Positing India’s stand on the Ukraine war

  • Prelims: Current events of international importance, decolonisation, ASEAN, SAARC, NATO, etc.
  • Mains GS Paper II: Bilateral, regional and global grouping and agreements involving India or affecting India’s interests.



  • On February 23, 2023-first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution, calling for an end to the war.




What is the Conflict?

  • Contestation about post-Cold War central European territoriality and resurrecting a burnished Russian past is at the core of the Ukraine crisis.
  • Ukraine’s bid for NATO membership and Russian interests in the Black Sea accompanied by the protests in the Ukraine are the major causes of the ongoing conflict.


The recent UNGA Resolution on Russia-Ukraine war:

  • The resolution was favored by 141 members and opposed by seven, while 32 states abstained.
    • India was one among the 32.
    • This is in line with the position India has been taking on the Ukraine crisis from the beginning.


India’s stand:

  • 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.


Democracies versus autocracies

  • For U.S. President( as Simon Tisdall argued in The Guardian: This is a global crusade for democracy.
    • He called the Russian invasion “a test for the ages”.
  • For the Atlanticists: the war by an authoritarian Russia on a “democratic” Ukraine is an affront to global democracy.
  • According to this narrative, anything less than a complete Russian defeat would mean “the end of the international order”.
  • Notion: To save global democracy, the rules-based order and international law.
    • All democratic and law-adhering 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.
  • The U.S. has hardly managed to mobilize 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 and refused to join the sanctions
    • The sanctions were unilateral, imposed by specific countries or blocs, without UN approval.
  • Brazil, the largest democracy in South America, has not joined the sanctions
    • so have many smaller democracies (and non-democracies) across geographies.
  • Other countries that are part of the western alliance system,for example Israel and Turkey, are reluctant to join the US’s crusade.


Morality versus national interests

  • Russia has violated the sovereignty of Ukraine.
  • Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territories is a clear violation of international laws.
  • India: It has repeatedly stated in the UN that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected.
  • Key dilemma: specific actions in the event of a 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
  • Europe wants to make Russia’s invasion costly so that Moscow would be deterred in the future.


The position has hardly been consistent especially when there are clashes between values and interests:Examples:

  • In 2003, the S. launched its illegal invasion of Iraq, violating the country’s sovereignty.
  • In 2011, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) turned a UN Security Council resolution to establish a no-fly zone in Libya into a full-scale invasion.
  • The U.S. has illegally placed its troops in Syria.
  • Israel, which has illegally annexed East Jerusalem and Syria’s Golan Heights and keeps building illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
    • The U.S. has recognised Israel’s annexation of Golan and moved its embassy to Jerusalem.
  • Turkey, a NATO member, which has illegally seized Syrian territories but faces no international ire.


Importance of Russia for India:

  • Energy — discounted fuel coming in from Russia is a relief for India, that meets over 80% of its fuel needs through imports.
  • Defense supplies: Russia has fulfilled over 46% of India’s defense needs in the last five years.


Way Forward

  • When there was a divergence between national interests and moral concepts, the West, without qualms, embraced the first.
  • In 2003, considerable pressure from George W. Bush administration to send “peacekeeping troops” to an American-occupied Iraq.
    • It was an emphatic no from the then government under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
    • Likewise, India, by no means should help Russia militarily in the Ukraine war.
  • India should diversify its source of defense imports, but such a change would take time.
  • Russia is deepening its ties with China: India should ask itself whether it should retain its leverage over Russia through existing ties or lose it completely by joining the western coalition over moral commitments.
  • To manage its continental interests and tackle its continental security concerns, India has to work with powers in the Eurasian landmass where the U.S. is practically absent, especially after its disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan.
    • Russia plays a key role in India’s continental foreign policy.
  • Neither the weakening of Russia nor the destruction and splintering of Ukraine is in its interests.
    • India wants an immediate end to the war.
    • A new security equilibrium between great powers so that the global economy could be stabilized
    • The world could focus on more pressing problems — from climate change to UN reforms.
  • For peace and a resolution to the conflict(Jawaharlal Nehru stated in 1957 in the wake of the Soviet intervention in Hungary)“it doesn’t help calling names and condemning” any power.
    • India should stick to its pragmatic neutrality, rooted in realism, and continue to push for a practical solution to the Ukraine crisis.


Source: The Hindu

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