New Delhi’s stance on Europe’s crisis is just about right

News: At the Munich Security Conference recently, external affairs minister S. Jaishankar was asked why India keeps pointing fingers at China’s violation of the sovereignty of smaller states while not condemning Russia’s incursions into Ukraine.

Western officials have sought to rope India in as part of a unified worldwide opposition to Russia’s incursions into Ukraine. But India abstained on a Western resolution in the UN Security Council that intended to apply pressure on Russia.

This article illustrates the reasons given by external affairs minister S. Jaishankar for the question asked with respect to India’s differential approach towards China and Russia.

What were the reasons given by external affairs minister S. Jaishankar that justified India’s stand against Russia?

Firstly, Jaishankar’s response was that India did not see the tussle between Russia and the West in Europe as equal to China’s hegemonic push for dominance in Asia. The reasons are,

– Russia’s economy is tiny compared to that of China. Therefore, Russia cannot sustain a costly military campaign of conquest of all of Eastern Europe.

– Russia’s annual defence budget averages about $60 billion, which is very small compared to China’s defence expenditure of over $250 billion per year.

– Moreover, Russia can’t overturn the fundamental balance of power in Europe due to the presence of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops and hi-tech weaponry placed all along its western land borders.

Secondly, for India, there are “legitimate security interests of all countries”, implying that Ukraine should not be invaded. But Russian grievances about NATO’s eastward expansion must also be addressed.

Thirdly, Jaishankar criticized the selective application of universal values and principles when it suits the interests of powerful countries. For example, the US has condoned and shielded its allies that committed war crimes. The heart-wrenching human tragedy of the war in Yemen is a recent illustration of Washington supporting, financing and arming partners in Latin America, West Asia, Africa and other parts of Asia despite their murderous conduct.

Fourthly, he stated that, given India’s geopolitical location in the Indo-Pacific, its chief focus is on deterring Chinese expansionism. Whereas, the confrontation over Ukraine’s possible NATO tilt does not have a significant impact on India’s national security or power-projection goals.

Fifthly, India needs Russian weaponry and cooperation to ‘internally balance’ Chinese influence in Eurasia.

Finally, India sees the diversion of fighting Russia over Ukraine as a neglect of the reality that there is only one great power other than the US today, China, which seems keen on global supremacy.

Source: This post is based on the article “New Delhi’s stance on Europe’s crisis is just about right” published in Livemint on 24th Feb 2022.

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