Positing India’s stand on the Ukraine war

Source– The post is based on the article “Positing India’s stand on the Ukraine war” published in The Hindu on 3rd March 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- International relations

Relevance: India and Ukraine crisis

News- Recently, UNGA adopted a resolution, calling for an end to the war. The resolution was favoured by 141 members and opposed by seven, while 32 states abstained. India was one among the 32.

What is the Indian position on the Ukraine crisis?

India has refused to condemn Russia for the invasion. It has refused to join the West’s sanctions.

It has stepped up buying Russian fuel at a discounted price, and has consistently abstained from UN votes on the war.

What is the viewpoint of the west on the Ukraine war?

This is a global crusade for democracy. The war by an authoritarian Russia is a challenge to global democracy.  

To save global democracy, the rules ­based order and international law, all democratic states should take a position against Russia and join the western coalition.

Is this a battle between democracies and autocracies?

An overwhelming majority of nations have supported UNGA resolutions calling for the war to be brought to an end. But beyond the UN votes, the U.S. has hardly managed to mobilise democracies outside its traditional western alliance system against Russia.

India and South Africa, large democracies from Asia and Africa, have consistently abstained from votes at the UN. They have refused to join the sanctions because the sanctions were unilateral, and without UN approval.

Even some countries that are part of the western alliance system like Israel and Turkey are reluctant to join the west. Most of these countries see the war as a European problem between two former Soviet countries with its roots going back to the end of the Cold War.

For them, it is less about global democracy than the post ­Cold War security architecture in Europe.

Why western claims of morality in the Ukraine war seem to be dubious?

There is no doubt here that Russia has violated the sovereignty of Ukraine. Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territories is a clear violation of international laws.

But a key dilemma before any country in international relations is clash between moral positions and national interests.

For the U.S. and much of Europe, there is a convergence of their moral positions and foreign policy objectives in the case of the Ukraine war. The U.S. wants to “weaken” Russia. So, the moral line they take serves their strategic purpose.

However, this position was violated when there were clashes between values and interests.

In 2003, the U.S. launched its illegal invasion of Iraq, violating the country’s sovereignty. In 2011, NATO turned a UNSC resolution to establish a no fly zone in Libya into a full scale invasion. Right now, the U.S. has illegally placed its troops in Syria.

Israel has illegally annexed East Jerusalem and Syria’s Golan Heights. The U.S. has recognised Israel’s annexation of Golan and moved its embassy to Jerusalem.

What ties with Russia are important for India?

Ties with Russia are important for India in many ways. One important area is energy. Discounted fuel from Russia is a relief for India. It meets over 80% of its fuel needs through imports.

Defence ties are also important, Russia has fulfilled over 46% of India’s defence needs in the last five years. There is a sound argument that India should diversify its source of defence imports, but such a change would take time.

Russia is deepening its ties with China, which is India’s main competitor. India should retain its leverage over Russia.

To manage its continental interests, India has to work with powers in the Eurasian landmass. The U.S. is practically absent, especially after its disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. Russia plays a key role in India’s continental foreign policy.

What should be India’s diplomatic stand on the Ukraine crisis?

Neither the weakening of Russia nor the destruction of Ukraine is in its interests. India wants an immediate end to the war and a new security equilibrium between great powers.

It will stabilise the global economy and the world could focus on more pressing problems  from climate change to UN reforms.

India should stick to its pragmatic neutrality, rooted in realism. It should continue to push for a practical solution to the Ukraine crisis.

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