its oil imports from Iran or face U.S. sanctions. At that time, Iran was India’s third biggest supplier of crude. 

In 2022, the U.S. is pressurizing India to cut its oil imports from Russia. In addition, India has been warned of “consequences” for creating payment mechanisms around sanctions against Russia.  

India’s stand in the India-Russia Bilateral Relations Post Ukrainian Invasion

India’s External Affairs Minister has said that India does not recognise unilateral sanctions by any country. India recognizes only those sanctions which are mandated by the United Nations (UNs) 

India has been increasing import of Russian oil, at a discount. In addition, India is also accelerating coal imports. 

The RBI and Russian bank officials have been holding technical talks on the rupee-rouble payment mechanism. It is aimed to be used for purchases that circumvent sanctions. 

What explains the Government’s refusal to bow to combined western pressure?  

India has dependency on Russia for 60% defence hardware and 85% defence spare parts.

In the energy sector, Indian oil public sector units (PSUs) have invested $16 billion in Russian oil and gas fields in eastern Russia. In addition, India’s nuclear power plant say, Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu has also been built by Russia which fulfils India’s energy requirement. 

The long-term sustainability of the western sanctions on Russia is doubtful. Only 30 to 40 countries have joined the sanctions. However, major economies including China and much of South America and Africa have stayed out. In this situation, it’s not beneficial for India to pick the west side in the “dollar vs non-dollar” economic system. 

India’s strategic future is also inextricably linked with Russia. India needs Russia for its continental security. India’s primary threats come from northern frontier from China and Pakistan. For example, Chinese troops have transgressed and occupied Indian territory. In this context, Moscow can play a mediatory role 

India is part of regional grouping such as BRICS, RIC (Russia-India-China) and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). These groupings have strategic significance for India. 

Russia being a P-5 member has consistently supported India’s cause in the UN Security Council. In addition, support has also been received at other multilateral institutions such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). 

The European Union and the U.S. have been critical of India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the Jammu and Kashmir reorganisation, or the treatment of minorities, the media and NGOs. However, Russia has not raised concerns over such issues against India. 

Biden’s regime is not assertive as Trump’s regime was in case of Iran sanctions. Therefore, it seems India can escape the warning issued by the US. 

The Government of India adheres to non-alignment and strategic autonomy principles. India has refused to entertain western sanctions in the past also. India conducted nuclear tests in 1998. India also refused to bend to U.S. pressure on Iran oil sanctions in 2012. 

Why should India criticise Russian actions? 

The Russia invasion is a brutal invasion of another country. In past, the Indian government has deplored the U.S. invasion of Iraq through resolution in the Indian Parliament in 2003. This was done despite India’s growing partnership with the U.S. 

Jawaharlal Nehru in a speech in the U.S. in 1949, said “Where freedom is menaced or justice threatened or where aggression takes place, India cannot and shall not be neutral.”  

Strategic autonomy can carry credibility only when it is expressed without fear or favour of the consequences. 

Source: The post is based on an article “India can criticise Russia’s Ukraine Invasion” published in The Hindu on 19th April 2022. 

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