West Nudges New Delhi Over Its Neutral Stance on Russia’s offensive in Ukraine

Image Credit: A file photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Facebook/@MEAINDIA) - Sakshi Post

Russia’s dawn attack on Ukraine and India’s cautious approach is being seen as a balancing act by the Western countries including the war-torn country. Ukraine’s envoy to New Delhi Igor Polikha said Kyiv was “ deeply dissatisfied “ as India has refrained from condemning or calling out Russia for its actions in Ukraine. He called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “If Modiji speaks to Putin, we are hopeful he will respond,” the Kyiv ambassador said. 

Earlier, Prime Minister Modi spoke to Putin and called for an immediate cessation of violence between Russia and Ukraine. In the telephonic conversation which came hours after the Russian invasion into Ukraine, Modi urged Putin to resolve the issue diplomatically and de-escalate military aggressions. However, this statement by New Delhi may not be seen as a strong enough statement.

While Russia welcomed New Delhi’s “conciliatory” and “neutral” approach. Roman Babushkin, Russian chargé d’affaires in New Delhi called India’s approach to be ‘independent and balanced’. Referring to the statements made by India on the Ukraine conflict, at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting, the Russian senior diplomat said, “We welcome the independent position India has taken in the UN Security Council twice already (and) which was expressed openly by the Indian external affairs minister and other officials.”

Hours before an all-out attack by Russia on Ukraine, India reiterated at an emergency meeting of the UNSC emergency, which was held on Tuesday, that it was in favour of urgent de-escalation as the “situation is in danger of spiralling into a major crisis.” TS Tirumurti, India’s permanent representative to the UN said, “The immediate priority is a de-escalation of tensions taking into account legitimate security interests of all countries and aimed towards securing long term peace and stability in the region and beyond.” 

So far, India has avoided favouring one side over the other in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. However, New Delhi’s cautious approach is increasingly becoming difficult. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar received calls from the British Foreign Secretary and European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs when India showed reluctance to strongly condemn Russia’s military offensive against the East European country. As a Quad member, India may be forced to take a more decisive stance on the conflict. 

In the wake of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, New Delhi is caught between two friends - Russia is a strategic partner and foremost defence supplier while the U.S., a more recent friend and partner in Quad, and it needs their support to counter China. Both Russia and India signed an agreement of cooperation in the field of defence for the next ten years until 2031 and also they have set a target of $30 billion in trade. 

China may seem to benefit from the conflict in Eastern Europe as it will force the U.S. to shift it’s focus away from the Indo-Pacific region. Given the hostile relationship between India and China, the current situation is not in New Delhi’s interest. India has a difficult task ahead as the Russian-Ukraine conflict will continue to come up for discussion in the UN Security Council and as a Quad member, New Delhi has a long tightrope to walk on.

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