Ukraine crisis: Heat on Delhi to choose between Russia & West
Russia has said it expects support from India when the UN Security Council (UNSC) takes up a US-initiated resolution against Moscow for the situation in Ukraine, including the violation of its territorial integrity and sovereignty.
The Kremlin’s nudge ahead of the resolution scheduled for late Friday night (Indian time) came on a day the Ukrainian foreign minister dialled external affairs minister S. Jaishankar and hours after US President Joe Biden said Washington was in still unresolved “consultations” with India.
Asked if India was fully in sync with the US on a response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine, Biden said in Washington: “We’re in consultation with India today. We haven’t resolved that completely.”
Biden did not elaborate, but his short response to a question at a briefing drew attention to an awkward division between his administration and India, a country central to the US efforts to push back against China’s growing power.
Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted: “Call with my Indian counterpart @DrSJaishankar. Asked India to use all influence in its relations with Russia to force it to cease military aggression against Ukraine. Urged India as a non-permanent UNSC member to support today’s draft resolution on restoring peace in Ukraine.”
Call with my Indian counterpart @DrSJaishankar. Asked India to use all influence in its relations with Russia to force it to cease military aggression against Ukraine. Urged India as a non-permanent UNSC member to support today’s draft resolution on restoring peace in Ukraine.— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) February 25, 2022
Jaishankar, who was the first to announce the call through a tweet, indicated no change in India’s stand. “Received call from Ukrainian FM @DmytroKuleba. He shared his assessment of the current situation. I emphasised that India supports diplomacy & dialogue as the way out. Discussed predicament of Indian nationals, including students. Appreciate his support for their safe return.”
Received call from Ukrainian FM @DmytroKuleba.— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) February 25, 2022
He shared his assessment of the current situation.I emphasized that India supports diplomacy & dialogue as the way out.
Discussed predicament of Indian nationals, including students. Appreciate his support for their safe return.
Before word came of Kuleba’s call to Jaishankar, Russian charge d’affaires in India Roman Babushkin told PTI: “We highly appreciate India’s deep understanding of the current situation as well as the reasons that led to it. We expect India to support Russia at the UN Security Council.”
He added: “India’s position has been very balanced and independent. We appreciate it and continue to expect India’s support in sync with the special and privileged strategic partnership between the two countries.”
The UNSC has discussed the situation in Ukraine thrice this month. In the first instance on February 1, India abstained from the vote on discussing the issue in the UNSC.
Once the situation further escalated and Russia announced that it would recognise the two rebel-controlled areas of Ukraine earlier this week, India again called for giving diplomacy a chance but did not name or criticise Russia in its statement at the UNSC.
On Thursday, after Russia began bombing Ukraine, India expressed disappointment that the plea for allowing diplomacy to work went unheeded but did not refer to Russia by name.
On all three occasions, India flagged the “legitimate security interests of all concerned”, obliquely flagging the fact that there is another side to this crisis which is getting drowned in the western narrative of Russia as the aggressor out to grab land without taking into account the efforts to use Ukraine to push the US-led Nato agenda in what used to be Moscow’s sphere of influence.
Although the US resolution is unlikely to get voted in because Russia can use its veto in the Security Council, several European countries have been reaching out to New Delhi to change its position on the issue. Apart from the fact that India is reluctant to antagonise an old partner when Moscow is getting closer to China, there is not much political pressure from within to amend its stand.
None of the Opposition parties has criticised India for the position it has taken on the issue in the UNSC, confining their criticism to the delay in evacuating Indians from Ukraine.
The US disappointment with India’s position was articulated by the president of the New York-based Council of Foreign Relations, Richard Haass, who tweeted: “India’s careful, avoid angering Putin at all costs response despite Russia’s blatant aggression vs Ukraine highlights that it remains unprepared to step up to major power responsibilities or be a dependable partner. Disappointing as well as short-sighted given rise of China.”
India’s careful, avoid angering Putin at all costs response despite Russia’s blatant aggression vs Ukraine highlights that it remains unprepared to step up to major power responsibilities or be a dependable partner. Disappointing as well as short-sighted given rise of China.— Richard N. Haass (@RichardHaass) February 25, 2022
Given Washington’s interests in the Indo-Pacific and desire to contain China, India as of now views it worth the gamble to withstand the pressure from the West to criticise Russia for its actions instead of taking the nuanced position it has till now.
Also, when it comes to picking a side between Russia and Ukraine, Moscow has been an all-weather friend for India. Even on the Crimea issue a few years ago, India had stood with Russia instead of Ukraine.
Additional reporting from Reuters