India’s Ukraine dilemma

Editorial Analysis for UPSC - India’s Ukraine dilemma

India’s Ukraine dilemma



  • Late last week, India abstained from a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution which called for condemning the Russian military action against Ukraine, but it went on to note its uneasiness of the Russian action in writing.



  • New Delhi has taken a subtle pro-Moscow position on the question of Russian attacks against Ukraine.
  • This pro-Russia tilt is not just the position of the Indian government, but is something, somewhat surprisingly, shared by much of the Indian strategic community as well.
  • More notably, one is increasingly hearing subtle, though indirect, justifications of the Russian military actions from the doyens of the Indian strategic community.
  • India’s Russia tilt should be seen not just as a product of its time-tested friendship with Moscow but also as a geopolitical necessity.


Reasons for India’s Tilt:

  • An aggressive Russia is a problem for the U.S. and the West, not for India. North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) expansion is Russia’s problem, not India’s. India’s problem is China, and it needs both the U.S./the West and Russia to deal with the “China problem”.


  • There is today a sobering recognition in New Delhi about the weakening of the U.S.-led global order and the rise of China as a counter-pole, geographically located right next to India.


  • S. withdrawal from the region and its decline as the principal system shaper has complicated India’s place in regional geopolitics.


  • Neighboring China as the rising superpower and Russia as its strategic ally challenging the U.S.-led global order at a time when China has time and again acted on its aggressive intentions vis-à-vis India, and when India is closest to the U.S. than ever before in its history, throws up a unique and unprecedented challenge for India.


  • Therefore, having Russia on its side is crucial for India, more than ever. Moscow may or may not be able to moderate Chinese antagonism towards New Delhi, but an India-Russia strategic partnership may be able to temper New Delhi’s growing isolation in a rather friendless region.


  • Second, there is an emerging dualism in contemporary Indian strategic community: the predicament of a continental space that is reeling under immense pressure from China, Pakistan and Taliban-led Afghanistan adding to its strategic claustrophobia; and, the emergence of a maritime sphere which presents an opportunity to break out of the same.


  • Herein lies the dilemma for India. New Delhi needs Moscow’s assistance to manage its continental difficulties be it through defence supplies, helping it ‘return’ to central Asia, working together at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) or exploring opportunities for collaboration in Afghanistan. Russia, to put it rather bluntly, is perhaps India’s only partner of consequence in the entire Asian continental stretch.


  • On the other hand, when it comes to the vast maritime sphere, the Indo-Pacific to be precise, Russia is not of great consequence to India.


  • That is where its American and western partners come into play. India is simply not in a position to address the China challenge in the maritime space without the active support of American and western navies and, of course, the Quad.


War on Ukraine could have major implications for India’s strategic calculus:
  • For one, Russian action in Ukraine dismissing the concerns of the rest of the international community including the U.S. will no doubt embolden China and its territorial ambitions.
  • Second, the new sanctions regime may have implications for India’s defence cooperation with Moscow.
  • Third, the longer the standoff lasts, the closer China and Russia could become, which certainly does not help India.
  • Finally, the more severe the U.S.-Russia rivalry becomes, the less focus there would be on the Indo-Pacific and China, which is where India’s interests lie.

Source: THE HINDU.