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In the Russia vs Ukraine war, where does India stand?

Amrutha Pagad
Amrutha PagadFeb 17, 2022 | 17:00

In the Russia vs Ukraine war, where does India stand?

The Russia-Ukraine crisis is getting serious with each passing day. With a massive military build-up by Russia on its Ukraine border, the recent shelling in eastern Ukraine controlled by separatists, the threat of war doesn’t seem to be diminishing.

4-647_021722043741.jpgA Ukraine soldier at one of the posts. Photo: Getty Images

NATO, which has been the historical enemy of Russia, is concerned about a Russian expansion by the invasion of Ukraine. It is right for them to be concerned and shuffle around in nervousness trying to figure out what to do. But what has it got to do with India?

Should India be concerned or bothered about a war brewing in a faraway land, that shares no sea or land border with it? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. And in fact, India is not in a great place to be right now when it comes to the conflict – like being stuck between a rock and a hard place.  

US WANTS INDIA TO TAKE ITS SIDE

The US on Wednesday, February 16, 2022, said that it hopes India will side by Washington in case Russia invades Ukraine. Anyway, the US thinks a war or an invasion is imminent. However, India has maintained a neutral stance on Ukraine during both - the recent Quad meeting and the January 31, 2022, UN Security Council meeting.  

WHY DOES INDIA WANT TO BE NEUTRAL ON THE ISSUE? 

India’s neutral stance has earned the ire of Western analysts who call New Delhi a fence-sitter. It is not a new accusation; India was labelled the same when Russia annexed Crimea, and New Delhi opted for a neutral stance.

But why India is adamant about being ‘Switzerland’ in the conflict? The answer is obvious – because of New Delhi’s close relationship with Moscow.

India forms the largest buyer of Russian defence equipment. And safe to say, India is reliant on Russia to polish its defence capabilities. Other than the fact that the two countries have always historically have had good ties.

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

modi-647_021722044322.jpgPM Modi with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping (R) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (L). File Photo: Getty Images

But it’s not only the trade part that binds New Delhi and Moscow. India wants Russia to temper in a belligerent China. China is the elephant in the room for India when it comes to the Russia and Ukraine conflict.

While Beijing and Moscow’s growing ties don’t put New Delhi in a great place, India's good albeit shaky relations with Russia is also an eyesore for China. In the time of need, faced with Chinese aggression, India can count on Russia to reel in China.

So, taking Washington’s side in this conflict, will end India-Russia relations for good. And a war, subsequent sanctions by the West, could also mean that Russia would become more reliant on China; something New Delhi definitely doesn’t want.

But that doesn’t mean that India can simply blow off the US. The US and India are still part of the very important Indo-Pacific grouping of Quad to curtail China’s expansionist activities. If India loses US backing, it is likely risking making Beijing more confident in its pursuits.

In other words, the US and Russia may hate each other, but India wants both of them to counter China.

HOW A WAR IN UKRAINE WILL IMPACT THE INDIAN ECONOMY 

Also, a war in Ukraine can also mean some impact on the Indian economy. For one, Indians can expect cooking oil to become more expensive. Just last year, India purchased 1.8 million tonnes of sunflower oil, out of which 74% came from Ukraine. Other than that, the supply chain could be disrupted, increasing the prices of several other products like fuel.

Regardless, Ukraine-Russia tensions are more a European headache. And despite the European Union defence systems being far more equipped and bigger than Russia, it seems like they are unable to counter Vladimir Putin.

Last updated: February 17, 2022 | 17:00
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