India has stood up to its principles while taking its stance on Russia-Ukraine war. Although sticking to standard principle of international diplomacy, i.e. safeguarding national interest, India maintained its neutral and pacifist foreign policy by calling the warring parties for immediate cessation of violence and end of hostilities and a return to the path of dialogue and diplomacy.
As its long held foreign policy philosophy, India also urged nurturing a global order anchored on international law, the UN Charter and respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty of all States.
India’s decision to abstain from all the voting sessions in the UNGA and UNSC on Ukraine situation so far has been a very well considered one from both the perspectives – safeguarding national interest as well as having a principled foreign policy.
The US administration initially expressed disappointment on India’s decision in the context of Ukraine invasion, saying that the “consequences of a ‘more explicit strategic alignment’ with Moscow would be significant and long-term”, but gradually it has developed an understanding about Indian stance.
It is clear from India’s abstentions in UN voting that it has not taken any side against any country but violence and hostility. Gradually the Western countries including the US have understood India’s relationship with Russia in the context of their long held historic defence and security relationship, developed much before the Ukraine war.
It is crystal clear that India is conscious about its national interest and sovereignty in decision making while maintaining its economic and strategic ties with other countries in a win-win framework rather than zero-sum games. As India has long ties with Russia, it continues to import Russian oil despite the decision of the US, Europe, Australia and Japan’s sanctions on Russia.
Despite its historic ties with Russia, India “unequivocally condemned” killings in Ukraine’s Bucha and supported calls for an independent investigation into the “deeply disturbing reports”.
India’s stand is in line with its image as a pacifist country and it condemned loss of civilian lives in Ukraine war as soon as shocking evidences of mass graves appeared. In a statement (April 06) at the UN Security Council meeting India’s permanent representative to the United Nations T.S. Tirumurti said “the country remained deeply concerned at the worsening situation and reiterated the call for immediate cessation of violence and end of hostilities”.
Even India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar voiced in Parliament, India’s condemnation of the civilian killings in Ukrainian town of Bucha.
India sees its relationship with both the US and Russia as important. In the fourth annual US-India 2+2 Ministerial dialogue (April 11), India and the US expressed their shared commitment to “democracy and pluralism” and a “multi-faceted bilateral agenda, and growing convergence of strategic interests”.
The two countries also sought to continue to promote “a resilient, rules based international order that safeguards sovereignty and territorial integrity, upholds democratic values and promotes peace and prosperity for all”. Both the countries also shared the concern regarding violence against civilians in Ukraine war and reviewed mutual efforts to respond to the worsening humanitarian crisis.
India has an independent but special relationship with Russia. Russia has displayed understanding on India’s stand on the ongoing crisis. India has taken a measured stance in Ukraine war as it is clear from the fact that it succeeded in evacuating large number of its nationals stranded in Ukraine due to its balanced manoeuvring on both the sides of conflict and its relationship with Russia.
India has remained a reliable strategic partner of Russia traditionally and appreciated the help USSR extended to in the toughest times in the past.
New Delhi’s consistent call for a negotiated settlement of the Ukraine crisis got reflection on Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov statement (April 04, 2022) that international community must know the truth that the Russian side was ready to work honestly and consistently at the negotiation table. Earlier India had spoken (March 7) to Russia and Ukrainian heads of state. The Prime Minister of India urged both the state heads to hold direct talks to resolve the dispute.
India is equally concerned about the apprehension expressed (April 5) by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (US) General Mark Milley that “Ukraine war will likely last years and world “is becoming more unstable and the “potential for significant international conflict between great powers is increasing, not decreasing”.
India has always acted as a responsible country with sensitivity towards human issues. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has clearly stated that India wants to stabilize its existing full economic ties with Russia and not increase it at the time of Ukraine war.
National interest cannot be undermined as seen in the European Union is continuing its imports of Russian energy and fertilizers, and compared which with that Indian oil imports are very small. Many of the Indian exporters to Russia have found their payment from Russia impounded due to the latter’s exclusion from the SWIFT.
Indian and Russian trade deals initiated before the Ukraine war also need to be honoured. India does not support violence and hostilities, but it has to safeguard its national interest and that is what it is doing, while expressing its readiness to help restore peace between the warring countries.
Petros Aramidis is a geopolitical analyst based in Athens.