Ukraine conflict and its implications for India – Explained, pointwise

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Introduction

The Russia-Ukraine conflict is a major security crisis in the Eurasian region, with the potential to escalate into a much broader conflict. Geopolitically, it might lead to further deterioration of Russian relations with the US and Europe.

The Ukraine conflict in the heart of Europe may look distant to India. But it has far-reaching consequences not only for India’s relations with the US, the European Union, Russia, and China but also the larger dynamic of Asian geopolitics.

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About the historic Russia Ukraine conflict
Source: The Economist

Ukraine was a part of the Russian Empire for centuries before becoming a Soviet republic. Russia and Ukraine share hundreds of years of cultural, linguistic and familial links. It gained independence with the disintegration of the USSR in 1991. Since then, Ukraine has tried to shed the Russian legacy and improve its relationship with the West.

Their shared heritage has been exploited for electoral and military purposes. In 2014, the then Russian-leaning Ukrainian President decided to join the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union instead of the EU. Later, mass protests (Euromaidan movement) in Ukraine led to his ouster.

In response, Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. It was the first time a European country annexed territory from another country since the World War II. After the Crimean annexation, both nations signed ceasefire agreements at Minsk.

Apart from that, Russia also began fomenting a separatist movement in eastern Ukraine (The Donbas region), which is home to many people who are ethnically Russian.

Must read: Explained: What are the Minsk agreements on the Ukraine conflict?
The present status of the Russia-Ukraine conflict

For the United States and the European Union, Ukraine is a crucial buffer between Russia and the West. So, they are determined to keep Ukraine away from the Russian control. They have made persistent efforts to induct Ukraine into NATO for many years, and this has picked up pace recently.

Earlier this year, a spike in cease-fire violations in the east and a Russian troop concentration near Ukraine stimulated fears of war. Further, Russia positioned a large number of troops towards the Russia-Ukraine border.

Ukraine says that Russia has amassed around 90,000 troops at the border, and US intelligence reports say that a Russian invasion of Ukraine is highly likely.

Read more: Dire strait: on Russia-Ukraine sea clash
What is India’s stand on the present Russia-Ukraine conflict?

India did not join the Western powers’ in condemning Russian intervention in Crimea and kept a low profile on the issue. In November 2020, India voted against an Ukraine-sponsored resolution in the United Nations (UN) that condemned alleged human rights violations in Crimea.

India advocates “sincere and sustained diplomatic efforts to ensure that issues between Ukraine and its neighboring countries are resolved through constructive dialogue.”

The draft security treaty between Russia and the West

Recently, Russia published a draft security treaty that it wanted to sign with the West to immediately withdraw the troops. Significant provisions of the treaty include,

1. Assurance from the US that Ukraine and Georgia — two former Soviet Republics — should not be inducted into NATO, 2. The US led alliance should reduce its deployments in Central and Eastern Europe.

Apart from that, Russia is also proposing an agreement on reducing provocative military activity on its borders.

But the US, Belgium and other border countries of Russia see the Russian framework as a gambit of tough negotiations on European security.

In the present scenario, one can expect either a Russian invasion or a US-Russian deal. The West has agreed to start talks with Russia and raise their own concerns. Either way, it has major implications for India.

What would be the implications of a Russian invasion for India?

Pressure on India to choose sides: A Russian invasion and a rupture with the US and its allies would lead to pressure on India to choose between the Western alliance and Russia.

Immediately, it could result in CAATSA sanctions on India on account of the S-400 purchase.

Impact on India’s defence Sector: There could be a demand for India to cut defence ties with Russia across the board. But, this will not be not easy for India to contemplate since its armed forces are heavily dependent on Russian spares and equipment.

If India fails to cut down defence ties, then US and western countries might reduce their defence and other relations with India. Or, Russia might ask India to cut down its defence ties with the western countries. For instance, Russia might not allow India to purchase any western fighter planes such as F-21, Gripen, F-35 etc.

Impacts on the stability in Asia: Any rupture with the West would push Russia towards even closer ties with China and growth in Russia-Pakistan relations. This will accelerate Chinese influence in Asia and create hardships for India to negotiate peace with China on border issues.

Read more: Recent developments in India-Russia Relations – Explained, pointwise
What would be the implications of the US-Russian deal for India?

Apart from mitigating the above implications, the US-Russia deal will also create the following positive developments for India.

Slow down in Russia-China Relations: This could give India the opportunity to build on its recent efforts to reset its Russian ties.

Read more: For an honest broker: On Russia and India-China ties

Enhance India’s connectivity: Along with the US-Iran relationship, the US-Russian deal could pave the way for India, Russia and Iran to work on the International North-South Transportation (INSTC) project that has been hobbled by the sanctions imposed by the US on Iran and Russia.

Read more: Why the Russia-West equation matters to India
What needs to be done to limit the Russia-Ukraine conflict?

1. Revive the Minsk peace process, 2. Ukraine should have a more decentralised and federalist internal polity. Neither Russia nor the West should influence the decisions of Ukraine. 3. The US and the other western Countries should push both sides to resume talks and live up to their commitments, 4. Russia must cease interference in eastern Ukraine.

What can India do in Ukraine Conflict?

India has advocated political and diplomatic solutions that protect the legitimate interests of all countries in the region and ensure long term peace and stability in Europe and beyond. Thus, India should push Russia and Ukraine to work for political and diplomatic solutions.

India knows that Russia’s international policies have been driven more by national interest and geopolitics, not by their past ideologies. Reconciliation of Russia-West relations will make it a lot easier for India to manage its own security challenges. So, India should welcome and support any mutually acceptable security order in Europe.

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